Best start to ski season in a decade

These were the hardcore snow junkies, who rose early to queue for the first chairlifts on the first day of the official 2012 snow season at Mount Hotham.

Snowboarder Jamie Hoyle is more acclimatised to the searing heat of Western Australia, where he has been working in the mines since moving there from Heyfield in Gippsland.

But at the first opportunity he jumped on a plane and swapped sun for snow, and this morning was one of the first people to tear down Summit Run at Mount Hotham for the year.

 “Mate, I got the week off and came from Western Australia to get stuck into it,” he said, after his first descent in foggy conditions.

He and his friend, Jon Hosford, also from Heyfield, would be at it until sunset.

“We’re the first ones nearly every year on the mountain, and nearly the last ones at the end of the season. We love it,” Mr Hosford said.

The verdict from them was a big thumbs up.

“It’s awesome for the opening weekend, really good coverage. Normally the summit’s not open on the opening weekend,” Mr Hosford said.

Indeed, Mount Hotham says this is their best opening weekend in 12 years – the last time The Summit quad chairlift was open on the first weekend of the season was in 2000. Four chairlifts were operating today at Mount Hotham, and about 2500 people had flowed into the alpine resort by mid afternoon.


Nearby Falls Creek had three lifts operating, while Mount Buller, which has largely missed out on recent natural snowfalls, was operating one chairlift for sightseeing. Mount Baw Baw was open for tobogganing.

On the opposite side of the Mount Hotham, nine-year-old Alexander Giacco, from Lang Lang, was trying to manoeuvre his red toboggan down a steep slope while dodging snowballs hurled by his cousin Phoebe, 7.

The operation was made more difficult for Alexander due to sleep deprivation.

“I woke up at 2 o’clock,” he said. “I was so excited.”

The first runs down the mountain were wobbly for some, as muscles not exercised like this since last season were stretched out. There would be some sore limbs tomorrow, matched only by the sore heads of those launching eagerly into après drinks at 3pm.

Long-range snow forecaster Pete Taylor said Victoria’s alpine resorts could look forward to some possible snow dumps towards the end June but the overall season was shaping up to be ‘‘average’’.

Mr Taylor, of, said while the start of the official 2012 season looked promising, he expected some of the lower resorts to experience fewer natural snowfalls this winter.

He said the wet La Nina weather pattern of 2011 had broken down and Australia’s east coast had entered a system called ENSO neutral, between the El Nino and La Nina, which occurred roughly every five years.

‘‘In La Nina it’s very wet, and El Nino it’s very dry. We’re in the middle of that, so I think it will be fairly average,’’ Mr Taylor said.

‘‘We should have mild to warm days and colder nights, so we should allow for more snowmaking but as far as fronts coming through, I think the areas at lower elevations will probably suffer a bit, they won’t get as much snow as usual.

‘‘The higher areas will get a fair bit of snow. Much like the system that we’ve got at the moment, the lower slopes are getting a lot of rain but up high will be getting good snow.’’

He said light snow was expected across the higher resorts from June 14 to June 19, before a stronger system looked like arriving on June 22 or June 23.

A snow dump was expected between June 29 and July 2, he said.

‘‘Last year started off really well, we had a great start to June and early July was really good and it looked like we were going to crack the two-metre mark,’’ Mr Taylor said.

‘‘But we hit a warm patch late July and then we hardly received any snow at all in August so the season fell over really quickly. The season before was a bit opposite of that, so it’s hard to pick. But at the moment I think we will see consistent snow falls but most of it will be up high. The lower slopes will rely on some snowmaking this year.

‘‘I think Mount Buller may suffer a little bit and won’t get as much snow as Falls and Hotham because it’s a little bit lower, as well as the positioning of it.’’

He said New Zealand was expected to have a similar season to Australia.

‘‘They’re probably going to be late starting. I can’t really see any decent snowfalls for the next couple of weeks there,’’ Mr Taylor said.