Last weekend at Mt Hotham I was chatting with a friend about the end of the season. She said she was starting to grieve for the end of another year. I was feeling exactly the same. I feel most alive in the alpine, especially the alpine when it’s snow covered, and for me, the spring melt marks the end of the year.
With many areas now pushing beyond 200 cm of snowpack (and Mt Buller calling it the best snow since 2004), the rest of August and early September is looking spectacular. Although I’m hearing a few nay sayers suggesting that we have seen the best of winter 2018, the famed Grasshopper is a little more upbeat: ‘We are now midway through the southern hemisphere season with the best part still to come.‘
However, The Grasshopper does also suggest that it will taper off after the next band of fronts: ‘Both climate drivers and models aren’t working in our favour for epic snowfalls during the second half of the season. However, snowfalls over the next week or two will provide ample fresh powder’.
But there is little doubt that winter 2018 has been amazing, especially on top of 2017 – which had been billed as ‘the best since 2000’.
Hopefully we will still be wandering around in the backcountry, finding turns, long after the resorts have closed.
In the meantime, here’s some backcountry style events you may want to get along to.
The snow looks great for the next few days. Lower avalanche risk (remember to check the Mountain Sports Collective website before heading out) and a good freshen up is expected, so the weekend should be awesome.
The Mountainwatch 7 day forecast is for 54 cm at Perisher, 46cm at Hotham and 45 cm at Mt Stirling. Yes, forecasts at 7 days are very unreliable and the expected snowfall tends to trail off as you get closer to the actual day. But it does look healthy. Stay safe and enjoy.
Avalanche Training Australia in conjunction with Avalanche NZ is proud to offer accredited 2-day Avalanche Awareness and 4-day Backcountry Avalanche Avoidance courses during the 2018 Australian winter.
These will be held out of Falls Creek in north eastern Victoria.
What a great start to winter 2018! Those good early falls in May disappeared, but then we got the best snow pack for June in 17 years! And now we have another big system bearing down on us.
As always, forecasts vary, and this far out, they may be more enthusiastic than the reality we will see over the weekend. Let’s hope this system does deliver the goods.
Here’s a quick check at what some of the key snow websites are saying.
If you’re heading out after the storm, be aware that there may be some avalanche risk as the fresh settles on a sun affected layer. Check the Mountain Sports Collective backcountry advisory before you get on the trail.
This one is from MountainWatch.
This is from Snow watch.
This one comes from Jane Bunn:
Big snow system, mainly Saturday, snow up high from Friday.
A high is moving to the east and cold fronts are approaching. This will make it windy.
We stay dry through to the end of Wednesday, but one of these fronts may produce rain on Thursday (up to 5mm). It is too warm for snow.
A front breaks through on Friday. It starts warm with rain for all resorts, but there is enough cold air for it to snow to 1600 metres at times. Up to 25 mm of precipitation – with 5 to 20 cm of that falling as snow up high.
A stronger front pushes through on Saturday, and this is all cold. Snow falls down to 900 metres with 15 to 30 cm of snow.
So, this brings 20 to 50 cm of snow all up.
The chance of snow showers on Sunday, the slight chance of snow showers early next week, until the high moves back in.
The Mountain Sports Collective backcountry advisory service is operating again this winter.
Based on three key regions – Kosciusko national park in NSW, north east VIC and the central Victorian Alps – each advisory is updated as conditions change. They cover snow and weather conditions. If you’re heading out of resort and into the higher mountains its worth checking the conditions before you go.
You can find the advisory here.
Please consider becoming a member. This helps us to run the area reports.
After a fairly ordinary opening weekend, are we finally getting to the real part of winter?
It seems to depend who you talk to but the general answer is YES.
These are the seven day forecasts for Australia from MountainWatch.
This is the one from SnowWatch. Obviously, longer term models become less reliable, with a greater chance of the cold front being shunted off by a blocking High system or weakening, etc. We’ve all had our hearts broken many times by seeing a 15 day forecast that looks mind blowing slowly dissolve into drizzle and a bit of cloud, so do ‘adjust your set’ to prepare yourself for disappointment. But the short term forecast looks great.
The Jane Bunn forecast (via ski.com.au) looks pretty spectacular.
A series of cold fronts is passing through, driven by a complex area of low pressure that slowly moves past, just south of Australia.
The heavier snow coincides with the colder air. Its still a little warm today (Wednesday) and Thursday, then we are proper cold from Friday. Snow down to 900 metres on Friday and Saturday, lowering to 600 metres for Saturday night and early Sunday.
Northern resorts see the most from this system as the airflow is northwesterly for much of the time. Baw Baw picks up what is left on Monday into Tuesday.
The high moves in on Tuesday, bringing a return to sunshine.
We’re looking at 40 to 95 cm of snow for northern resorts.
Lets hope this is correct!
Climate change poses an existential threat to the ski industry in Australia. A recent report commissioned by the Victorian government suggests that the end of natural snow could be as close as a couple of decades.
As noted by Adam Carey in The Age, without serious action to tackle climate change, ‘the likeliest outcome is that Victoria’s snow resorts will gradually close, until just one or two remain in business by mid-century, offering an increasingly rarefied experience’.
You would think that people who earn their living from snow would be paying attention to what is happening and perhaps even playing their part to reduce emissions.
We all know that climate change poses an existential threat to the snow and alpine environments that we love. While Australia’s lower mountains and modest latitude make it something of a miracle that we even have snow, there is little doubt that already our seasons are getting shorter, with less snow (our snow pack has been in decline since 1957).
But it is disturbing to see the impacts that are happening elsewhere, in countries at higher latitudes and with higher peaks. This recent story sums up some of what’s happening in North America, and how some resorts are responding.