Australia ski resorts hit hard by climate change, research shows

New research has shown that the length of ski seasons will be shortened by one-third by 2030, even if greenhouse gas emissions were radically reduced.

New South Wales’ Charlotte Pass, Perisher and Thredbo fields, as well as Victoria’s Falls Creek and Mt Hotham, fare better than others under the modelling, according to research by the Australian National University.

The survey finds that Ben Lomond, Lake Mountain and the Baw Baw, Buller, Selwyn and Stirling horses will be worst affected.

Overall, the roughly 100-day resort season will be reduced by 16-18 days by 2030, regardless of emissions.

Victorian Alpine resorts were responsible for 10,000 full-time jobs and $1.2 billion in economic activity in 2019. The latest data for NSW is from 2011, but on trends the NSW industry would contribute about 2.1 in 2019 billion dollar activity.

In 2050, ski seasons will be shorter by 28 days in the low-emissions scenario and by 55 days in the high-emissions scenario.

There may be one skiing day on the calendar in 2080 if emissions remain high.

Additionally, these ski day projections only take into account ‘critical’ elevations at resorts and assume that all resorts already have snowmaking equipment, which most, but not all, do.

Critical altitudes are: “The maximum possible length of the season with partial openness of the highest terrain, which is the lowest point of the upper half (if such an area exists) or the base station if it does not”.

Report co-author and ANU researcher Ruby Olsson said vulnerable resorts needed support to diversify into year-round tourist destinations.

“The more we can limit the impacts of climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the cheaper it will be for businesses, communities and the environment to adapt and the more options we will have,” said Olsson.

Advocacy group Protect Our Winters Australia collaborated on the report with the university and the Australian Mountain Research Facility.

Protect Our Winters Australia director Sam Quirke said snowfall in 2023 was not enough.

“Last year’s ski season was difficult, with little snow and some resorts had to close their doors early.

“This report shows that we will see this happen more often as ski seasons become more erratic and harder to predict due to global warming until we do something about it.”

Co-author of the report, Mrs. Olsson, PhD on the socio-economic impacts of snow gum dieback in the Australian Alps and possible solutions.

Runoff from snowmelt provides an average of 9,600 gigalitres of water each year to the Murray-Darling Basin, about 29 percent of the basin’s total annual flow, the study found. According to forecasts, climate change will reduce the amount of precipitation in the Alps by between five and 24 percent by 2050.

“The report highlights a cascading set of interrelated impacts on alpine tourism, regional communities, hydroelectricity, upland water flows into the Murray-Darling Basin, carbon sequestration, Highland Country ecosystems and First Nations, and makes recommendations for responding to these impacts. ,” the report says.

Conflicts over water sharing have been raging in the Murray-Darling Basin for years, so even less snowmelt in the Alps would only worsen the situation.

More than 2.4 million people live in the basin, and its rivers contribute $30 billion in economic activity.

The report recommends restoration of cover, soils and wetlands in the Alps to offset reduced rainfall.

Furthermore, ecosystem-damaging tourism and hydropower expansion should only be undertaken with full consideration of the impacts on the basin.

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