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Mountain Journal

Environment, news, culture from the Australian Alps

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snow

End of the ski season. Happy New Year

I don’t know about you, but I’m at my best in mid winter. My brain works better, I feel more cheerful, I want to be out amongst it. I crave altitude, snow, rock, ice, and being above tree line.

I always get a bit sad at the end of winter. One way to deal with the sadness is to embrace it, so I try to make sure I’m at Hotham for closing weekend. There’s something so final about last day of the season. As services wind down, the lifts stop spinning, the bus does its last lap of the village, and Dinner Plain and Hotham empty out, I feel like winter is finally over. I’m ready to move on into the next season. Traditional New Years Eve happens in the middle of summer, just after Christmas madness, with hot weather stretching out for months on either side. I find it hard to feel like the year is over as the land just feels the same, caught in the summer doldrums. Whereas end of winter is a physical event. For me, the day after snow season ends is New Years Day, it marks a clear end of one part of the year, and I feel like I can step fully into spring.

Happy New Year, everyone. Only 234 sleeps til winter!

Continue reading “End of the ski season. Happy New Year”

Winter 2017. (Almost) done.

Wow. What a winter. Some forecasters were predicting a ‘slightly better than average’ season, and opening weekend saw skiable snow in the resorts, but then things slowed down for several weeks until we started to get serious snowfalls in July. We had four epic storm fronts during the season, variously called The Blizard of Oz, Snowaggedon 2.0, etc, with the best snowpack in September for 17 years. Most resorts extended their season a week until October 8, and there is still many weeks’ worth of skiing in many parts of the backcountry.

As the season winds down, like most snow addicts I’m already thinking about next year. Personally I had an awesome winter, with a highlight being a road trip from the Snowies to Mt Hotham. But I did a lot of ‘weekend warrior’ drives and now that the snow frenzy is dissipating, I feel like I’ve woken up after a big bender with a hangover and a slight sense of guilt…

Continue reading “Winter 2017. (Almost) done.”

Blizzard of Oz 3.0?

Another mass of extremely cold air has hit the Alps, with snowfalls occurring to low levels, and the intense weather is expected to continue for much of the week. MountainWatch has declared it to be ‘the storm of the season’, even better than the ‘Blizzard of Oz’. Apart from lots of fresh, the current storm does bring blizzard conditions, the possibility of lightning in some areas, and the likelihood of increased avalanche risk on steeper slopes.

Continue reading “Blizzard of Oz 3.0?”

Its Here. The ‘Blizzard of Oz 2.0’

After that depressing rain, the snow is back – with a vengeance. Weather is wild in most mountain areas right now. But enjoy it once the winds drop.

Hotham is reporting ’25 cm of cold dry snow in the last 24hrs’.

Mt Buller is reporting ’15cm fresh on top of 10cm yesterday and still falling’ (It’s going to be ‘EPIC’ says the over hyped snow guy on their daily video update).

Thredbo is calling the storm the ‘Blizzard of Oz 2.0′, with ’40cm of fresh in the last 24 hours’, and Perisher is reporting ’50 cm’ in the same time period.

Please check road conditions before heading to resorts and consider taking a chain saw if you’re accessing the backcountry via unpatrolled roads.

Apart from all the resort websites, there is a list of snow reporting and forecast sites available here.

The image at the top is the MountainWatch forecast from this morning.

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”

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?”

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”

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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