Aussie Ski Resorts on a Slippery Slope

28 May 2015

Australian ski resort Thredbo’s landmark deal with American ski network Mountain Collective may be more forward thinking than it seems, says Dr Gabrielle Walters, Professor of Tourism at UQ Business School.

“I think this decision demonstrates that the Australian ski resorts, especially Thredbo, are looking forward and considering this problem,” Dr Walters said.

“It’s interesting they don’t mention climate change as a reason to do it but they’re certainly thinking about it.”

Thredbo has joined the Mountain Collective resort group, which includes popular resorts such as Aspen Snowmass and Whistler Blackcomb.

Thredbo premium season pass holders now receive 50 per cent off day passes at all Mountain Collective resorts for an unlimited number of days for the North American snow season.

As the temperature rises, Australian ski fields are losing their edge. Dr Walters says climate change is forcing Australian ski resorts to adapt to the changing environment.

“To me, it looks like these ski resorts, despite the facts they haven’t mentioned climate change or declining snow patterns, are looking forward and thinking strategically about how they can maintain their market base in the ski slopes in Australia.”

Dr Walters says there are ski resorts in Australia diversifying their services in advance of the downturn of the Australian ski market.

“There is a resort in Victoria called Mount Bulbul and it is a small low-lying ski resort. They have developed their non-ski season activities significantly because they’re being realistic about the fact there may not be snow in ten to twenty years’ time,” Dr Walters said.

“They have had to diversify their product and diversify their market base. What you can do in alpine regions when there is no snow includes mountain biking, trekking, rock pool spas, health retreat and anything that is conducive to an alpine environment and doesn’t involve snow.

“They are positioning themselves as an all-year round style tourism product instead of relying on the ski season. They’ve realised it’s probably not going to be sustainable.”

Dr Walters says Thredbo’s deal will have a limited reach, appealing predominately to dedicated skiers.

“By collaborating with a US resort, I am assuming that the market will be an elite and affluent market,” Dr Walters said.

“This will only appeal to people willing to ski in America. It’s not necessarily going to make skiing in Australia cheaper, it will only be cheaper for the consumer who swill decide to ski in America. It’s a value added package.

“If someone wants to ski only in Australia, it isn’t going to save them money.

“Skiing is an expensive sport and it is not one that is accessible for all walks of society. This market would tend to decide on where to go based on ski conditions as opposed to other components.

“It’s a wise decision, but there aren’t going to be a lot of takers for it because of the small market.”