Australia ski season 2021: Cold snap gives hope for great ski season

The arctic cold snap sweeping through eastern Australia has warmed the hearts of many visiting Australia's ski resorts, where fresh snowfalls have led to forecasts of a bumper season.

"Thredbo Resort has received a significant snowfall of 60cm over the past couple of days, which is a great lead-in to our opening weekend this Saturday (June 12)," said Eleanor Gilkes of Kosciuszko Thredbo, located in the Snowy Mountains 500km south of Sydney.

"Thredbo village has been transformed into a winter wonderland and just down the hill, Cooma had its coldest day in 17 years. Temperatures are set to stay low, with a max 1°C and snow flurries continuing. It's a great kick-start to the ski and snowboard season."

Just to the north, Perisher also received a massive snowstorm, bringing another 60cm of snow there too in advance of so many runs opening this weekend.

In Victoria, however, the initial optimism brought by snowfalls has given way to disappointment with severe storms dumping a huge amount of rain which, in some areas, ended up washing away the early promise.

"The snow falling across alpine areas was followed by 275ml of rain over Gippsland so we're now not opening until next weekend (June 19) as it took away most of our snow and most roads have been washed out," said a spokesperson from Mt Baw Baw, an hour from the heart of Gippsland and two and a half hours from Melbourne.

"It was very disappointing. If the temperature had been just a bit lower, it would have frozen and turned into snow. But we're expecting snow next week, and we have man-made snow, and we're hoping for a good season ahead."

COVID-19 destroyed last year's ski season, but the signs are positive for the coming weeks. At the Bureau of Meteorology, there's excitement at the first significant cold outbreak of winter, with powdery soft snow falling in the NSW ranges and alpine resorts.

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Meteorologist Jonathan How says the outlook ahead is always variable, with a single big event capable of changing the whole season. But so far, the indicators are promising for winter sports.

"Climate models suggest that ENSO (El Nino-Southern Oscillation) will stay neutral until at least October which increases the probability of deeper-than-normal snow depth, but doesn't guarantee it," he said.

"The Indian Ocean Dipole is also currently neutral but will possibly become negative later in winter which also increases the chance of deeper snow. Thirdly, and most importantly, there's the Southern Annular Mode which determines how far north cold fronts move, the systems that bring the snow."

Similarly, Victoria's Mt Buller in the alpine region, 200km east of Melbourne, also lost a lot of the snow to rain, but the Bourke St run will be open this weekend (June 16). "We have mixed feelings because our Melbourne tribe can't be with us this weekend, but we're relieved to be getting open," said Rhylla Morgan of Mt Buller.

"The community and businesses up here rely on this winter season and had a hell of a year last year. But we're ready to welcome guests as soon as guidelines and conditions permit, and we're hoping for a good season ahead."

Meanwhile, over in NSW, Thredbo is laying on a huge range of free events, kids' entertainment and fireworks to launch the season, while Perisher will be opening its Quad Express to mid-station, Leichhardt Quad Chair, Happy Valley and Smiggin Holes.

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