How are warmer/shorter winters impacting our ski fields? Are they concerned about climate change? We caught up with Ewan Mackie, Sustainability lead at Cardrona and Treble Cone.

Yes, we are very concerned about the effects of the changing climate. The global adverse effects are well documented and on a local level we are seeing significant impacts to the NZ Ski Industry already. The long term trend is unquestionably one of warmer winters and fundamentally less snow, especially at lower levels. Some of the forecasted climate models predict an increase in precipitation, but if the freezing levels rise as they are predicted to do, that could mean more rain and less snow. Lower resorts will struggle and we will see increasing situations where there might be heaps of snow up high but none at resorts bases. We are also already experiencing more extreme weather, such as high wind speeds which prevent us running lifts and really big snowstorm events which bring significant operational challenges. We still expect to see many good, snowy winters in NZ but if this long term trend continues, we will start to run into trouble. We must make changes now, to safeguard our future.

We know that we are not only vulnerable to climate change but our operation is a contributor. Cardrona/TC has been taking action for some time now, and this action is increasing at pace, as the scale of the climate emergency becomes more apparent. We are actively reducing the carbon footprint of our operation through investing in modern, efficient machinery, such as the latest Pisten Bully groomers and modern snowmaking. We have free shuttle transport on our access roads and encourage carpooling to try to reduce the emissions from people travelling to the resorts. We removed the landfill bins in order to work towards our goal of being waste free and encouraged people to adopt reusable containers and more away from single use packaging/products. All of this is measured to international standards through a greenhouse gas emissions measuring tool developed in collaboration with the whole ski industry in NZ.

Future goals include increasing renewable energy at the resorts, such as the local hydro plant we tie into at TC and investigating the possibilities for wind/solar integration into buildings and lift infrastructure. Certainly an electric gondola from the valley floor is in our long term vision for carbon reduction. We are working with industry partners to accelerate the shift from diesel to alternative fuels and electrification for vehicles and machinery. Our Plant A Seed Project has already seen us plant 1000s natives and we plan to regenerate a native ecosystem at the base of each maunga.

Cardrona and TC are working on increasing the efficiency of their groomers. The groomer operators have been working together on the mountains, optimising their routes to be more fuel efficient and to maximise snow preservation. They’ve also been cooperating with, and sharing their knowledge in this space across the industry with other ski areas, so all the other ski areas can be more efficient too. It would be great to see more cooperation between ski areas in the climate advocacy space, particularly with transport. Would you like to see Cardrona and Treble Cone offering bus services from Wanaka? Wouldn’t it be great to be able to go on a ski holiday and not have to rent a car? Send them a message and let them know!