Australian ski resorts are celebrating the best start to the southern-hemisphere ski season in 18 years, with heavy snowfall and freezing temperatures.
Resorts on the south-eastern coast of the country were hit with blizzard conditions at the start of this week – the storm, which has been nicknamed Stormin’ Norman, battered resorts for six days.
Severe weather warnings were issued by the Bureau of Meteorology for the regions of Victoria and New South Wales.
It’s an extreme weather pattern than mimics the series of storms that hit the Alps at the start of last winter.
Australia’s top five resorts have all benefited from Norman’s snowy onslaught. Perisher, arguably the most well-known resort, and part of Vail Resort's Epic Pass, received 71cm of snow in the space of three days and is opening new parts of its ski area daily.
“The skiing this weekend will be amazing across all four resort areas with at least 32 lifts operating. It looks like the best early season conditions Perisher has seen since 2000,” said Peter Brulisauer, chief operating officer at Perisher.
Mount Hotham, in the middle of Australia’s Alpine National Park, has received over a metre of snow already this season, even though all its lifts are not yet scheduled to be open. Thredbo, just north of the New South Wales/Victoria border, received 85cm during the recent storm and today will open Australia’s longest ski run, the Supertrail.
“The best news is, experts are claiming there is another storm in the forecast, set to hit next weekend, which will hopefully deliver another solid top-up of fresh snow,” said Richie Carroll, marketing executive at Thredbo.
Mount Buller and Fall Creek in Victoria saw 52cm and 72cm of snowfall respectively, and temperatures are not expected to rise above freezing this weekend as both open the first lifts of the season.
The news from Australia comes after European ski resorts also experienced a landmark winter for snowfall and snow depths in 2017/18. But with the extreme weather in the Alps came extreme risk. Throughout last winter ski areas in France, Switzerland, Austria and Italy experienced severe avalanche risk, causing slopes to shut and resorts, such as Zermatt in Switzerland and Tignes in France, to be cut off and forced into lockdown.
It’s too early to predict whether history will repeat itself in Australia’s ski resorts, so for the time being staff and visitors are revelling in the early-season conditions.
Resorts are now expected to use snowmaking machines to add to the natural layer of cover.
“Temperatures are set to take a significant dive across the weekend, so we can fire up the snowmaking and complement the natural snow falls. The weather is a fickle beast and that’s why resorts have heavily invested in snowmaking to smooth out those times when Mother Nature doesn’t come to the party,” Susie Diver, communications manager at Thredbo, told 9News.
The weather began to clear yesterday and resorts have begun to share images of clear blue skies and white pistes.
It’s not just lesser-known resorts in Australia that offers powder instead of palm trees during the British summer, neigbouring New Zealand is a popular summer destination for winter sport athletes who use the facilities to train ahead of the European and North American winter competition schedule. South America is also home to a number of summer ski areas popular with adventurous skiers and snowboarders looking to experience new cultures in Argentina and Chile.