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Climate change is rapidly shortening Australia’s ski season

Should progress with global heating not meet its international targets then the season could be 55 days shorter by the same date, under a high-emissions scenario.

Alpine skiing typically takes place on a piste at a ski resort. Image by: By Robinseed - Own work — CC BY-SA 4.0
Alpine skiing typically takes place on a piste at a ski resort. Image by: By Robinseed - Own work — CC BY-SA 4.0

Climate change affects every aspect of society, from everyday struggles of nomadic farmers to grow food to sustain their existence to the concerns of the wealthy who engage in pursuits like skiing.

Taking one region, Australia, a new study finds that the ski industry across the continent is at risk of major disruptions and shorter seasons if the current level of climate change continues. The main focus is with the Australian Alps, the highest mountain range in Australia which straddles the borders of eastern Victoria, southeastern New South Wales, and the Australian Capital Territory. The Australian Alps also contain the only skiing areas of mainland Australia.

The experience of the ski sector in 2023 was one where the season experienced only minimal snowfall resulting in some resorts having to shut their doors early. This was the consequence of climate change.

The report finds the average ski season across all resorts in Australia will be 44 days shorter by 2050 under a mid-greenhouse gas emissions scenario. Should progress with global heating not meet its international targets then the season could be 55 days shorter by the same date, under a high-emissions scenario.

The research establishes that despite a rapid decline in snowfall under mid- and high-emissions scenarios, the Australian ski sector would fare better if decisive action is taken to reduce climate pollution in line with a low emissions scenario during this current decade.

Should a low-emissions scenario be achieved, then the ski season would only be 28 days shorter by 2050 and may start to improve by 2080 provided global emissions remain low. Nonetheless, even under the best scenario, the ski season will begin to shorten, and some ski resorts are at risk of closing their doors for good.

The findings suggest that support measures are needed to help ski resorts remain resilient in the face of climate change. In particular, support will need to be directed to the working population and the local communities who depend on the Australian Alps. This could include mechanisms to diversify mountainous regions into becoming attractive for year-round tourism.

There is also another serious association with the research for the communities in the area of the Australian Alps. This is with snow-melt water , which provides an average of 9,600 gigalitres of water per year into the Murray-Darling Basin. This represents 29 percent of the Basin’s total annual flows. Climate change is expected to reduce rainfall in the Australian Alps by five to 24 percent by 2050 and indirectly reduce catchment yield through ecological changes.

An additional adverse impact will be on native animals and plants. Hence, urgent action is needed to minimise the impact. Unfortunately, we are past the point where some level of change can be prevented.

The more wealthy who pursue skiing as a recreational pursuit will, for some periods of the year, need to find other areas to spend their money.

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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