Successive cold fronts over the end of this week and through mid-next week are unlikely to save the end of the ski season, which has already started winding up three weeks out from the official close.
The NSW ski resorts reported five centimetres of snow overnight, with temperatures down as low as minus 11.6 degrees at Perisher, thanks to a cold front sweeping across south eastern Australia.
With the cold air came the capacity for heavy snowmaking, and a second cold front about Wednesday could lead to another light dusting and more manmade snow.
But senior meteorologist Max Gonzalez with Fairfax-owned Weatherzone said on either side of both fronts will be the warm northerly winds which have devastated snow cover over the Aussie Alps following a late snow surge in August.
Mr Gonzalez said current modelling predicted a net snow loss over the next week, despite the better-than-expected forecast.
“The last big dump we actually had across the Snowy Mountains was in late August, and that was pretty much the best fall for the season too, so it actually came late and it was very short lived … Since late August there’s been a lot of warm air mass coming through, and a lot of northerly winds,” he told Fairfax Media earlier this week.
“I think the season is pretty much over, unless you actually like to ski on slush.”
The traditional close of the ski season is the NSW October long weekend – this year falling on October 5 to 7 – but Thredbo closed skiing from the main Kosciuszko chairlift as early as Wednesday this week, with Friday Flats showing nothing but grass, and patchy conditions elsewhere around the resort. Just 11 of the resort’s 50 runs were open on Friday.
Thredbo operations manager Stuart Diver said the resort would “operate for riding as long as the snow conditions allow”.
“Conditions are currently marginal for riding but Thredbo has many other activities on offer and the Resort and Village remain open for business,” he said.
“It has been a mixed snow season with some great riding mixed with warm weather and wet conditions. Skiing in Australia dishes up a variety of conditions and this year has definitely been varied.”
Perisher is faring marginally better, with top to bottom skiing still available on Mount Perisher and Blue Cow. Smiggin Holes and Guthega are both closed, but spokesman Neil Thew said the resort would push through to the October 7 close, with a busy school holiday period predicted for the end of September.
“We’ve been lucky, we made lots of snow early, which has helped. And also we had over 2 metres of snow in August, so that set a pretty good base for us, and we’ve been able to maintain that. Sure, we had warm winds that hit everywhere recently, and that hasn’t been great for the snow. We lost a bit, but we’ve still got lots that we’ve been able to groom and maintain,” Mr Thew said.
“It has been spring conditions. We normally get a freeze overnight, and then first up it can be firm, and then it softens throughout the day.”
In spite of the mixed conditions, the resort said it was happy with visitor numbers for the season.
“It all happens in cycles. Some years you get great snow right through, like we did last year, and some seasons you don’t. August was fabulous…the June and July months we had wet conditions, but we also had snowfalls as well,” Mr Thew said.
“It wasn’t the best season we’ve ever had, but it wasn’t the worst.”