Queenstown 2040: Where will the Snow Be?

June 23, 2014

Nearly 200 locals arrived on a warm night in the midst of the Queenstown Winter Festival to hear the Catalyst-organised panel discussion on effects of climate change on Queenstown’s snow industry well into the future.

Local snow expert Hamish McCrostie explained the technological advances and benefits of snow making to the industry, citing the robustness of man-made snow crystals the winner on warmer days, and assuring us that NZSki had done their research and were confident on the integrity of climate data assuring us of an industry and lifestyle – albeit dependent on man-made snow – well into the next century.

winterfest-photoClimatologist Ian Owens, however, warned that by 2040 even snow making might be in doubt given the uncertainty of “inversion layers” and warming winters, and gave us a global view of the snow industry and difficulties already being experienced by lack of long term snow in the US and Europe. Professor James Renwick, lead author of the Climate Change NZ Centre, similarly widened the discussion to a global view emphasising long term trends (of warmer winters and increased precipitation) would certainly start to be felt here by 2040.

Finally, Professor of Engineering Susan Krumdieck was a little more confrontational, suggesting it was high time a community as dependent on tourism as Queenstown started to look at the realities of both Climate Change and Peak Oil on our winter and summer seasons, given our dependence on international tourists getting here, and then similarly, getting around.