It’s likely to be the perfect storm for Australia’s ski fields, with the first day of winter on Wednesday expected to herald almost a metre of snow in high traffic areas in coming weeks.
This week’s icy blast across southern and eastern Australia has already resulted in good falls along Kosciuszko, Mount Buller and kunanyi/Mount Wellington.
On Tuesday, the Bureau of Meteorology was predicting the snow level, the elevation above which snow will fall, to sit at 600-700 metres across Victoria, Tasmania and south-east NSW, and above 800m in the NSW Central Tablelands.
About 50cm of snow is expected to fall in some places, including around Perisher Valley and Thredbo – a decent dump for this time of year.
Australia’s ski season usually runs from June to September.
Forecaster and owner at Snowatch, Pete Taylor, said La Niña had not stopped snow falling in the eastern states.
“We’re still in La Niña, so there’s a lot of moisture around the southern hemisphere,” Taylor said.
“Normally that would mean we’ll get more rainfall [than snow]. But there’s been a shift in the high-pressure system moving to the south, which has allowed cold air to come up and hit the mountains.”
Taylor said the amount of snow expected to fall in the coming three weeks was “usual” for this time of year but might mean some slopes open early.
“It’s looking like a strong start,” he said.
Another cold front is expected to arrive on Friday, bringing snowfalls of 20-35cm into next week, with Sunday and Monday expected to be the heaviest days, he said.
That will be followed by another snow system hitting alpine areas on 11 June, in time for the official opening weekend.
“I would expect to have some rainfall at some stage, it’s just a matter of time,” Taylor said.
“But we’ll have so much snow after this two-week period, it should keep us going.”
Perisher, Thredbo and Charlotte Pass are all expected to see up to 94cm of snow in the next 15 days, with Falls Creek and Mount Buller in Victoria looking at more than 70cm.
Taylor said with the heavy snowfall it was possible Mount Buller and Perisher could both open one of their natural slopes this weekend.
The long forecast for the season, which usually runs until October on some slopes, was harder to predict, Taylor said.
“But at the moment with such a good start, I would expect decent snow throughout the season.”
Rhylla Morgan from Buller Ski Lifts said the snow had arrived right on cue.
“First day of winter and we’ve got 20cm blanketing the resort,” she said.
“We’re certainly very hopeful for a good season, right now we are getting ready for the official opening festivities on the Queen’s birthday weekend. With snow like this, it is a possibility we might open early, but it’s too early to say just yet,” she said.
Australia’s ski resorts have struggled over the past two years as they navigated Covid lockdowns. Morgan said they had only been open for about 40 days last winter, so were now gearing up for a big season – from now until October.
“Here in Australia, we forget some of the deepest snow cover is in August,” she said.
“Think about spring days, lots of sunshine, and having après [after slope drinks] out on the deck.
“Australia is a special place to do that. We intend to ski into October this year.”