Perspective people – sure, the 2023 snow season was bad, but it’s far from the worst season ever as some reports and more hysterical media/influences/social media ‘expert’ commentators would have it.
A lot of noise has been made about the “warmest winter on record” in south east Ausralia – which the BOM claimed and we have no reason to doubt – but fortunately therefore that did NOT translate into the worst snow season.
The 2023 season in NSW peaked at 131cm on the Spencer’s Creek weekly (every Thursday) snow depth charts.
For those who don’t know, the Spencer’s Creek measuring station lies between Perisher and Charlotte Pass resorts, at an altitude of 1800m – so it’s not really an in resort total at all, but it approximates pretty well to what actually happens around Mt Perisher at least – as is not too dissimilar to below the top ridgeline at Thredbo. The most important thing though is Snowy Hydro and its precursors having been measuring there since the 1930s.
So a quick scan of their annual depth charts gives you a snapshot of the snowfall at higher levels of the resorts.
2006 remains the all-time worst season, narrowly beating out 1982 and at the 85cm peak then remains well under the 2023 best of 131cm.
More importantly for the resorts, paying punters and all those invested in the Aussie snow industry, at least the 2023 peak depth ocurred early – 13 July – and the main dump came just in time for the School Holiday peak. In 2006 there was only incremental increase to the end of August “peak”. Ditto for the almost as bad 1982 season, which peaked at a pathetic 91cm in mid-August.
The inimitable Peter ‘Zirky’ Zirknitzer put the 2006 season in perspective for Snow Action back then when he told us, “You know, we had some nice weather, they made a little snow, it was not so bad.”
Zirky’s positive vibes are what you will need moving forward as they say.
Of course in the interim snowmaking has improved out of sight, and the innovation of “snow factories” capable of making slurpee-ice-snow-mix well above freezing temperatures, has changed the game as far as keeping at least some terrain open. Mt Buller has led the way there, but little Corin Forest outside Canberra has also done amazingly well considering their low altitude.
Why Selwyn Snowfields didn’t factor snow factory technology into their rebuild is a mystery to us – it should have been their priority #1, allowing them to have at least toboggan and snowplay happening regardless, and likely beginner terrain too.
On balance, at the big Aussie resorts we all dodged a bullet this winter. It could have been much worse.
Hope you did get up there when there was a reasonable amount of snow.
Of course the warming trend is unstoppable, barring another Mt Pinatubo volcano type event – that eruption in the Phillipines gave us 3 great season 1990-91-92, but year-on-year, winter-on-winter, it’s still a lottery. Just go when it snows if you can – don’t wait for things to get better, there is no guarantee they will anymore.
Scanning the snow depth records and cross-checking them with memory going back 40 plus skiing seasons and more the two scariest things that jump out are first the ever-shortening length of the season. Go back to some of the all time great seasons like 1964 & 1981 and you see there was metres of snow well into November. Not anymore. Summer starts earlier now, the melt is on.
Second, the snow falls at the lower altitude measuring stations – Deep Creek and Two Mile Dam – show how minimal the low altitude snow has become.
Which of course is entirely as predicted by CSIRO et al since the 1980s. We were told.
Our grandparents had the best of Aussie snow. Our grandchildren will be lucky to have any.