Following the recent announcement by the Victorian government that it would restructure ski resort management boards at four resorts, there has now been a call for expressions of interest for 13 positions across the boards responsible for managing Falls Creek, Mt Buller/ Mt Stirling and Mt Hotham.
At present, the Victorian alpine resorts are managed by separate boards (Mt Stirling and Mt Buller are managed by a single board). This structure of governance has been described as “complex and ineffective” and the government has been looking into other alternatives. These are outlined in the report Alpine Resorts Governance Reform.
After a long wait, the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio has today announced that the government would implement a new governance model and ‘refresh the three northern Alpine Resort Management Boards’ (Falls Creek, Mt Buller/ Mt Stirling and Mt Hotham).
The Mt Mawson ski field in the Mt Field National Park is the southern most ski area in Australia. It’s a remarkable place, and while it’s of a low elevation, with very limited vertical terrain, and is subject to the notoriously fickle snow conditions to be found in Tasmania, it is a magical spot. It has several rope tows, and is a Club ski field composed of seven lodges, with no public accommodation. Its also a fairly solid 30 to 45 minute walk up the mountain to get to the ski field.
But like the surrounding ranges within the Mt Field national park, when its in condition its truly fantastic.
In devastating news for anyone concerned about the rights of indigenous people and protection of major wild areas, the Jumbo Glacier Resort has been given the green light by the Canadian supreme court.
The Jumbo Valley, located deep in the wilds of British Columbia’s Purcell Mountains, has long been revered for its spiritual significance and beauty. To the Ktunaxa Nation, it is known as Qat’muk, home of the grizzly bear spirit.
For decades, First Nations, conservationists, backcountry skiers and snowboarders have fought a proposed large-scale ski resort deep in the Jumbo valley. After 24 years of opposition, the campaign against the resort has been dealt a major blow with this court ruling.
After a decade of inaction, the Australian snow industry is finally starting to engage meaningfully on the issue of climate change. With Perisher having been bought by the Vail Resorts group, it has been swept along in that companies efforts to achieve carbon neutrality for it’s operations by 2030. And Thredbo recently became the first Australian resort to formally join Protect Our Winters (POW) the activist group seeking to mobilise the snow sports community.
There is, of course, still plenty of room to move. Many resorts, like Mt Hotham, are still effectively in denial about climate change, opting for the ‘we’ll just invest more in snow making capacity’ option. But as the recent visit by POW founder Jeremy Jones showed, there is a significant interest in the snow community about climate change.
We are starting to see some great leadership from prominent skiers and riders like Nat Segal, who is a vocal advocate for climate action. The interview below comes from Powder magazine and features a conversation with Auden Schendler of the Aspen resort. Auden is often seen as a key global spokesperson on climate because of his work at putting Aspen on a sustainable footing. This reflection has some significant things to say about what is and what isn’t possible in the resorts and what is required if we are to take effective action to limit climate change.
Two salient points that stand out for me from this interview are:
“We have to acknowledge or understand as a starting point that to be sustainable has got to mean solving climate change.
On climate, if you’re not at risk politically or from public criticism, and if you don’t feel uncomfortable, if it doesn’t hurt, you’re probably not doing enough on climate”.
The take home message from Auden is that making your operations greener is not an end point. It’s part of the pathway to solving climate change. This is going to involve sustained and public advocacy for the adoption of policies which will tackle climate change in a meaningful way – ie, engagement in good old fashioned politics. As he eloquently puts it, it means advocating for ‘systemic change’.
He reminds us that the current option adopted by most resorts is simply not going to work:
‘You can’t adapt to where we’re headed … we’re headed toward four degrees Celsius’.
Mountain Journal recently reported that the famous Colorado resort of Vail had announced its intention to ‘commit to zero net emissions (partly through use of renewable energy to run its operations), zero waste to landfill and zero net operating impact to forests and habitat by the year 2030’.
Vail is a town built around ski field development. While only about 5,500 people live there (supported by a large ‘down valley’ community in towns like Avon and Edwards who must commute to work) it hosts as many as 2.8 million visitors a year.
Aspen, located to the south west, is probably better known for its sustainability efforts, but Vail’s commitment is ambitious. The recent announcement on energy and waste came from Vail Resorts Inc, the company that runs the resort operations. There is also a commitment from the Town of Vail, based in the valley below the resort, to become North Americas first sustainable tourist destination certified through the Global Sustainable Tourism Council.
Unless we act decisively now, climate change poses an existential threat to life as we know it. For people who love the outdoors or whose livelihood relies on good snowfall or a healthy environment – the skiing and outdoor industries – there is an added incentive to be engaged and active.
No person, business or sector can solve the problem on their own, but that’s kind of the point: we need all hands of deck to deal decisively with this looming threat.
It’s good to remember that many in the community are taking action. Around the world there is a growing willingness to be actively involved in responding to climate change – through mitigation (reducing the production of greenhouse gases), supporting behaviour change, engaging in advocacy, and developing cleaner production methods.
Here are two good news stories from the USA.
In Victoria, ski resorts operate on designated permanent Crown land reserves, each managed by a Resort Management Board appointed by, and responsible to, the Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Water. The Boards are responsible for the development, promotion, management and use of each Alpine Resort. In contrast, the resorts in NSW exist within the Kosciuszko National Park and operate through negotiating a lease with the government through the Parks Service (NPWS). They are then required to develop an environmental management system (EMS), which seeks to regulate and minimise the impacts of the operation on the natural environment.
As has been reported widely in regional media, it has been recently announced that the Parks Service has not granted any company a new head lease arrangement for Perisher Range in their recent Governance Review. Having a head lease allows the holder of the lease to then sublet to other businesses such as venues, accommodation, family lodges, etc.
This has caused a lot of anxiety among businesses, both in the park and adjacent communities who are reliant on the smooth functioning of the industry. While it is obviously essential that the conditions of the lease ensures minimal impacts on the surrounding environment, the uncertainty in terms of the future of Perisher and Charlotte Pass is very stressful for people whose livelihoods depend on these operations. One local owner said “NPWS made the announcement publicly before the stakeholders knew that it was off the table ….this means that clubs are unable to accept bookings for the following year or budget, invest or plan due to lack of vision first & foremost.”
The following article written by Steve Cuff comes from the Snowy Mountains Magazine, and provides a comprehensive overview of what the delay means for businesses (and hence the ski industry in general).
We’re now into early July and the only skiable ski in any of the resorts is there because of snow making. And while everyone in the ski industry knows what’s happening when it comes to climate change, they continue happily on the pathway of ‘diversification’, expanding activities in the ‘green season’ and investment in snow making equipment, to the exclusion of any meaningful action on climate change.
I always struggle to understand this. Surely any smart business can ‘walk and chew gum’ at the same time – in this case that would mean diversifying your year-round tourism ‘offerings’ while investing in snow making while also walking the talk on climate. Its also called mitigation, it means doing things like shifting your operations to using renewable energy instead of coal. What is astonishing is that there is so little meaningful action by Australian resorts.