waiting for winter

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I can relate to this post from Christie Hampton, from the site Snowsbest.

Christie lists a bunch of things to do to keep occupied and active while waiting for winter to arrive.

How to quench your cravings for snow

Christie Hampton reveals where to find the next best thing to a ski or snowboard fix while you wait for winter.

Autumn is a fickle time of year. The cooler temperatures have probably triggered your desire to ski or board, an itch that won’t be scratched until those snowflakes start to fall but, let’s face it, that could still be months away.

So what can you do to keep the dragon at bay until then? Here’s a few activities that will help satisfy your need for high speed, perilous and expeditious activities until the white stuff hits the ground.

She identifies mountain biking, trampolining, skateboarding, surfing and indoor skiing as good time fillers til the white stuff arrives. She also has some good leads on where to do each of these activities.

You can read her article here.

Rodway Range, TAS
Rodway Range, TAS

For my money, the best pre-winter warm-ups are:

  • mountain biking (living in Central Victoria helps, mountain biking is obligatory for all adults)
  • boulder hopping (you may need to go to Tassie for that one)
  • getting some extra miles in rock climbing – before it gets too wet and cold
  • doing skiing exercises while watching skiing or boarding films (beer is optional)
  • planning winter trips and locking your friends into dates (get it in writing)
  • hanging out on the backcountry forum, arguing about gear, trips, and snow reports.

What are you up to? (you could always post a pic on facebook).

ski resort denial of climate change is not making the problem go away

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'keep it cool. Stop climate change'. Dinner Plain, June 2011
‘keep it cool. Stop climate change’. Dinner Plain, June 2011

The following article has an astonishing fact: 600 U.S. ski areas have disappeared over the past 60 years.

In the article A Snowball’s Chance, written for Boston magazine, Madison Kahn uses the example of Hogback Mountain in Vermont, a small resort that used to be ‘teeming with skiers.’

“The trouble started in the 1970s, when scientists say that temperatures began to rise significantly (in truth, there was little climate research done before then). A series of spotty seasons, coupled with the sharp spike in gas prices brought on by the 1973 oil crisis, hit the mountain hard. It finally shuttered for good in 1986”.

Madison contrasts it with the nearby resort at Mount Snow, which has survived.

“Just 15 miles apart, both ski areas are located in the middle of what was not long ago part of the Northeast’s 120-inch Snowbelt. Why did one die and the other prosper? Simple economics: Mount Snow could afford the snowmaking technology needed to stay open when temperatures began to rise. Hogback couldn’t”.

However, in an observation that should ring bells for us Australians, where much of our snow country is fairly marginal, and where winters are getting warmer, Madison notes:

“making enough snow is becoming an increasingly difficult proposition”.

Hotham Village
Hotham Village

Research cited in the article suggests that “of the resorts (in the Northeast that are) able to stay open, at least 75 percent will require substantial artificial snowmaking to survive, which, in turn, will significantly increase operational costs and lift-ticket prices”. Skiing or riding in resort in Australia is hardly a cheap option as it is.

“Almost 600 U.S. ski areas have disappeared in the past 60 years, many of them victims of warmer winters. In fact, if warming trends continue at their current rates, within the next few decades, the multibillion-dollar New England ski industry could collapse entirely”.

Here in Australia, there has been a similar response from management boards as they grapple with more erratic winters, with greater attention to snow making and attempts to re-brand resorts as ‘year round’ destinations. Where previously a number of Australian resorts were responding to the threat of climate change, now they have clearly put it in the ‘too hard’ basket. Climate mitigation programs have been quietly dropped as resorts struggle to find new ‘bells and whistles’ to appeal to visitors each year.

Of course, none of this deals with the core problem. Half of U.S. ski areas are opening late and closing early—and in the past 50 years, the average season length in the northeast has decreased by seven days. It’s a similar story here.

It’s interesting to note that in North America, a number of resorts are showing great leadership in terms of playing their part to reduce contributions to global warming.

As we all start to wonder about what this winter may have in store for us, isn’t it time the industry started to seriously face up to the facts of global warming?

Giving Back part 2: the Victorian Mobile Landcare Group

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I recently posted about the need for people who enjoy the mountains to give back to the natural environment in some way. One great option is to join or support one of the many groups that do ecological restoration work or track maintenance. One group that certainly ‘walks the talk’ is the Victorian Mobile Landcare Group, who work across a range of projects in the Victorian High Country.

The following is a report on a recent project they completed on the Bogong High Plains.

For contact details on a range of groups, check here.

Roper’s Hut Track Repair

Seven members of the Victorian Mobile Landcare Group Inc. (VMLCG) travelled to Mt. Beauty late on Friday 7 March in order to take on a request from Parks Victoria (PV) to assist create a rock vehicle bridge to protect sensitive sphagnum moss beds which straddle the Management Vehicle Only track out to the iconic Roper’s Hut, burn in the 2003 fires and restored in 2009 by a community effort, headed by the Freemasons Victoria NE District.

This one is the end of work. Time is 1 pm

The team met Parks Ranger Elaine Thomas and contractor Kim, on Saturday morning at Falls Creek and after rationalising vehicles and loads to reduce track impact, travelled out to the Big River Fire Trail and Roper’s Track intersection.

Once fortified by an early morning team, the VMLCG team then walked to the site, and after a JSA and briefing on design and approach by Kim, commenced the work to excavate and create the crossing.

In all, around 4 cubic metres of existing material was moved to make two purpose built and rock-based wheel tracks for both PV and contractor vehicles required to access the hut site. The 4 cubic metres of 75 – 150 mm granite rock used to fill the wheel tracks was kindly donated to the project by AGL, the operators of the recently constructed Clover hydro power station and this kind donation is much appreciated and acknowledged. Without it, this work would not have been possible.

This one is the end of work. Time is 1 pm
Start of the work at 10am. The pink dots mark the outlines of the track to be built
This one is start of work 10 am.  The pink dots are the track outlines we had to create.
This one is start of work 10 am.  The pink dots are the track outlines we had to create.

The VMLCG was originally tasked for two days but with the combined effort of the team and Parks Victoria rangers, the entire project was completed between 10 am and 1:30 pm on the Saturday – and after a quick lunch, the crew returned to Falls Creek and an early mark for the weekend!

The next phase of the project will be when the VMLCG returns with Fintona Girls’School to plant out around 450 alpine shrub species to stabilise the soil around the tracks and reduce their visual impact. It is expected in time, the spot will become barely noticeably and yet provide a much needed stabilising base for the occasional and required vehicle access.

We’ll let the before and after photos speak for the work done.

The VMLCG specialises in the development and delivery of remote area landcare projects and works collaboratively with a number of conservation groups on a diverse range of projects across Victoria. They can be reached via http://www.vmlcg.org.au

Partial demolition of Mt Buffalo chalet to start

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As a further development in the long running saga about the historic chalet on the Buffalo Plateau, The Weekly Times is reporting that the two accommodation wings on the chalet can now be demolished.

The journalist is Chris McLellan.

Iconic Mt Buffalo chalet to be saved by knocking some of it down

Image: SMH
Image: SMH

DEMOLITION works can proceed on the Mt Buffalo ­chalet after heritage protection ­orders were lifted.

Two wings will be knocked down to make way for a $7.5 million restoration and allow the chalet to be reopened as a day visitor centre.

Heritage Victoria granted the permit over the objections of the National Trust which supported efforts to restore the century-old chalet but not at the cost of about 40 per cent of the building.

The chalet closed in 2007.

There is still debate about whether the demolition works will need Federal Government approval as it is included on the National Heritage List.

A clearing sale of hundreds of items from the chalet will be held on May 4.

Heritage Victoria executive director Tim Smith said the permit would allow the main chalet building to be restored “to its former glory”.

Benalla MP Bill Sykes said work had started on the restoration with maintenance work well under way.

Expressions of interest closed this week for community representatives to oversee the redevelopment.

The Truth About (the Future of) Snow

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on The Razorback, VIC
on The Razorback, VIC

We have frequently run stories on Mountain Journal about the expected impact of climate change on the future of snow (and hence alpine environments, skiing/boarding, and the economies of towns reliant on the industry). Some of these include DEEP: The Story of Skiing and the Future of Snow , less snow – less skiers, Snow gone? US ski resorts see melting future, Climate Change and the Ski Industry – an Australian perspective, Alps could become snow-free by 2050

This recent piece comes from Powder magazine, and focuses on the situation in North America.

The Truth About Snow

An interview with the world’s top skiing climatologist, Daniel Scott

When it comes to the future of snow—and more importantly, the future of skiing—Daniel Scott is the man with the answers. Or, at least, the man with the possibilities. Will the Northeast have snow in 30 years? No. Will Colorado? Yes. Scott holds the Canada Research Chair in Global Change and Tourism at the University of Waterloo in Ontario—the first research facility in the world to comprehensively investigate the relationship between climate change and skiing, starting in the 1980s. Many of the computer models used in Europe today come from the university. Scott built his own model 10 years ago and has been using it ever since to predict what will happen to skiing in the next century.

When it comes to reading the future, Scott does not pull his punches. He co-authored a report that spelled the coming end of half of the ski resorts in the Northeast in the next 30 years. He also contradicted studies saying Colorado would suffer the same fate—saying that most climate models are done from a hydrology point of view, and leave out snowmaking in their predictions. The point being, Scott’s studies are scientific, without a conservative or progressive bent. And in a world flooded with misinformation, this is the kind of resource skiers need.

You can read the full interview here.


climate change and bushfires

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There is no doubt that our fire seasons are getting longer and more intense. Here in the south east, in terms of massive fires (greater than 250,000 ha), Victoria experienced two such events in the 19th century and five in the 20th century. In less than two decades, we have already had three mega fires in the 21st century. Many alpine areas have been burnt three times in the space of a decade.

There is no coherent overall response as yet by state or federal governments that outlines how we should respond to the growing interaction of climate change and wildfire. Sadly, our Prime Minister is in denial, having claimed that since ‘fires have always been part of our landscape’ there is no link to climate change. The Victorian state government has been challenged on the lack of attention to climate change in it’s approach to managing fire risk. Reducing fire risk is therefore about reducing fuel load and getting larger equipment , not about reducing greenhouse gas emissions or accepting that enhanced fire risk is the new reality for much of the country.

The following report, from Grist, outlines a different approach. The US government has released a strategy that aims to respond to the changing nature of fire threats. One aspect that especially interested me is the fact that it includes an approach that aims to ‘restore and maintain landscapes that are resilient to fire.’ In Victoria, we seem to be doing the opposite. There is a politically driven target that dictates that 5% of the state will receive fuel reduction treatment each year. This is in spite of the fact that some vegetation types don’t need burning to maintain ecological health, and others can become more flammable with the wrong fuel reduction approaches, and others are directly threatened by too much fire.

Climate change just reshaped America’s wildfire strategy


Like a tree in a greenhouse, America’s forest fire problem is growing ominously. Rising temperatures and declining rain and snowfall are parching fire-prone areas and juicing conflagrations. On Thursday, following years of meetings and scientific reviews, the Obama administration published a 101-page strategy that aims to help meet the country’s shifting fire threats.

The National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy divides the nation according to fire risks, and profiles the communities that face those risks. “No one-size-fits-all approach exists to address the challenges facing the Nation,” the strategy states.


Despite covering 70,000 communities and 46 million homes, the strategy can be boiled down to guidelines that aim to do three main things: restore and maintain landscapes that are resilient to fire; brace communities and infrastructure for occasional blazes; and help officials make wise decisions about how and whether flames should be doused. Here’s what that all looks like in flowchart form:

Click to embiggen.

“As climate change spurs extended droughts and longer fire seasons, this collaborative wildfire blueprint will help us restore forests and rangelands to make communities less vulnerable,” said Mike Boots, chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

John Upton is a science fan and green news boffin who tweets, posts articles to Facebook, and blogs about ecology. He welcomes reader questions, tips, and incoherent rants: johnupton@gmail.com.

snow season forecast – 2014

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some good conditions from last year. Early July 2013, Mt Loch, VIC
some good conditions from last year. Early July 2013, Mt Loch, VIC

Once the weather starts to cool down in southern Australia, something interesting starts to happen to this website: traffic to the ‘sidecountry’ skiing and boarding guide to Mt Hotham starts to climb, peaking in early June.

Its that time of year where we can almost smell the snow and are locking in trips. While this rain has been good, its still really warm. So, what type of winter do we have coming? After last years boom-and-bust cycle of good snow alternating with warm air and rain, lets hope its more consistent. The media is warning of a strong El Nino event this winter, meaning warm and dry conditions. The much trusted weather guru, The Grasshopper who writes for Mountain Watch recently released their initial forecast for the 2014 season.

Amongst some interesting analysis of what an El Nino event actually means, the bottom line on forecast is:

More likely than not we will have a mediocre to above average season and there will be plenty of opportunity for fresh provided you are ready for it. But even if things tend towards the lower end of the scale, my gut tells me we will be compensated by plenty of cool clear nights with copious amounts of snow making to keep the groomed areas looking tip top.

Read the full report here.

And keep checking Mountain Watch for an update closer to June.

Fingers crossed!


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