New Zealand’s Tūroa, famous for spring skiing, has no snow this year.
Usually a white wonderland this time of year, the ski area it is largely a barren lunar landscape. Only small patches of snow stand out among vast fields of jagged volcanic rock.
It was forced to close the season this week, three weeks earlier than planned.
A deep snow cover usually supports the Tūroa spring. ski.
However, the rain repeatedly washed away the snow, and the ski area’s 50 snow machines could not withstand the balmy temperatures.
Climate change appears to be a significant factor, after New Zealand experienced his warmer recorded winter – for the third year in a row.
COVID-19 and climate change have pushed New Zealand’s ski areas to the limit
The disastrous snow season comes after the previous two seasons were severely disrupted by COVID-19, leaving Tūroa and its sister ski area Whakapapa on the verge of bankruptcy.
The two ski resorts, which are located between New ZealandThe largest are owned by the same company and are located on opposite sides of Mount Ruapehu. If they were forced to close permanently, it would leave North Island, home to more than three-quarters of the nation’s 5 million people, without major ski areas.
Even on New Zealand’s cooler South Island, climate change raises questions about the future of ski and snowboard. Sports have long been important in attracting foreign tourist dollars to New Zealand and are part of the nation’s identity as an outdoor adventure destination.
In Tūroa this season, snowplow workers spent thousands of hours pushing snow off trails, allowing experts skiers and snowboarders to take the ski lifts to the top of the ski area for limited runs. But there was little on offer for beginners or intermediates.
Ski resort staff have been laid off due to frequent mountain closures
Sam Yates, 21, landed his dream job as a ski instructor in Tūroa this year. But he estimates that he managed to teach the people in only about a dozen days between frequent mountain closures
On some days when Tūroa was closed, he was asked to serve coffee at Whakapapa’s coffee shop. In mid-August, he was one of 135 workers, a third of the staff at the two ski resorts, who were laid off.
“It’s heartbreaking to watch the weather,” says Yates. “You move here and sacrifice six months of your life to commit to skiing. When you do that and then you can’t skiit’s pretty discouraging.”
With the snow melting and no job, Yates decided to pack up his truck and move to the South Island, where the ski It has been better. Then he hopes to continue the winter to Canada.
Johan Bergman, the manager of the Tūroa ski area, says it had been a difficult season.
“We’ve had some pretty decent the snow falls, but they have generally been followed by episodes of rain, which have washed away much of the snow,” he explains. “And it’s also been a little warm this winter across the country, so we’re really missing that snow this year.”
Looking behind him at the barren mountain, he adds, “This should be white right now.”
Debts mount as ski areas face huge losses
The poor season is putting severe financial pressure on Ruapehu Alpine Lifts, the company that owns both ski areas. Established 70 years ago by ski enthusiasts, the company operates as a non-profit organization. You are exempt from paying company tax and is obliged to allocate the benefits to the improvement of ski areas.
But there is no profit. Last year the company lost almost 6 million from New Zealand Dollars (3.4 million euros) and its total debt exceeded 30 million New Zealand dollars (17 million euros). The company has been looking for a new major investor, so far without success.
Even before this barren year snow season, the company’s auditors noted that there were significant doubts about whether the company could continue to stay afloat. This week, Chief Executive Jono Dean did not immediately respond to written questions about the company’s future.
Tūroa ski resorts underestimate the threat of global warming
The company appears to have underestimated the threat posed by global warming. does not mention heated changed once in its most recent 54-page annual report, instead listing top threats to its business as more COVID-19 disruptions and loan restrictions.
The National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research found that New Zealand’s average winter temperature hit a new record this year of almost 10°C. It was also the wettest winter on record. The agency concluded that heated The change was a major factor for both the extra heat and the rain.
Professor James Renwick, a heated scientist at the Victoria University of Wellington, says that as temperatures rise in New Zealand, skiing becomes more unsustainable.
“I’ve told North Island ski operators more than once that things are going to get marginal pretty quickly,” says Renwick.
He admits that there are always changes from one season to another, but the trend is warmer wintersadding that it is difficult to predict how long an individual ski area might survive.
“The farther south you are and the higher you are in the mountains, the colder it will be, so you can keep going for longer,” he says.
Some ski areas may even benefit, at least initially, from additional rainfall caused by heated switch if it’s cold enough to fall as snow, Renwick adds.
This has been the worst ski season since 1983 on Mount Ruapehu
Ski areas in some countries have increased their income by opening their ski lifts to mountain bikers during the summer. But the ski areas on Mount Ruapehu can’t because they are in a National Park and I don’t have permission.
Mount Ruapehu is impressive, an asset volcano that film director Peter Jackson used as a backdrop in the ‘Lord of the Rings’ movies. The fertile volcanic soil at its base has allowed horticulture to flourish, including in the town of Ohakune, affectionately known as the nation’s carrot capital.
But Ohakune also relies on the ski business.
Phil Jackson, who built the Hobbit Motorlodge in Ohakune nearly 40 years ago, says this year has been the worst ski season since 1983, when the mountain was covered in ice. He would normally ski in Tūroa, but this year his only ski He has been four days in the South Island. And business at her motor lodge has been terrible.
“A surprise,” says Jackson. “Two years of COVID-19 and now another catastrophic ski season. We will survive, but there will be people who will not be able to survive.”
Others hope that increased summer activity can make up for the ski deficit.
Ben Wiggins, managing director of ski, board and bike store TCB, says that while fewer people have come to Ohakune to ski and snowboard, they have seen more visitors wanting to go. Golffishing, camping and mountain biking.
“The facilities down here, like bars, cafes and restaurants, are beautiful, and everyone loves the little town,” he says.
Near the Osteria restaurant, manager Teresa Mochan says the number of diners was lower this year than pre-COVID levels, but she was still busy because staff they were hard to find.
“There are people who are a little depressed, I guess, because they haven’t been able to go ski,” she says.
But Mochan says that she loves living in Ohakune and plans to stay.
“Fingers crossed that next year we bounce back and have an amazing winter season and the city can really start to show its full potential again.”