UK & World News
Grim Climate Change Prediction For Oz Skiers
Nearly two-thirds of the snow in Australia's popular ski resorts may have disappeared by 2020, according to climate change research.
The Australian ski industry is worth around £700m a year, but scientists warn skiers and snowboarders may be forced to go abroad for the snow in years to come.
Griffith University associate professor Catherine Pickering believes the alpine region is one of the country's most threatened areas from climate change.
"We've predicted by 2020 to lose something like 60% of the snow cover of the Australian Alps," she said.
"Unfortunately because our current emissions and our current rises in temperatures are at the high end of the predictions, it's definitely coming to us sooner and faster."
Some veteran Australian skiers are already noticing changes to snow conditions.
Brian Kairns has skied at the Mount Buller resort, about a three-hour drive from Melbourne, for almost 30 years.
He told Sky News: "The first time I started skiing you could ski right down here and it was probably three or four inches of powder right down the main run.
"These days you come down and you can injure yourself where it's all patchy and washed out."
Around 800,000 people visit Australia's slopes every year to enjoy winter sports.
Ironically, this season has been one of the best for snow in years but such good conditions are becoming the exception.
According to professor Pickering's research snow cover is already declining in Australia's alpine regions, and the trend is expected to continue.
The average snow cover at Spencer's Creek in the Snowy Mountains, the highest altitude snow course in Australia, has declined by 30% overall, and 40% in spring, over the last 50 years.
The resorts though are fighting back. At Mount Buller they began making snow in 1970. The resort now has some of the world's most advanced snow-making machines.
With a high level water storage reservoir, pump station and central air compressor, pipelines attached to snow machines mean the resort can produce snow just when it is needed.
Buller Ski Lifts general manager Laurie Blampied accepts climate change is happening in Australia's mountains but refutes suggestions the end is in sight for skiing Down Under.
"Snow making is no doubt an adaptive strategy to climate change and all the leading resorts in the world are making snow," he said.
"We do that for a variety of reasons. We do that to make sure we open a little bit earlier, to make sure we can close later, but more importantly to provide a quality product for our guests while they are here during the peak seasons."
The Australian ski industry is far from being on its last legs. But rather than getting snow blindness, resorts are trying to adapt as best as they can to an uncertain future.