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.
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.
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.
As some forecasters suggested early in the year, 2017 seems to be turning into a less than average and slightly erratic season. The ephemeral joy of winter snow seems even more fleeting than usual this year, with the lesson that you should get out and enjoy it wherever and however you can when it arrives.
The most recent fronts appear to have brought the most snow to the southern mountains of Tasmania, which also got me thinking about the ephemeral wonder of Tassie’s peaks after heavy snow.
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.
OK. So its probably not going to be mind blowing, but at least the long awaited snow is here. Forecasts show snowfalls and snow showers for the next week, but with small figures in terms of depth. At this point Tasmania looks like it will do best from the fronts that are coming through.
Check the forecast for Mt Mawson (southern TAS) here.
The much anticipated front that’s expected to bring decent snow falls is finally on it’s way. After the last system was ‘shunted off’ to the south by blocking High Systems (something that is expected to happen with increasing frequency as a result of climate change) we appear to have a system that’s strong enough to push through and hit the mainland.
It’s not expected to lead to deep falls, but at this point I reckon we will happily take whatever nature can provide. It is expected to cross the VIC Alps on friday night and saturday morning and snow showers could continue until next monday.
The image at the top comes from MountainWatch.
Yes, winter teaches us many things. Including patience (and despair, like when an expected snow storm turns out to be rain). But after those mid May snowfalls I feel like it’s now testing us at a time when we should be getting reacquainted with the joys of fresh snow and early snowpack, and nice lines in the backcountry …
It now seems that the front that was expected to arrive from tomorrow has weakened to the point where even the southern mountains of Victoria will miss out on snow.
Fronts become more likely from Friday 23rd onwards, but there are still no strong indications of a significant snow event. And while the cold clear conditions have been good for making snow in the resorts, most backcountry terrain is looking pretty threadbare.
MountainWatch has snow forecasts for all Australian resorts (available here). Sadly, hitting ‘refresh’ doesn’t seem to make the snow arrive any quicker.
This is an interesting idea: an alpine experience for people who want to visit the mountains in winter but don’t want to ski or ride. A new business venture, Alpine Nature Experience, is setting up operations at Wire Plain at Mount Hotham this winter.
It’s driven by Jean-Francois Rupp, who grew up in the French Alps.
His aim is to help visitors ‘truly immerse themselves in the remote, pristine Australian alpine environment’.
“I’ve realised that a lot of people don’t go to the snow because they don’t like to ski, so I wanted people to come up to the snow and discover how good it is without having to do that,” Jean-Francois said. “It’s the same as going to the beach, where you don’t have to surf to enjoy being by the ocean, it’s a similar idea and an alternative offer to skiing.”
The Alpine Nature Experience at Mount Hotham starts with an evening snowshoe walk through the majestic snow gums, weaving its way to a hidden ‘eco-village’ and central tipi with a fireplace. Once a the tipi, Jean-Francois will share French cooking tips and guests will preparing a French cheese fondue.
This looks like a good, low impact way to expand what’s on offer within land designated as being part of the alpine resort. Good luck with the venture, hope it goes well, Jean-Francois.