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Ongoing fears over future of Victoria’s ski resort industry
A report from the Victorian Government suggests that within 30 years most of Australia’s alpine resorts are likely to have closed and the number of days each year of good natural snow cover on the ski slopes could be in single figures.
The report forecasts another 20 to 30 years of economically viable natural snowfall for Victoria’s biggest alpine resorts, Mt Hotham, Mt Buller and Falls Creek, and perhaps 10 years or less for the lower altitude resorts Lake Mountain and Mt Baw Baw.
The report explains that as climate change brings warmer and drier weather to south eastern Australia, the mountain resorts will rely even more on artificial snow to stay in business but it will also become more energy-intensive and more expensive to produce.
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.
It advises “snow-covered vistas across the region will initially be much diminished and eventually all but gone, with the patches of white largely confined to those created by machines, some even covered by a roof.”
It also warns that bushfires will become more frequent and heavy rains will erode more soil from the mountains, adding “the native flora will be stressed and some species lost, changing the character of the area.”
By 2070, there may be no snow industry in Victoria and the mountain resorts might reinvent themselves as escapes from the intense heat of summer.
The report by SGS Economics and Planning is the result of more than a year’s research and consultation and was published by the Victoria’s Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning at the end of last month.
However, it has not been peer-reviewed and it cautions that modelling the impact of climate change of Victoria’s snowfields beyond 20 years is difficult and will be influenced by the success of international efforts to contain global warming.
Yet, under a worst case scenario, by 2050 the number of days in which one centimetre or more of snow covers the state’s ski slopes will be in single figures.
Under a best case scenario there could be more than 100 days of natural snow on the highest slopes of Mt Hotham and Falls Creek, up to 90 days at Mt Buller, but none at Lake Mountain and Mt Baw Baw.
Cam Walker, Campaigns Coordinator at Friends of the Earth, said the report ought to serve as a wake-up call, advising “if this report is correct then it says we are at a tipping point and that we could see the end of the snow industry in Australia in our lifetimes.”
Victoria’s snow resorts contributed $483 million to regional economies and supported 3900 direct jobs and 1360 indirect jobs in 2016.
Mark Bennetts, Chief Executive of Mt Buller and Mt Stirling Resorts, said the report was “no news” to resort operators.
Bennetts stated “we won’t know what is going to happen until it happens but having said that, the mountains have known about and been dealing with reductions in total snowfall and peak snowfall for years and years.”
The resort is waiting for approval to build a 100-megalitre dam on the mountain, to provide water for potable use and snowmaking.
Laurie Blampied, General Manager of Buller Ski Lifts, said technology had advanced to the point where snow could be made at any temperature.
However, he fears that an increasing reliance on artificial snow would not make the industry less viable, advising “if the product (snow) becomes less common, it will in turn become more valued and people are going to be prepared to pay more of a premium to enjoy a product if it’s scarce, a bit like a fine wine.”
The report is part of a long-term government strategy to address climate change impacts.
Victorian Energy and Environment Minister Lily D'Ambrosio concluded “climate change is happening and Victoria’s snowfields are not immune to this reality.
“Skiers can continue to expect snow but we're developing a long-term plan to ensure our alpine regions are visited year-round."
17th June 2018 - Victorian ski resorts enjoy significant early season snowfalls
31st May 2018 - Thredbo ski resort bans tobogganing and ‘snow play’
20th January 2018 - Installation commences on Falls Creek’s new Eagle Chair
28th November 2017 - New governance model to be introduced for Victoria’s alpine resorts
4th September 2017 - Falls Creek extends winter season to 8th October
5th August 2017 - Climate to increasingly impact Australia’s ski industry
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