Snow forecast - but in the wrong place

Skiers enjoying good early snowfalls at the Mount Buller Alpine Resort, Victoria, Australia....
Skiers enjoying good early snowfalls at the Mount Buller Alpine Resort, Victoria, Australia. PHOTO: TONY HARRINGTON
The forecast is for snow this weekend, but on skifields across the Tasman rather than here, unfortunately.

Australian skifields have had a better start to their season than those in the Southern Lakes, although the impact of that on the New Zealand ski industry has yet to be determined.

School holidays in Queensland, Victoria and the Northern Territory begin today, with other states and New Zealand due to begin next Saturday.

It is the most important holiday of the year for southern skifields, which are ready for the usual influx of Australian skiers.

But they now have plenty of options at home.

Mt Buller, in Victoria, for instance, opened a week earlier than usual, on June 1, and by the following weekend was talking of "bumper early-season crowds flocking to the resort".

It is forecasting "possible snow" today and a "90% chance of snow" tomorrow, with more flurries early next week.

Jo Prothero, director of marketing and communication at the Falls Creek Resort in Victoria, said the resort had the "best conditions since 2000" with over 40cm at the base.

The resort is expecting a few more centimetres of natural snow over the next four days.

Australia's biggest field, the Perisher Ski Resort, had a dump of snow in late May and was expecting rain today followed by up to 10cm of snow over the highest peaks tomorrow, and more next week.

Snow is also expected over the next few days at the Thredbo Alpine Village in New South Wales and Hotham Alpine Resort in Victoria.

Australian Ski Areas Association chief executive Colin Hackworth said Australian skifields were in "pretty good shape" after their "good dump of early snow".

"Since then there have not been any natural snowfalls, but we are in the grip of a very long, cold, clear spell at the moment, meaning excellent snow-making conditions.

"Most snow-making areas are now open, which is great as school holidays are about to kick in," Mr Hackworth said.

Southern skifields have had the cold but not the natural snow, leaving Treble Cone idle, and other fields relying heavily on snow-making.

Cardrona Alpine Resort general manager Bridget Legnavsky said on-piste conditions were very good and the important Captain's Basin lift would be up and running today.

She was not entirely convinced conditions were better in Australia than here.

"My understanding is they've had a whole lot of rain, which changes everything dramatically."

And the "extremely cold, dry" weather in New Zealand had provided the longest period of good snow-making conditions she had seen at this time of year.

"We're actually really happy with where we are at."

She described the July school holidays as "hugely important" to the viability of ski resorts, and noted bookings were as good, if not better, than last year.

But there was no doubt in the mind of Wanaka rental car operator Barry Bruce Australian skiers were proceeding with caution.

"Certainly noticeably down from what we've had in previous years," Mr Bruce said.

And his bed and breakfast accommodation had been hit by a lack of interest as well.

He believed technology was having an effect.

"We do find with modern [skifield] webcams and stuff like that that people are far more informed about where things are at than they were five or 10 years ago, and if conditions change the situation can change quite quickly.

"We often get last-minute calls and bookings."

General manager of Wanaka's Edgewater Resort Catherine Bone said she had not seen a drop in bookings.

However, "I know there have been a few less Aussies booking because of the snowfall over in Australia but we're looking forward to a prosperous season."

Skier facts

  • Of ski visitors to New Zealand, 64% are from Australia, 4% from China, 4% from the US and 3% from the UK.
  • In July 2018, 51,100 visitors from Australia flew into Queenstown and Christchurch airports, compared with 48,400 in July 2017.
  • Skiing is a key driver for Australian first-time arrivals to New Zealand. 
  • Ski visitors stay 18 days on average, two days longer than other visitors.

* Sources: MBIE international visitor survey; Statistics NZ; Tourism NZ 

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