Ben Lomond Committee optimistic about mountain's future

Ben Lomond Committee president Tony Gray with a new snow gun in 2015.
Ben Lomond Committee president Tony Gray with a new snow gun in 2015.

On the summit of Ben Lomond there is a feeling of optimism and opportunity for the future, despite the warning a warming climate will affect the future longevity of ski seasons.

In January a CSIRO climate change modelling report predicted the average snow season would shorten by at least 20 to 55 days by 2050.

The organisation warned if greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate, snow cover and season duration would rapidly decline.

A warming climate would create an increasing reliability on man-made snow to keep slopes open.

Ben Lomond Committee secretary Adrian Beswick said things were “pretty positive”, but expenditure in more snow-making machines would be a focus of any proponent looking to make an investment on the mountain.

Ben Lomond Snow Sports operate the existing machines that operate in the beginner and tobogganing areas – which are used to kick-off the season in early July, and helps with snow play and lessons.

But Mr Beswick said the committee had limited capacity to influence snow-making activity, and said its focus was on “improving the surface of the lift areas and of the skiing areas”.

“In addition to that, summer grooming – good grass growth so you can ski with less snow – is also a focus,” he said.

Mr Beswick said efforts, including an improved snow fence to catch the dust that would usually blow away, had been made to preserve the season.

He said the past four “quite good seasons” had improved the confidence on the mountain. 

“There’s lots of opportunity and a renewed confidence for the future,” he added.

Tourism Northern Tasmania chief executive Chris Griffin said the promotion of Ben Lomond as a destination had been sufficient, but acknowledged a higher profile would benefit the region. 

Mr Griffin said with Ben Lomond’s reliance on natural snowfall, there could be an opportunity for further investment in snow farming.  

“Snow farming and preservation extends the season, which increases profitability,” he said. 

Mr Griffin said any public funding for an investment on Ben Lomond “goes hand in glove with private sector investment on the mountain”.

A $20,000 feasibility study into expanding activities on Ben Lomond was completed in November, 2015.

It found investment of between $1.3 million to $1.8 million was required to build additional snowmaking guns, create a revitalised snow play experience with magic carpet and snow tube park and intensive summer grooming to maximise the snowmaking effort.

It also noted improved water and energy capacity, a new walking track and marketing would improve the area. 

Mr Griffin said people visiting often decided to spend a day on the mountain after arriving in the region.

“It tends not to be the primary reason they’re coming to Tasmania or coming to Launceston,” he said. 

“For a number of our international visitors – particularly international students, snow might not be a natural occurrence for them.”