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No business like snow business

By Roger Kalla - posted Monday, 4 September 2006

Mt Buller is the ski resort that is the closest to Melbourne, a three-hour, 250km easy drive. Up to 30 per cent of all guest nights spent up at Victorian ski resorts are at Mt Buller.

But the question we have to ask our selves is will we be enjoying nature’s winter wonderland landscape for much longer at ski resorts like Mt Buller or will it become increasingly like a Gold Coast theme park? A “cool” version of “Wet 'n' Wild”? Or another Poowoomba.

The top of the summit of Mt Buller is at 1,804m above sea level while the resort village where ski enthusiasts stay is situated at 1,375m, which is below the natural snow level for most of the two last snow seasons.


The Mt Buller & Mt Stirling Resort Management Board was formed in 2004 and manages a Crown Reserve of 2,300 hectares of which the ski-able area is 270 hectares. The ski-able area also covers 70 hectares of artificial snow making facilities which has been used increasingly during the last ski seasons to prop up the lack of natural snow. Assets, not including frozen ones, amount to $70 million with an annual turnover of $7 million.

According to the 2005 Annual Report of the Resort Board a significant increase in private investment activity saw completion and commencement of projects to the value of $12.5 million.

Mt Buller caters for up to 300,000 long-term and 500,000 short-term winter visitors that are attracted to the area because of one feature - frozen water. And this feature is increasingly man-made.

In terms of infrastructure services, the board provides such things as water, sewerage, snowmaking water, gas, roads and parking. The fees collected from visitors to the mountain go some way to cover these expenses and are spent on the infrastructure that is needed to accommodate the diehard skiers and ice and snow aficionados among us.

However , the snow drought of the last year poses the question: is Mt Buller in fact the Victorian equivalent to Toowoomba in Queensland?

Both towns straddle the Great Dividing Range and have turned to recycling of water as a technological fix to the shortage of water. But Mt Buller folks aren’t supposed to drink the recycled sewerage. Not directly anyhow.


In the winter season of 2004 206Ml were used for artificial snow making while 165Ml were used for domestic uses. More interesting is that the trend for water consumption is up. The change from the 2003 winter season is staggering: up 148 per cent for snowmaking while domestic use increased 21 per cent.

Since the Victorian High Country has had a prolonged drought for the last eight years, with dramatic falls in levels in nearby, but unreachable, reservoirs like Lake Eildon, this is clearly not a sustainable situation in the short or long-term.

The debatable solution to these woes is the Mt Buller water recycling project that will provide all the water needed for snowmaking and hopefully will extend the skiing season. An application to develop this recycled water scheme was approved in February 2005 by the Victorian Environment Protection Authority.

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About the Author

Dr Roger Kalla is the Director of his own Company, Korn Technologies, and a stakeholder in Australia’s agricultural biotechnology future. He is also a keen part time nordic skier and an avid reader of science fiction novels since his mispent youth in Arctic Sweden. Roger is a proud member of the Full Montes bike riding club of Ivanhoe East.

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