The future of the Australia ski season is not looking pretty according to a damning report from the Australian Mountain Research Facility at the Australian National University, released today.

Come 2080, the report forecasts that if global greenhouse emissions remain high, we’ll be reduced to a fortnight of skiing and boarding in only the country’s highest resorts of Mount Hotham in Victoria and Charlotte Pass in NSW.

The Our Changing Snowscapes: Climate Change Impacts and Recommendations for the Australian Alps is a 129 page detailed report commissioned by Protect Our Winters, and part of a strategic campaign from the organisation to secure more government focus and commitment to protecting the alpine regions and the tourism industry that relies on them. It also addresses global warming impacts on the Murray-Darling Basin, regional alpine ecosystems and First Nations people.

This report is the first of its kind to look specifically at the impacts of climate change on the Australian alpine regions using modern forms of climate data. Research results are based on ski season viability with low, mid and high emission scenarios for 2030, 2050 and 2080 and includes both natural and man-made snow possibilities. But be warned, it’s depressing reading for Aussies who love snow sports.

Predictably it forecasts a rise in temperatures and therefore a drop in snowfall figures. Those who endured the 2023 ski season that started late and finished early will have already experienced a taste of what the POW commissioned report says is to come unless climate pollution is reduced. Many northern hemisphere resorts are also enduring feast and famine snow conditions, warmer temperatures and resort closures.

If the current trajectory of climate change continues, the Australian ski industry is said to change dramatically by 2050. According to the report, the average ski season across all resorts  will be 44 days shorter (-42%) under a mid emissions scenario and 55 days shorter (-52%) under a high emissions scenario.

The report’s modelling also serves up a good dose of hope but with an urgent proviso.

Our Changing Snowscapes reveals that at best we’d lose an average of two to three weeks of the season over the next 26 years in both NSW and Victoria should emissions be low with today’s 105 day season reducing to 81 days. Victorian resorts could even increase their ski season length between 2050 and 2080 with climate repair.

But if emissions are high then only Mount Hotham and Charlotte Pass would be the last ones standing, averaging just two weeks (god only knows what the cost of a day pass would be then). Never mind the impact on the Snowy Mountains ecology and the pygmy possum.

Year round tourism just became even more integral to the survival of Australia’s ski resorts. Thredbo already welcomes mountain biking and will have a year round alpine coaster, launching this weekend, so they’re covered.

The report recommendations suggest that collaboration is key as resort management boards, ski lift companies, tourism boards and alpine operators need to address what is ahead and the adaptations required to save the snow season.

“We also are strongly of the belief that this report will be a tool for greater government support for a tourism industry on the front lines of climate change.  Recognition that the industry is worth over $3.3 billion and supports jobs throughout regional Australia is needed from the government,” said a Protect Our Winters Australia spokesperson.

“We are strongly of the belief that with coordination across the industry to advocate for greater climate change action from the federal and state governments alongside PoW Australia, we can be a part of the change required to protect our winters.”

Australians are an innovative lot that love to ski and snowboard. Let’s hope that innovation kicks in sooner so that we can still be skiing later.

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