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‘We may not have snow’: Australian ski season opens with a whimper
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‘We may not have snow’: Australian ski season opens with a whimper

It was a grassy start to Australia’s ski season, with one resort trying to remain upbeat “although we may not have snow on the ground” and a few pockets of human-made alternatives to play on elsewhere.

Mt Buller, in Victoria, was blessed with the only ski-on chairlift in the entire country on the opening day of the winter season on Saturday.

The Bourke Street chairlift took keen skiers and snowboarders to the top of a single lane of human-made snow to help kick off celebrations marking 100 years of skiing at the resort.

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The Buller ski lifts general manager, Noel Landry, said the snowmaking team had been “working night and day for weeks” in preparation for the opening long weekend.

“It’s a team effort and literally does take a village to get the mountain open and rolling for the start of snow season,” he said on the resort’s website.

Perisher, in New South Wales, operated a single conveyor lift at its base on Saturday. While all 45 of its other lifts remained closed, some human-made snow was enough to lure families on to the mountain, with skiers and snowboarders making the best of the poor – if not unusual – June conditions.

The resort’s vice president and general manager, Nathan Butterworth, said staff were “looking forward to the week ahead with snowfall in the forecast and temperatures ideal for snowmaking.”

All of nearby Thredbo’s ski pistes and parks remained closed, with two chairlifts open for scenic rides only.

The Palm family from Bunyip, in Victoria, on the opening day of the 2024 winter season on Mt Buller.View image in fullscreen

There was grass as far as the eye could see in Falls Creek and Mt Hotham in Victoria on Saturday, although Hotham’s snow reporter, Bill Barker, was upbeat about the season’s start.

“Although we may not have any snow on the ground today, anyone who has been around for a while knows that many epic winters have started a little slow, and next week is showing some signs of promise,” he wrote online.

“Great conditions to dust off the skis and boards before heading out for a stroll”.

Meagre snowfall is hoped to give way to decent coverage, with some notably bumper past seasons having begun with low snowfall. But global warming is playing its part, too, with a major new report warning the average length of ski seasons will be cut from 105 days to 81 by 2030 even if greenhouse gas emissions are significantly lowered.

Pieta Herring, co-founder of backcountry tour company Alpine Access Australia, based in Jindabyne, said June is traditionally “risky” when it comes to snow coverage and that climate change was forcing the snow sports industry to rethink.

“In years gone by it was well accepted that the season often didn’t start until later and June was always highly risky,” she said.

“When we used to rely on natural snow, we would often not be skiing until later in the season.”

Her business does not schedule any courses until July at the earliest, and, even then, snow is not guaranteed for all who visit the region.

“Everyone knows about the effects of climate change and you just have to get creative,” she said, citing snow making technology and a rise in the popularity of ski touring higher into the Alpine region.

“That’s the nature of it these days. We have to accept there will be good and bad seasons and good and bad months.”

Source: theguardian.com