Perfect snowstorm predicted for ski areas next week

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The first major snowfall of the year is forecast for the Snowy Mountains early next week.

The timing couldn’t be better for alpine resorts as they prepare for the start of the ski season on June 11.

“It’s real Goldilocks stuff,” said Rhylla Morgan of Buller Ski Lifts in Victoria Ski Areas.

“We don’t want it to snow too early. We don’t want it to snow too late. We need the right amount of humidity and these temperatures to line up at the right time. And it looks like it’s doing it for us,” she said.

Skiers will want to hit the slopes after closures prevented many from enjoying the sport over the past two winters.(Provided)

Skiing in Australia can be a nerve-wracking experience. A slight change in the weather can turn perfection from white, dry snow to rain, slush and grief.

But for now, the weather stars seem to be aligning, according to Jonathan Howe of the Bureau of Meteorology.

“We’re looking at between 20 and 50 centimeters of snow, with heavier snow in southeastern New South Wales where you can see pretty healthy totals,” he said.

“We only dare to get excited now”

Alpine businesses will welcome favorable forecasts after enduring two years of COVID-related closures.

“People were doing it hard. They were definitely on the verge of whether people would go broke or not,” said Reggae Elliss, a Thredbo retailer and publisher of the mountainwatch.com website.

“Last year we were excited about the season, then Sydney went into this lockdown at the start of the school holidays and occupancy here in the Snowy Mountains dropped from 100% to 30%,” he added .

A man stands in the snow next to a camera.
Skier Thredbo Reggae Elliss is eagerly waiting for mountain communities to recover after two years of lockdown.(Provided: Reggae Elliss)

But with snow on the way, people in the mountains were getting excited, according to Rhylla Morgan.

“The idea that one can think of going skiing, having dinner with friends and doing fun things, just because it’s fun, and it’s in a beautiful place, is extraordinary and more exciting than normal for the start of a snow season,” she said.

The snow will arrive with wild weather on Monday and Tuesday, with blizzard conditions and very strong winds. Conditions are expected to ease on Wednesday, before another front appears next weekend.

a drone of a snow covered village with snow covered trees and buildings
Village of Thredbo in 2021.(Provided: Thredbo Resort)

What kind of ski season are we in?

Jonathan Howe said the dominant climatic factor this winter will be the Indian Ocean Dipole or IOD, which can play the role of Goldilocks, bringing moisture needed for snowfall from the Indian Ocean to the ski slopes. .

But the IOD can also play the role of the Three Bears, bringing rain.

“IOD can go both ways. It increases the cloud, which can also increase the temperature,” Jonathan Howe said.

“But so we really need it to be perfect. We need that tropical humidity in the form of rain, combined with those cold temperatures to create the perfect snow conditions. And that’s what we’ll see this week.”

A map showing locations likely to receive more precipitation in a negative IOD phase
A negative IOD often results in more than average rainfall over southeastern Australia.(Supplied: BOM)

Why are the Australian ski seasons so capricious?

Australia’s ski areas are in the wrong place, according to Jonathan Howe of the Bureau of Meteorology.

“The ski areas are quite far north towards the equator, if you think about it. And our mountains aren’t really that high,” he said.

“But we’re also surrounded by water. We’re an island. South of Australia you have the ocean and the ocean doesn’t really go below freezing in terms of sea surface temperatures.”

“So we rely a lot on the cold air masses coming in from Antarctica, and they’re punctuated with warm air. So we tend to have wetter, more erratic snowfall.”

“On top of that, with global warming, snow depth has generally decreased over the years in Victoria and New South Wales.”

Graph of maximum snow depth per year from 1954 to 2014 showing varying depths but a general decreasing trend.
Australia’s longest snow record at Spencers Creek shows a slight downward trend in maximum snow depth.(meteorological office)

And even …

Despite all the reasons it shouldn’t snow in Australia, it does in abundance, and it will again next week, in mountains of fluffy white powder.

And once again Australians will celebrate the humble miracle that is skiing and snowboarding on the flattest, driest continent on Earth.

The snow-crusted mountain valley glows purple as the sun sets.
The Australian ski season starts on June 11.(Provided: Chris Hocking)
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