“The snow factory snow comes out like shaved ice, and it’s still quite good for the ski runs. It works in well. The fan gun snow comes out as a more natural snow crystal and it’s a lot finer,” says Hack. The grooming team spread out the piles with groomers so that the artificial snow covers up to half of the hill. There’s no weather limitations when combined with the fan guns, because they will run when it’s colder than -2°C. “Manmade snow will probably last 80 to 90 percent longer than natural snow. All manmade snow has good riding on it, it’s quite good to ski and board on, and probably a slight bit quicker than natural snow depending on temperatures.”
Baw Baw Marketing Director Amon Bradshaw says he has seen a financial growth beyond the average this year. He says the snow factory has had an impact on profits. “Not only does it keep us going through the season, it guarantees our start and finish,” says Bradshaw. “In the past there’s always been a little bit of doubt about Baw Baw because you never know what conditions you’re going to get.”
“This year the marketing approach was ‘guaranteed snow’, basically that was our motto. Some people were a little bit worried because the snow factory hadn’t been seen and we were pushing that before we had the machine on the mountain, however it turned out to be perfect,” says Bradshaw. The snow factory allows peace of mind when marketing events like the rail jam, as well as selling ski and snowboard lessons.
The snow factory also helps other departments, such as the Alpine Hotel and Village Central Restaurant. Customers “may just come to have a ski and they may pack their own lunch but after an hour or two they might decide to spend money. It’s all linked in together,” says Bradshaw. “The snow factory gets people up here.”
Despite having the snow factory, September remains to be a hard sell not only for Baw Baw but for every other ski resort in Australia. “Once September hits, people start talking about the grand final and people start talking about the first wave of heat. Then people just start thinking about beach,” he says. Competing against the larger resorts has always been an issue for Baw Baw, where the snow factory “allows us to sell our product which is a safe, sheltered resort for beginners and intermediates.” But won’t turn Baw Baw into a Buller or Hotham.
Baw Baw is the second ski resort to purchase a snow factory in Australia, behind Mt. Buller which purchased one in 2017. Buller invested $1.6 million in its snow factory. For Baw Baw, the investment adds to the growing concerns of profit. In 2017, Mt. Baw Baw Resort Management Board received $7 million from the Victorian Government to continue its operations. Currently, it costs more to operate Mt Baw Baw than the revenue it is capable of generating. All Victorian resorts are facing an increasingly uncertain future due to climate change. At 1,564m elevation, Mt Baw Baw is one of the lower alpine resorts in Victoria. So it desperately needs the snow factory to continue its regular length season operation.