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Australian snow pack in decline since 1957

Anyone who is paying attention to the state of our winters knows that they are getting more erratic. Often they start later (it’s a rare thing to ski on natural snow on opening weekend) and subject to more rain events, with big impacts on snow pack. While our climatic patterns go through natural wetter and drier cycles, climate science tells us that these patters will become more extreme, with less overall snow and shorter seasons.

Anecdotes and personal experience are one thing. But when did the snow pack actually start to decline?

While all resorts track snowfall, the benchmark of snowfall in Australia over time comes from Spencers Creek, at a site at 1,800 metres above sea level, in the Main Range of the Snowy Mountains. The following article comes from ABC Rural and gives a sense of the decades worth of data that is available from this site, and the process of getting the data. The measuring site was originally established to give the Snowy Hydro managers a sense of what water was trapped in the snow pack and hence how much water would be released in the spring. As skiers and riders, what it gives us is a long term summary of the trends in snowpack over the past six decades.

The take home message is that, overall, snowpack has been declining for decades and unabated climate change will make that worse. While the article does not drill into this issue in detail, previous analysis of this data by Terry Giesecke suggests that:

“There has been a downwards trend (in snow pack) from 1957 to 1989. It then goes up dramatically for about four years, before resuming a downwards path”. This research suggests that the increase in snow depth between 1990 and 1994 could have been due to global cooling which occurred as a result of major volcanic activity in the Philippines in 1991. Using data collected up until 2016, it also notes:

“There is evidence of further decline in the first 16 years of the 21st century.”

The full article is below.

Continue reading “Australian snow pack in decline since 1957”

Windy Corner becomes Falls Creek Cross Country

Many people will know the Windy Corner day shelter/ café/ ski hire shop above the top car park at Falls Creek. It is the ‘skiing arm’ of the YMCA operated Howmans Gap Alpine Centre, located just down the road, literally at the gateway of the resort. Both Howmans Gap and Windy Corner have undergone some major changes this season as part of an ambitious campaign to be more accessible to people, families and groups and to lift the profile of cross country skiing/ alpine recreation to people of all ages and ability levels. They are seeking to encourage a greater diversity of people to visit the resort, and also act as the base for Disabled Wintersport Australia. As part of this process the Windy Corner facility has been renamed as Falls Creek Cross Country.

This seems like a great initiative to broaden the appeal and accessibility of resorts. It seems to be working, with ski rental having increased by 300% this season. The following comes from Sandra Bucovaz.

Continue reading “Windy Corner becomes Falls Creek Cross Country”

Is this the big one?

Skiers and snowboarders are the eternal optimists. No matter how bad the snow, how miserable the rain, how strong the winds, there is always hope that it will get better when the next storm arrives. We’re aided in sustaining our hopeful addiction by snow forecasting. But like any relationship based on co-addiction, this has its ups and downs.

Continue reading “Is this the big one?”

Vail aims to become a ‘sustainable tourism destination’

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.

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Big slide on Mt Bogong

After a slow start to the winter, we’re getting some serious top up to the base in the backcountry. Whenever you get sun affected snow covered by fresh, there is a chance you will get the potential for avalanche conditions to form on any steeper slopes at higher altitudes. This week there were reports of a ‘monster avalanche’ on Mt Bogong. What makes this concerning is the fact that (as Snowsense puts it) ‘from observations at Hotham and Falls, we had no indicator that Bogong was ready to let rip’.

This highlights the need to check conditions both before you head off and while you’re out in the mountains. Luckily there is a fantastic website to help with this: brought to you by the Mountain Sports Collective.

Continue reading “Big slide on Mt Bogong”

The ski industry and climate change. The denial continues

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.

Continue reading “The ski industry and climate change. The denial continues”

A perspective on the future of Australian snow

Dave Bain

This piece follows on from a previous article I wrote in 2012 for Protect Our Winters (POW) (Bain 2012). It takes a quick look at what the observed trends have been in Australian snowfalls over the past few decades. Regardless of people’s stance on climate change, these observations are a hard look at the likely future of Australia’s alpine environment, and our winter enjoyment.

Continue reading “A perspective on the future of Australian snow”

Avalanche AST1 & CRS Courses at Mt Hotham

With the continued interest in backcountry terrain in Australia, and a growing number of Australian skiers and riders heading out of bounds in NZ and the northern hemisphere, there are more opportunities to learn avalanche skills here.

Mountain Journal has previously advertised avalanche courses that are being held in NSW and Victoria this year by Main Range BackCountry.

Now Survive First Aid has teamed up with Dave Enright from Evergreen Outdoor Centre Hakuba to provide Avalanche AST1 & CRS Courses at Mt Hotham this winter.

Continue reading “Avalanche AST1 & CRS Courses at Mt Hotham”

Action now means more snow later

We all know that winter is in trouble. Climate change is already impacting on snowfalls and winters are becoming more erratic.

A recent report commissioned by the Alpine Resorts Co-ordinating Committee (ARCC) confirmed, yet again, the grim prognosis facing the snow industry and snow lovers if we don’t take serious action to radically reduce our contribution to global warming.

Continue reading “Action now means more snow later”

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