We’re now into early July and the only skiable ski in any of the resorts is there because of snow making. And while everyone in the ski industry knows what’s happening when it comes to climate change, they continue happily on the pathway of ‘diversification’, expanding activities in the ‘green season’ and investment in snow making equipment, to the exclusion of any meaningful action on climate change.
I always struggle to understand this. Surely any smart business can ‘walk and chew gum’ at the same time – in this case that would mean diversifying your year-round tourism ‘offerings’ while investing in snow making while also walking the talk on climate. Its also called mitigation, it means doing things like shifting your operations to using renewable energy instead of coal. What is astonishing is that there is so little meaningful action by Australian resorts.
While I was riding chairlifts at Hotham (in the rain) today I bumped into a couple of old timers, several of whom had 40 to 50 winters under their belts. They all talked about the ever later arrival of winter, the warmer conditions, the shorter seasons. This is all supported by data. Yet the collective denial in the industry is almost monolithic.
The snow community is made up of many parts: the companies that own the resorts, the small and medium sized businesses that provide services, the many thousands of employees, the punters and snow addicts that travel from around the country for the snow fix. There is also the snow media, who reflect our culture back to us. Sadly, even this is in denial. While elsewhere, snow media has largely ‘got it’, from Powder to Backcountry Magazine to Outside, in Australia there is near uniform silence on the issue. US-based magazines routinely run stories on the future of snow but in Australia we get the Big Silence. Take this season’s free media offerings. Newspapers like the Hotham and Falls Creek News and Alpine News blithely ignore the elephant in the room, while it’s also business as usual amongst the skiing and riding magazines. Alpine News goes even further, not just denying reality, but also indulging in a bit of ‘bright-siding’ of the future, with a full page spread on the wonders of artifical snow (with the calming heading of ‘snow making the key to endless deep powder for years to come’). Without ever mentioning the word climate, it finishes on the comforting take home message that ‘the future is looking good for the ski resorts the world over and it is advancements in snow making infrastructure that is going to ensure that the white flakes are pumped out’. As the police officer might say at the scene of the crash – Nothing to see. Move along.
I ski in resort. I ski in the backcountry. Mt Hotham is my hill, and I love the place and the community there with a passion. Acknowledging the impending threat of climate change is not about living in a cave in the dark having a bad time. Climate action is something we can all do, as we enjoy these mountains we all love so much. Why is Australia so far behind the rest of the world?