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Ski resorts welcome weekend snow dump, but cruel timing with COVID lockdowns

Friday July 16, 2021 - 02:39 EST
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Canberrans and regional NSW skiers have Thredbo to themselves for this weekend's blizzard. - ABC

A season-saving dump of snow is forecast to hit alpine areas in Victoria and New South Wales this weekend as a series of cold fronts are predicted to drop almost a metre of snow on alpine resorts. 

In cruel timing on the eve of the blizzard Victorian ski resorts were forced to close for the five-day snap statewide lockdown.

New South Wales resorts remain open to people in regional New South Wales and the ACT. 

"We do have a [weather] system that's developing and moving quite rapidly into Friday and Saturday, over the southeast," senior Bureau meteorologist Jackson Brown said.

With plunging temperatures, the mountains are set to receive snow at lower altitudes. 

"We'll see snow levels fall in Victoria and New South Wales on Friday to 1,200 to 700 meters," he said. 

The favourable forecast was some consolation for ski fields, which have struggled this season with COVID restrictions and below-average snow depths.

Snowy Hydro recorded 63 cm of snow at its benchmark Spencers Creek snow gauge on Wednesday, well below the long-term mid-July average of about one metre.

"It's good timing for the mountains and will set things up nicely for the back half of winter," Thredbo retailer and editor of the, Reggae Elliss said. 

"We could get probably 35 to 50 centimetres Friday, maybe another 25 to 30 the day after. So it's looking pretty good," he said.

Mr Elliss said the forecast was for even more snowfalls into next week. 

Lockdown 'devastating' for Victorian resorts

Lifts in Victorian resorts have stopped spinning for five days, unless the Alpine region could be released from lockdown earlier.  

"We know that this is devastating news for our guests, employees and local communities, and want you to know that we share this sadness with you," Mount Hotham Skiing company said in a statement.

Guests already within resorts are permitted to shelter in place for the duration of the lockdown, or can return straight home, according to Mount Hotham Alpine Resort management. 

Once the lockdown ends, the snowfalls will enable mountain businesses in Victoria to continue rebuilding after last year's COVID closures, according Rhylla Morgan, Mount Buller communications manager.

"Everyone gets excited when snow arrives. It is especially important this year because it will underpin the recovery of a lot of businesses here on the mountain, and along corridors between us and metro Melbourne," Ms Morgan said.

"It's people who are selling sausage rolls, wheel chains, pairs of gloves, whatever it might be. It will enable those people to start to get their businesses back on their feet and keep people employed."

Empty powder turns

In New South Wales, resorts remain open, but with the Greater Sydney lockdown continuing for at least another two weeks, visitor numbers are down.

"Someone told me 80 per cent of New South Wales population is in lockdown at the moment, so the ramifications are severe," Reggae Elliss said. 

The Greater Sydney lockdown has already been a massive hit for New South Wales mountain businesses, especially as the shutdown coincided with the school holidays, according to Reggae Elliss.

"Talking to friends, it's pretty well dropped takings in retail businesses anywhere from 60 to 70 per cent. Accommodation bookings dropped from 100 per cent to 30 per cent," he said. 

"On the other hand, this will be providing incentive for the ACT and regional New South Wales to get up here because if you want to see some uncrowded good snow, this is a rare opportunity to do it."

"I reckon Saturday's going to be a pretty epic powder day. Worst case scenario, we have no customers, but we'll have empty powder turns."


© ABC 2021

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