Spencer's Creek, Australia Snow Stats


Tony Crocker":33jsfmbb said:
Ski Apache is the second largest area in New Mexico by acreage, fairly intermediate and laid out about as well as AZ Snowbowl but not quite as well as Santa Fe. It is so far south that it's distinctly in the summer wet/winter dry climate even though its altitude range of 9,600 - 11,500 is adequate. Adam and I skied it in the very big 1992-93 snow year when Taos had a 130+inch base.

Ski Apache is the southernmost real ski area in the US at 33 degrees 25 minutes, about the same latitude as the border between Orange and San Diego Counties in SoCal, or just south of Atlanta for you east coasters. Mt. Lemmon and Ski Cloudcroft are farther south but they are small and infrequently open.

Ski Apache is not the lowest latitude skiing I have done. Portillo is 32 degrees 49 minutes and Arpa Snowcat is 32 degrees 38 minutes. Those are about the same as the US-Mexico border south of San Diego, or Charleston, South Carolina.

Mt. Lemmon is barely lower latitude than Arpa.

I would love to get my hands on Ski Apache snow data. That has to be an interesting microclimate.

Those numbers highlight why our Aussie hills suffer such a short (and lets be honest) and poor season. Perisher and Thredbo are at 36 degrees south and top out at about 6800 feet. The NZ hills like Coronets Peak, Remarkables and Treble Cone are roughly in the same height range but are at 44 degrees south. I've not done any research but surely the Aussie hills would rival other overseas hills with the worst combination of height/latitude?
Come to think of it the Nagano ski areas in Japan are at 36 degrees and about the the same height range but there is the not inconsiderable difference in average snowfall. Without checking I think Nagano gets about 30 feet in the resorts. I don't even know what snowfall Spencers Creek in Oz gets each year but I would guess about 1/4 of that.
Can you help with the Aussie snowfall stats Tony?

Tony Crocker

Staff member
The Spencer Creek data goes back to 1954 and can be found here: https://www.snowyhydro.com.au/our-energ ... alculator/

I had some correspondence in the 1990's with Neil Iffland, who worked in NSW Environment. He may have found my then new website in 1996. Since I was traveling to Australia in 1997, I started reading the skier reports on https://www.ski.com.au/ Neil referred me to the Spencer Creek data, so I created a spreadsheet and updated it periodically. In response to sbooker's inquiry, I updated it to 2018 and e-mailed it to him.

The Spencer Creek data has base depths but not snowfall. The average maximum base depth since 1954 is 197.5cm. To me that implies average snowfall of at least 500cm, particularly since we know snow preservation at that altitude/latitude is mediocre at best.

As many of you know, my data shows that the impact of climate change since the 1970's upon snowfall in North America's ski areas has been negligible. This is certainly true in the Alps above 2,000 meters and probably somewhat lower than that as well.

If you want to look for a marginal ski region where climate change might already have an impact, Australia would surely be a leading candidate due to the altitude/latitude. Average maximum base depth 1954-1992 was 206.62cm. Since then it's been 182.92cm., an 11% decline. In July the decline in average snowpack has been 8%, in August 9% but in September 21%. To me this implies a modest decline in snowfall but warmer springs are taking out the snowpack faster. This goes along with some of the measures of declining snowpack in North America. These claims are generally based upon hydrology sites at lower elevations than the ski areas.

The 2018 data clearly shows how lucky Patrick was with his trip last August/September. Only 40% of seasons ever attain a 200cm snowpack and that probability for a specific date never exceeds 27%. In 2018 the Spencer Creek snowpack was continuously over 200cm from Aug. 17 - Sep. 7, coincident with Patrick's trip.



Thanks Tony.
Your estimation of about 15 feet of snow each season for Australia is both impressive and surprising.
Anecdotally my limited skiing experience has found the second week of August delivers the best combination of snow base and surface conditions. I skied Thredbo in the second week of August in 2016 and was gifted with not only fresh snow but cold chalky ‘packed powder’ for a whole two days after the snowfall. And for a part of that time it was those good conditions right down to the base. (Which gives easily over 1500 feet of vertical off the one lift). That was easily the best conditions I’ve experienced in Australia or NZ.