2015: worst start to the ski season ever?

Because we are over the media speculation about the status of the Australian snow season, we at Snowriders WA decided to take a closer look. Every year, normally around the June school holidays, we are subjected to media speculation about the present snow cover and the extent to which it translates into (a) the beginning of a bumper season or (b) the ‘worst’ start in years, decades, or living memory. Clearly this is no more scientific than the prediction made by ‘Chuck’, the Groundhog in the movie of the same name! According to folklore, if it is cloudy when a groundhog emerges from its burrow , then spring will come early; if it is sunny, the groundhog will supposedly see its shadow and retreat back into its burrow, and the winter weather will persist for six more weeks. We say, poppy cock!

The reality is that June is nearly always marginal when it comes to snow cover, and you cannot, with any sort of reliability, predict the likely success of the season based on the snow cover in the same month.

We at Snowriders WA put this to the test.

We examined maximum snow depths at Spencer’s Ck on the 29 June over a 61 year period between 1954 and the present day. At the time of writing, 2015 is not the worst start in history, nor is it the worst start in living memory. It is however the worst start since 1991. But is this such a bad thing?; is it the end of the skiing industry as we know it? We at Snowriders think not. Let’s examine other lean years, including 1991.

The years 1959, 1967, 1979, 1989 and 1991 were all characterised by lean starts. 67′, 79′ and 91′ in particular had 0cm of snow on the ground between the 27 and 30 of June, but all went on to record maximum snow depths greater than 169cm. 1991 performed particularly well, eventually recording a maximum snow depth close to 3m (284.7cm). 1989 and 1959 were lean in comparison, but nevertheless recorded maximum snow depths close to 1.5m (140 and 145, respectively). How many Australian resorts would complain with a base cover of 1.5m? – not many! So there is still hope. The lesson here is to never write off a season this early in the piece, El Nino, or no El Nino, and never pay heed to any long-range weather forecast greater than 5 days in length. We contend that few, if any, are accurate. Just ask ‘Chuck’ the groundhog 🙂

Final word: As we move into the school holidays, we can all take with us some hope that the snow will come, and when it does, it will come with gusto. Reports today suggest that the ‘blocking’ highs that have been sitting over the mainland should begin weakening in early to mid July. This should result in more snow bearing fronts making it through to the eastern highlands and hopefully a decent cover by the beginning of August. Fingers crossed.

About the author:

Glenn is a PhD qualified marine scientist and an avid skiier from Melbourne. Glenn, who now lives in Perth, Western Australia, with his wife and two young boys, is the founder of Snowriders WA. Glenn spent most of his youth skiing Hotham, where in 1998 (in between Uni degrees) he washed dishes and made pizzas in the Alberg, which he still describes as the best jobs of his life. Glenn is a frustrated skiier living in Western Australia, which is nearly 8 hrs from the nearest skiable mountain. He founded Snowriders WA as an outlet and as a means for bringing fellow skiiers and boarders together. It is his hope that one day Snowriders WA will be the official site for Western Australian skiiers and boarders, and the premier source of industry information and snow-related travel advice.

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