Ben Lomond is at a critical crossroads – either investment will secure its future or watch it disappear as a ski field forever.
The Northern Tasmanian Alpine Club has more than 180 members and has had a presence on the ski field for 90 years.
But president Jamie Lawrence believes now is the right time to start thinking seriously about future scoping plans for the alpine peak.
“Ben Lomond is such a pretty place, but the fact of the matter is that it’s grossly under-funded,” Mr Lawrence said.
Tasmania’s only ski-field is only an hour from Launceston, but faces significant challenges, due to its reliance on natural snowfall.
This year, the ski lifts were only operating two days, and snow fell late in the year, which has led to inadequate cover for many activities.
Mr Lawrence said there was no doubt the market was there, but what it needs is a “tick of approval” from the government.
“It [Ben Lomond] needs significant infrastructure investment to bring it up to a commercial-quality ski-field,” Mr Lawrence said.
If the state government was to invest in infrastructure upgrades such as water and power, that would give any potential investor the confidence it needed to take the ski-field licence on, he said.
Management of Ben Lomond is done by Parks and Wildlife, who are working off an operating management plan from 1998. There are no plans to review it.
Mr Lawrence said an opportunity existed for a single operator, but the conditions had to be right for that to happen.
“The lack of cohesion among the operators is killing the mountain,” he said.
“The hotel was an important asset that is no longer there; it was the heart of the mountain.”
The Ben Lomond Alpine Hotel was destroyed by fire in 2018. Former owners Allan and Megan Lourie announced later that year they would not rebuild and instead listed the business for sale.
A strategic direction is needed to bring the mountain to life, or Mr Lawrence said he feared it would be lost.
“What it needs is to understand its key market, and its place in the tourism market and a business management plan developed from that,” he said.
In his opinion, Mr Lawrence said Ben Lomond catered well for the beginner to intermediate skier, but opportunities existed to enhance that experience.
In other news:
Mr Lawrence said NTAC had experienced an on-par season at its accommodation lodge on the mountain, despite sharing a below-average snow season.
“We have begun to diversify our service offerings, for lack of a better word, and have begun to promote bushwalking and other activities for people at the lodge.”
Mr Lawrence said he visited Ben Lomond over the weekend and only had skis on for 10 minutes, but it didn’t dampen the experience.
“We took a group of kids on the summit walk, they explored all the tarns and found snow caves; they had a blast, but we didn’t have skis on,” he said.
NTAC is one of several alpine and ski clubs with accommodation facilities on the mountain.