Australian ski resorts have dismissed warnings about the possibility of a below-average snowfall this season as they prepare for opening weekend.
Meteorologists have warned that if a number of climate factors combine this winter, the 2023 snow season could be one of the worst in decades.
Although images have shown poor snow coverage at NSW and Victoria’s biggest ski resorts, staff have rejected concerns the season won’t pick up.
Michael Fearnside, operations director at Perisher Ski Resort, the largest in the southern hemisphere, told news.com.au it is “certainly not doom and gloom” for the industry.
According to Fearnside, only time will tell.
“This is my 38th winter working in the snow industry and some of our best seasons have begun with low snowfall at the start,” Fearnside said.
“Our business is weather dependent but we’re always just one snowfall away, it’s no different to a farmer waiting for the weather to break.”
Similar to other resorts, Fearnside added Perisher had made significant investments in snow-making and as a result, they haven’t had to rely on snowfall, with snow guns ready to be deployed “as soon as the conditions are right”.
“Our snow-making covers 53.4 hectares across the resort and sets us apart for having the most reliable ski and board experience all season long,”
“It’s certainly not doom and gloom, we’ve seen this before and we’re just waiting for the weather pattern to settle down.”
Snowy Mountains ski resort Thredbo will need to rely on its own snow-making, despite it and Perisher being the first to see snow in April.
Meanwhile, in Victoria’s Alps, the Mount Buller Alpine Resort has been steadily producing a mass amount of snow since the beginning of May and has a network of 341 snow-making guns ready to “kick into action” when necessary.
Resort spokeswoman Rhylla Morgan said it is “all hands on deck” to finalise preparations.
“In recent seasons there have been bumper early snowfalls and we’ve been spoiled with plenty of natural snow from the beginning,” she said.
“And as much as we love to see snowfall at any time, we are taking comfort in the fact that early snow doesn’t translate to a better snow season.”
Morgan noted two of the best snow seasons on record at Mt Buller, 1956 and 1958, “had no snow for the season start in June”.
“But we’ll leave the forecasting to the professionals and, like all snow enthusiasts, we’ll be watching the forecast closely and hoping for the best.”
Victorian resorts, Mt Buller, Mt Hotham and Falls Creek are hoping to repeat the record-breaking 2022 snow season, the first full return after the Covid lockdowns.
Mt Hotham’s general manager of operations Len Dobell said the mountaintop resort had its “best season on record” in 2022.
Falls Creek Alpine Resort head of marketing Andrew Eckersley said the resort had “more than 500,000 visitation days” in 2022, and was already expecting similar numbers of bookings in 2023.
“Last year there was massive pent-up demand from people not being able to ski as much as they want over the last few years in,” Eckersley said.
“The fact there’s not a huge amount of difference shows there’s still the appetite to visit the snow.”
Although those numbers could be attributed to earlier snowfalls leading to an earlier season opening, Eckersley said he was hopeful the cold front ahead would bring some snow.
Sky News Australia meteorologist Alison Osbourne confirmed that despite there being a cold front shifting across the alpine regions, it is not guaranteed to bring snow.
“The best weather systems for good snowfall have the most precipitation after a cool change, so it’s cold enough for heavy snow,” she said.
“This is the opposite, heavy rain is coming before the cold weather does. The freezing level is far too high.
“This rain is very likely to wash away the existing cover and while it remains warm, windy, and wet, conditions for snow-making are unfavourable.”
Cooler westerly winds are expected to push over the Alps on June 16, lowering the freezing level in time for the June 10 snow season opening, but not enough for significant snowfall.
“The silver lining is that snow-making conditions improve for the rest of the weekend.”
Image credit: Getty
This article first appeared on Over60.