Australian mountain regions hit by summer's bushfires now blanketed by snow

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Ski fields across New South Wales and Victoria received heavy early snow, but coronavirus restrictions mean resorts will stay shut

Heavy snow has fallen on deserted resorts across the high country, as a wintry blast swept south-eastern Australia on Friday.

Parts of the Australian alps that were devastated by the summer’s bushfire crisis were blanketed with early falls. More than 20cm fell at Thredbo and surrounding mountains in two days, with more forecast. The Bureau of Meteorology recorded 180mm of precipitation at the resort, which spent the first few weeks of 2020 with bushfires raging on three sides.

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World news | The Guardian

Heavy snow has fallen on deserted resorts across the high country, as a wintry blast swept south-eastern Australia on Friday.

Parts of the Australian alps that were devastated by the summer’s bushfire crisis were blanketed with early falls. More than 20cm fell at Thredbo and surrounding mountains in two days, with more forecast. The Bureau of Meteorology recorded 180mm of precipitation at the resort, which spent the first few weeks of 2020 with bushfires raging on three sides.

Heavy snow blankets blankets Australia's ski fields ahead of winter season – video

But the snow has fallen on an empty resort, with national parks in New South Wales and Victoria shut due to the coronavirus.

The heavy snowfall comes three weeks before the resort recorded a similar dump last year, with 25cm falling on 27 May. The 2019 season also saw 10cm fall on 1 April, and a spokeswoman from the resort said it was “not uncommon to receive early season snowfall” before the NSW ski season officially opens in mid-June.

Perisher ski resort, which is north of Thredbo in the Snowy Mountains, has recorded 16cm of fresh snow, with 131mm in the bureau’s rain gauge.

Selwyn Snow Resort, which was destroyed by the fires along with the abandoned mining village of Kiandra, received 13cm of snow.

Across the border in Victoria, the historic Mount Buffalo chalet was doused in pink fire retardant and surrounded by sprinklers as a fire raced up the side of the mountain over summer.

On Friday morning, Mount Buffalo’s ski fields, which are higher up the mountain than the chalet, had 16cm of fresh snow. David Chitty, who runs the Mount Buffalo ski school, had to content himself to watching it via the snow camera as the Mount Buffalo and Alpine national parks remain closed.

Falls Creek had 20cm of snow, with another 10cm forecast to fall, and Mount Hotham had 16cm.

Bureau of Meteorology, Victoria (@BOM_Vic)

It is almost futile trying to keep the snow off your car if you are at #MtHotham today! #Blizzard conditions with plenty of snow down to 900 metres blanketing the #Alps plus potentially damaging winds. Check out the Severe weather warning: https://t.co/YTh86SDj6q. pic.twitter.com/I7NXzfnAmX May 1, 2020

The ski season does not officially open until the Queens Birthday weekend, on 8 June. Falls Creek ski resort has still pencilled in opening night fireworks but the rest of its events calendar is blank.

National parks in Victoria and New South Wales remain closed, and residents are still not allowed to travel for non-essential reasons. Queensland, Western Australia and the NT have opened national parks this week, and some are allowing fishing and camping and other outdoor sports.

It could mean that alpine towns such as Bright, Thredbo and Jindabyne miss out on their second-busiest season of the year, having lost the summer to bushfires and Easter to the coronavirus shutdown.

Snow at Mt Buller resort on Friday. Photograph: Teddy Laycock

Victoria’s shutdown laws are due to be reviewed on 11 May, and the national cabinet has said it will review the national baseline restrictions on 8 May.

Chitty said he was hopeful that restrictions may be eased.

“I think there’s a chance that visitors will be able to visit the snow in some form over this winter,” he said. “The hard thing is managing social distancing.”

His business will survive, he said, because he started setting aside a “war chest” against national disasters following the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires.

“I have been operating since the 1980s so I have been through all the disasters,” he said.

Off the mountains, Melbourne recorded its wettest start to the year since 1855. More than 400mm of rain has fallen in the city since 1 January, compared to just 49mm in the same period last year.

Friday is on track to be the coldest ever start to May in Melbourne. The maximum temperature is forecast to reach 12C. The previous record for a chilly first of May is 12.8C. At midday, it was just 11C in the city.

Damaging winds are forecast for alpine areas in NSW and Victoria, and coastal areas of Victoria and Tasmania.


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