New Zealand Resorts Wait for Snow

While Australia’s resorts revel in recent snowfalls, south-east neighbor New Zealand has not been so lucky. With winter entering its third month, some resorts have been unable to open, while others are relying heavily on snow-making equipment. Larger resorts at high altitudes may be able to drum up some business with snow-guns providing cover for slopes, but smaller ski areas, some of which operate as non-profit organizations with the help of volunteers, don’t have snow-making facilities, and even if they did, the warmer than usual winter weather currently being experienced would likely melt any man-made snow.

Even critics of climate change may be obliged to rethink their stance as scientists in various parts of the world call attention to shrinking glaciers and melting permafrost. This has been visibly evident at the iconic Southern Alps Franz Josef glacier, a major attraction in New Zealand’s Westland Tai Poutini National Park. A recent aerial study of New Zealand’s Southern Alps mountain range carried out by the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) reveals that since 1977 the region has lost up to 34% of its permanent ice and snow. Although New Zealand’s glaciers have had three periods of growth during the 1970s and 1980s brought about by temporary changes in the Pacific climate system, rising average temperatures have wiped out these growth spurts and are causing glaciers to diminish. This is impacting on tourism, with the Mount Cook area being a prime example, as glacier tours have turned into viewings of floating icebergs.

New Zealand ski operators are definitely being negatively impacted by the country’s warmest weather on record for this time of year, and while remaining hopeful for some late snowfall, some may have to accept the possibility of this season being a washout. Hopefully, one bad season is not the beginning of a trend.