Two Ski Resorts In Australia To Stay Closed For The Rest Of The Season

Falls Creek and Hotham Alpine Resort in the state of Victoria will not re-open for Spring skiing, the owners, Vail Resorts, have announced.  

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Skiing and snowboarding at the two resorts were suspended on 9th July until 19th August as the coronavirus crisis worsened.

Now it’s clear there will be no snowsports at the two ski areas for the rest of the Australian winter.

“Due to the continued COVID-19 health crisis and the introduction of new restrictions by the Victorian Government, we have made the decision to not reopen our lift operations,” Vail Resorts said.

The company said the earlier suspension of operations was introduced to help public health officials address the growing challenge of Covid-19 in the region and protect the health and safety of employees, guests and the local community.

“It was a difficult decision which has unfortunately been reinforced by the worsening COVID-19 trends and the declaration of a State of Disaster in Victoria until 13 September.

“We are disappointed to mark the end of the season this way and extend our gratitude to our employees and the businesses in our communities who worked so hard to open this winter.

“To our loyal guests: Thank you for your patience and understanding during these challenging times. We look forward to welcoming you back to our resorts for the 2021 season.”

Another Victorian resort, Baw Baw, which had been open at weekends, announced late on Wednesday night (5th August) that it was closing all areas to the public from midnight until 13th September following new restrictions imposed in the region.

The timing could hardly have been worse. The resort has just had a 30cm dump of snow.

Baw Baw Statement

Effective from 11.59pm on Wednesday 5 August. New lock down measures impacting regional Victorians will take effect:
  • Mt Baw Baw Alpine Resort will temporarily close all areas to the public until 13th September 2020.
  • Road closure protocols will be in place at resort entry. Entry is prohibited. You may be penalised for ignoring this notice.
  • This excludes the Mt Baw Baw Tourist Road for emergency access, resort staff or persons undertaking essential work who have been issued with an access permit.

However, Mt Buller ski resort, also in Victoria, says it IS remaining open.

“As at 7pm on Wednesday 5 August Mt Buller and Mt Stirling remain open to visitors who are permitted to travel pending further government advice. Lifts will operate on Thursday 6 August,” a message on its website says.

Mt Buller is a three hour drive from Melbourne, the city that has been hard-hit by the pandemic.  Melbourne residents are not allowed to travel.

Ski resorts in New South Wales, including Perisher and Thredbo, remain open, though there have been issues with visitors failing to comply with Covid-19 regulations.

PlanetSKI Analysis, James Cove:

PlanetSKI in Perisher, Australia

PlanetSKI in Perisher, Australia

In the end it was inevitable.

Covid-19 is surging in the state of Victoria, restrictions will continue for many more weeks and are likely be tightened. The cost of  running a resort is hugely expensive and in the end the numbers did not add up with the facts clear to see.

Now is not the time for wishful thinking, but rather dealing in reality and likely outcomes.

The threat of Covid-19 spreading, and the economic realities, simply made the situation untenable.

The mighty Vail Resorts, the biggest resort operator in the world, does not take these decisions lightly and it is an ominous sign of what might be in store next winter in the northern hemisphere if coronavirus remains present with an effective vaccine not developed and widely administered.

Here at PlanetSKI we have been watching the scene in Australia very closely since the season began.

Covid-19 is no respecter of borders, countries or ski resorts  – it is a virus whose purpose is to spread.

The restrictions, threat and resorts’ reactions may well be similar in Europe and North America next winter.

Vail Resorts also runs Perisher in the neighbouring Australian state of New South Wales and it remains open.

Skiing and snowboarding continues with many having a fabulous time on the slopes.

Restrictions are in place but riding continues, albeit with a 50% reduced capacity.

Rob Katz, the CEO of Vail Resorts, has told Wall Street analysts about the insight that would be gathered from the southern hemisphere to how things may look for the season of 2020/21 in the northern hemisphere.

Some of the main changes at Perisher include:

• People must stay approximately 5 feet away from others.

• People who live together may take lifts together, while others must practice social  distancing.

• One person is allowed on a chairlift designed for three people or on one that normally holds two people. Two people are allowed on chairlifts that are designed for four people. Three people are allowed on an eight-person one. The lift queues will be redesigned for physical distancing.

• Cash is not accepted and all payments must be made by card.

• Food and drink – Skiers and snowboarders are encouraged to bring their own food and sit outside. There is some take-away service.

• Hotels, lodges and apartments are operating with reduced capacity to ensure that physical distancing can be achieved in restaurants and common areas.

So, what we have learned so far from Australia is that if a resort like Perisher remains relatively free from a surge in cases then skiing continues, albeit differently.

If a resort is in an area under threat from Covid-19 or sees outbreaks in the resort or surrounding areas, such as Mt Hotham and Falls Creek, then they close.

We will remain watching the Australian experience closely and keep our fingers crossed that the scene in Europe and North America will be more like the Perisher experience than elsewhere in Australia.

Skiing in Australia

Skiing in Australia

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