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AUSTRALIA SKI SEASON UNDER THREAT

The resorts are preparing, but will there be one as the coronavirus pandemic continues? Resorts are hiring, plans are being made but it is unlikely to start as normal in June.

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Government coronavirus advice

Government coronavirus advice

First the current rules in Australia.

Social distancing measures are in place with gatherings of more than two people banned in public areas, unless they are members of the same household.

People must keep 1.5m apart.

Australians cannot leave their homes except for essential reasons – shopping for food, having a doctor’s visit, exercise or going to work.

Anyone arriving from overseas has to go into self-isolation for 14-days.

Five states and territories have also introduced domestic border controls.

If people are outside “without reasonable excuse” they can face six months in jail or an $A11,000 (£5,400) fine.

The country has more than 5,908 cases, with almost half of those in the region of New South Wales, where many of the ski resorts are based including Perisher and Thredbo.

48 people have died.

Under current rules skiing and snowboarding is a non-starter.

The Australian Ski Areas Association (ASAA), which looks after resorts across the country, said it was uncertain if skiers would be able to take to the slopes this year.

“While all resorts continue preparations for the 2020 ski season, it cannot be said with any certainty that the Australian ski season will open as intended on 6th June,” the ASAA said.

“Skiers and boarders who are regulars, including those with homes in the Snowy Mountains, are telling me they’re not hopeful of getting there this season – even though it can go on until September,” said PlanetSKI’s Southern Hemisphere reporter, Lewis Panther.

“It’s shame as there were some decent falls over the weekend already, and Thredbo should have still been open for mountain biking at Easter. Normally, people would be getting excited by now.

“The other thing you have to take into consideration is Australia is still bit behind the curve that everyone is watching. The restrictions are much tighter in Victoria than they are in NSW, so Hotham, Buller and Falls Creek are probably less likely to open.

“That said, the federal government seems desperate to be open for business again as soon as possible.”

Vail Resorts purchased the Victoria ski fields of Mount Hotham and Falls Creek in 2019 for $179 million.

It also owns the Perisher resort in New South Wales.

“Perisher, Hotham and Falls Creek continue to make preparations for our scheduled opening of the 2020 winter season on June 6th,” a Vail Resorts spokesman said.

“Vail Resorts is closely monitoring the progress of COVID-19 in Australia.

“As the season approaches, we will advise of any planned changes to resort operations for the 2020 winter season.”

The resort itself is calling for understanding and effort ahead of the winter season.

“2020 will be the most challenging year the Australian snow industry and our communities have ever faced. Your health and well-being is number one, and this has a flow-on effect.”

“If you and your family stay protected, OUR community and sport can be protected, businesses and jobs can be protected, and so can our beloved snow season be protected.

“Like you, we’re doing our best to navigate through this challenging and uncertain time. We want to reassure you that, despite the current challenges, our teams are doing everything they can to prepare for the 2020 winter season, but continue to prioritise the health and wellbeing of our employees, our communities and our guests,” said a statement from Perisher.

Perisher, Australia

Perisher, Australia

Next door is the resort of Thredbo.

“We’ve been hanging all summer to ski and snowboard this winter and we’re working hard to come up with a plan so we can all ski and snowboard this winter,” said a statement on its website.

“At this point, while we closely monitor the situation a decision in relation to the winter 2020 season is yet to be made.

“We’ll keep you all posted with our updates relating to the winter 2020 season.”

The province of Victoria further south is also home to other main resorts – Mt Hotham, Mt Buller and Falls Creek.

“Despite current challenges, our teams are doing everything they can to prepare for the 2020 season,” added a statement from Mt Hotham

“As the situation of COVID-19 evolves, we know you’ll have questions & plan to provide regular updates to ensure you’re informed.”

Mount Hotham is going through the process of hiring staff: ski and snowboard instructors, people to work in the hotels, bars & restaurants, and lift operators.

Many come from across the world.

Locals have already bought ski passes or paid deposits.

Mt Hotham, Australia

Mt Hotham, Australia

Mt Buller is allowing skiers to request date changes, and to cancel or seek credit or refunds if they or a family member contract Covid-19.

“We would like to ski and snowboard too, and the resort has been working hard over summer preparing for the 2020 season with the expected completion of the village development, expanded snowmaking and a large new water storage reservoir,” said Mt Buller in a statement.

“For now, we will follow all government guidelines to keep our staff and community safe as the first priority and adapt all plans to respond to the changing situation.

Falls Creek Resort confirmed it would postpone early entry payment instalments and allow cancellations on early entry passes.

It was also reviewing terms and conditions of the resort season pass that it had deemed non-refundable and non-transferable.

“We’re doing our best to navigate through this challenging and uncertain time,” Falls Creek said in a statement.

” We want to reassure you that, despite the current challenges, our teams are doing everything they can to prepare for the 2020 winter season but continue to prioritise the health and wellbeing of our employees, our communities and our guests.

“As the situation surrounding coronavirus COVID-19 evolves, we know that you’ll have questions and we plan to provide regular updates.”

Falls Creek has already seen some early snowfall.

Falls Creek, April 4th 2020

Falls Creek, April 4th 2020

According to the Australian Ski Areas Association (ASAA), ski resort visits in Victoria had a $1,076 million impact on gross state product in 2018.

The ASAA had advised the industry that it believed the restrictions relating to COVID-19 were temporary.

“Australia’s ski area operators continue to prepare the resorts for the official opening of the Australian ski season on Queen’s Birthday weekend,” an ASAA statement said.

“The resorts, which play a significant role in driving the local economies in bushfire-affected communities such as the Snowy Mountains in NSW and Bright, Mansfield and surrounds in Victoria, continue to progress programmed summer projects ready to greet their first guests this winter.”

The coronavirus pandemic comes after the bushfires that devastated many parts of Australia including ski resorts.

The impact of the bush fires is estimate to have cost Victoria $90m.

Resorts say if covid-19 means they cannot open it would be ‘catastrophic’ for the local community.

Most resorts accept that a full and normal opening at the beginning of June is unlikely.

Resorts traditionally open on the weekend of the Queen’s Birthday as it is a national holiday.

Skiing can go on in some resorts until October so they are hopeful of some snowsports getting underway, if the start is affected.

Here at PlanetSKI we’ll keep you posted.

Skiing in Australia

Skiing in Australia

AUSTRALIA SKI AREAS ASSOCIATION

6 FAQs:

Will the Australian ski season open as normal on 6 June?
The Australian ski industry is facing the largest challenge in its history.  The news that non-essential travel and non-essential gatherings are banned indefinitely creates more uncertainty and challenging times for the Australian ski industry, but we could not be more supportive. As a community, we must do all we can to limit the spread of the coronavirus and our Industry is committed to working closely with government and health authorities.  While all resorts continue preparations for the 2020 ski season, it cannot be said with any certainty that the Australian ski season will open as intended on 6 June.

Could the Australian ski season be shortened and open later than June 6?
This will depend on whether the current situation improves. This will require the lifting of bans by governments on non-essential travel and non-essential gatherings with sufficient time left in order to mobilise staff and resort operations.  Individual resorts are working on multiple scenarios, each of which will depend on the circumstances of the time.  It is possible the Australian ski season could open later than June 6.  You are encouraged to monitor individual resorts’ information channels.

If Australian snow resorts open, will I be safe if I visit?
The safety of visitors to Australian snow resorts is paramount. The Australian snow resorts will not operate unless advised by governments and health authorities that it is appropriate to do so.

I have already purchased a season lift pass for the 2020 ski season.  Will I receive a refund if the Australian ski resorts do not operate for the 2020 season?
Each Australian skilift company is formulating its response to the current situation, including its booking and refund policy.  Please check the information channels of the resort that you purchased your pass from.

What can the Australian snow community do to help each other at this time?
This is a monumentally difficult period for all of us. The issues and problems created by this pandemic are complex and they impact good people, their families and friends. Your continued patience is greatly appreciated and to put it simply, your support has never been more important.  We urge everyone to take the advice of medical experts and adhere to social distancing, while ensuring you show care for one another.

Where can I find out more information on what is happening?
All members of the Australian snow industry understand the questions and the urgent need for information at this time. All Members have committed to providing information to the Australian snow community that is transparent and updated regularly via their respective information channels. We encourage you to check your favoured information channels regularly.

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