The ski resorts at Thredbo and Perisher are looking forward to a promising snow season after the first decent snowfalls last weekend, with one forecaster saying there could be a cover of at least 180 cm of snow this season.
Thredbo had a covering of natural snow from the mountains down to the village last weekend, while 12 cm of snow fell at Perisher.
Both resorts are claiming the countdown is on to a bumper season but still won’t operate beyond 75 per cent capacity given the current COVID-19 restrictions – albeit an improvement on the 50 per cent capacity restrictions of last year.
The long-range forecast for this season is a marked improvement on last year’s poor snow covering of 167 cm at Spencer Creek, a location known as the barometer for snow depths in the mountains.
Snowatch forecaster Pete Taylor says a couple of promising snow-bearing systems are on their way ahead of the official opening of the ski season on 12 June.
“I think the season will be just above average with probably between 180 and 190 cm of snow, and it’s off to a good start so far with the snowfalls last weekend,” Mr Taylor told Region Media.
“There’s been a good run of cold nights, which has also allowed for lots of snow-making periods, so we’ll definitely have lifts open for the opening weekend.”
All resorts will be open, except for Mt Selwyn Snow Resort which is still being rebuilt after being all but destroyed in the Black Summer bushfires.
Face coverings are still required along with social distancing because the ski fields have higher restrictions as cold, dry air helps respiratory viruses such as COVID-19 spread more quickly.
The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) has forecast a slightly earlier start to winter, with meteorologist Helen Reid saying the cold conditions are here to stay.
“While it is still early in the season, it’s not unusual,” she said, “but temperatures are not going to bounce back up as high as we’ve seen after other cold snaps because we are closer to winter. Winter is coming.”
Last weekend, the ski fields at Perisher and Thredbo recorded good snowfalls, heralded by Perisher Facebook page on 13 May (below).
Mr Taylor also said his snow season forecast included data from the BOM’s long-range weather patterns and the breaking of La Niña, which brings above-average rainfall and slightly warmer temperatures.
Rainfall is also likely to be below average for parts of south-east Australia from May to July.
“Next week is looking like there’s a bit more snow coming again, and there are a couple of systems coming through just before the season starts, so it’s looking good so long as there’s no heavy rain to wash it away,” he said.
“The other thing that may affect snowfalls are the large blocking high-pressure systems that could push the lows down towards New Zealand, but the cold nights mean lots of good conditions for snow-making.”
Travel restrictions and uncertainty over the travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand have also meant season passes at Thredbo have already sold out, despite the price tag of $1649 for the premium pass and $1319 for a midweek pass.
A season pass at Perisher costing $1049 is still available, although the resort is yet to release its daily prices.
At Thredbo, a one-day lift pass will cost $169 for those aged between 22 and 64. A three-day pass is $399 between 12 and 25 June before rising to $507 during the peak of the season from 26 June to 12 September.