“We’ve been in the accommodation business here for 15 years and it’s the first time we’ve had a limited snow year. We’re all a bit shocked. We are hopeful. Historically we do have snow in September. We are still looking forward to a season.”– Leigh Berry, the owner of Mountain Motel and Lodge.
Many ski resorts on New Zealand’s South Island have had a very successful season. On the North Island though, they’ve had one of their worst winters ever. Mt. Ruapehu, which is a stratovolcano, is home to two ski resorts: Whakapapa and Tūroa. The Guardian reports that Ruapehu Alpine Lifts, which owns the two ski resorts on the stratovolcano, is laying off one hundred and thirty employees (around a third of their overall workforce) due to the abysmal snow conditions that they have experienced this winter. The warmer weather has led to less snow and a lack of ideal snowmaking conditions, and more rain. Some of the employees are being offered casual employment, while others are looking for work in the surrounding towns or on the South Island.
Tūroa has practically no snow, and its skiing operations are currently shut down. Tūroa will remain closed through the rest of the week, and perhaps even longer. They will need twenty to thirty centimeters of snow to reopen, and as the webcam pictures show above, it looks absolutely brutal.
Over at Whakapapa, it remains open and skiable, but as the featured image shows, it’s not much better. There is a very bare base, and they will need more snow to remain open.
Unsurprisingly, this situation is being attributed to climate change. The situation at Mt. Ruapehu is being described as “the vagaries of the weather and short-term climate variations,” but climate modeling is predicting that the country’s snow season will get shorter in the coming decades. A climate change risk assessment by Tonkin + Taylor said that the tourism sector could face an extreme risk by the end of the century due to the expected diminished snowpack. Snowmaking could partially help, but it’s not efficient for them when there’s no snow already on the ground. Additionally, its believed that this is not an adequate adjustment due to rising operational costs and water demands. Here’s hoping Mt. Ruapehu can have a strong finish to its season.
Image Credits: Mt. Ruapehu