Predicting the success and duration of the annual Australian ski season is a tricky business.
Snowy Mountains locals know a big dump of snow in May can ignite ski operators’ hopes of a bumper season, but all too often, follow-up snow doesn’t eventuate for weeks after.
The 2022 opening weekend was reckoned to be one of the best for more than 20 years, but this year may have visitors seeking something off-snow to keep them entertained.
A cold change predicted for the couple of days before the resorts’ opening might see some snowfalls, but nothing compared with 12 months ago.
Thredbo’s Welcome to Winter
Skiing, snowboarding, apres and mountain air are all available to kick off the snow season in style at the Winter 2023 Opening Weekend.
Thredbo is celebrating all weekend long, on and off the mountain. Hit the slopes and join a stack of events including dining, live entertainment, kids’ activities and more.
Highlights include Saturday’s ice sculpture, Heineken Saturday featuring pop duo Kinder, face painting, S’mores, Mark Travers, High Cee and fireworks from 6 pm.
Sunday sees the Blessing of the Snows at 3 pm at Thredbo Chapel, in a tradition whereby Thredbo Ski Patrol, local church leaders and the community gather to wish everyone a safe, happy and prosperous season ahead.
Sunday also sees the Heineken Sunday Session and the GH Mumm Long Lunch.
Perisher celebrates with music
Perisher will welcome the 2023 season with its annual Peak Music Festival, from Friday night.
The festival features 14 performers, all free. Peak is a non-ticketed event open to all locals, visitors and general lovers of live music and good vibes.
The Skitube will also start its 2023 season on Friday.
Perisher also just announced Nathan Butterworth will be taking over as vice president and general manager this weekend.
Mr Butterworth is currently the vice president and general manager at Hotham, a role he has held since April 2022.
Under his leadership, the resort team last season achieved its strongest performance on record, and he successfully navigated complex initiatives during his tenure, including the sale of Hotham Airport.
Before Hotham, Mr Butterworth spent 20 years at Perisher in a variety of roles.
During his 21-year career, Mr Butterworth has contributed tremendously to the Australian ski industry and has been an instrumental leader in the development and launch of Vail Resorts’ Epic Australia Pass, building upon the interest sparked by the Freedom Pass, which he also helped create.
“When I first started in the ski industry at Perisher in 2002, I discovered a passion and affinity for the outdoors and snow sports that has taken root and grown in an incredibly meaningful way,” Mr Butterworth said.
“It is an honour to be returning to the resort as its new leader after building my career there – I look forward to jumping in with both feet, reconnecting with the team and community, and starting the snow season strong once again.”
Selwyn set to reopen
This weekend is also the scheduled reopening date of Selwyn Ski Resort, which was destroyed in the 2020 bushfires and which has undergone a complete rebuild.
Originally flagged for 2022, Selwyn’s reopening was ironically delayed by a year because of early snowfalls.
The new resort has been transformed for its grand return, with the completion of the significantly expanded and integrated Selwyn Centre, which will house all guest facilities and services in one building.
The centre will house an expanded ski and snowboard hire service, enhanced food and drink offerings and improved toilet amenities.
Will there be snow?
The Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) advises predicting snowfall more than a week in advance is tricky, due to its highly variable nature, but it also says looking at some climate drivers can give an idea of what’s in store.
The BoM advises: “Some years have deep snow cover for several months and others have light falls that quickly melt. This natural climate variation is the difference between a bumper ski season and one where operators rely more heavily on snow-making technology.
“Climate change also plays a part in observed trends in snow cover in Australia. Warmer temperatures mean precipitation is more likely to fall as rain than snow and can make the snow melt more quickly at the end of the season.
“A single weather event can have a big impact on the amount of snowfall and length of the snow season. For example, around a metre of snow fell in less than a week in 2014, approximately the average snow depth during snow seasons between 1954 and 2022.”
Snow depths are measured regularly by Snowy Hydro at Spencer’s Creek.
According to the BoM, the depths have decreased by 0.35cm a year between 1954 and 2022. Exceptions to this trend include the 2017 and 2022 seasons, both recording a peak snow depth of more than 230cm.
As snow can be patchy, the online tool MetEye is a good option to visualise where snow is likely to fall over three-hour intervals in the next seven days.