Ski season in Australia normally kicks off the first weekend of June but this year, it’s not business as usual. The COVID-19 outbreak had left many question marks for ski enthusiasts and the industry overall, however, some definitive responses have only just been announced by ski resorts following the NSW and Victoria governments’ easing of restrictions. If you’re keen to get out on the slopes this winter, here’s the latest on what you should know.
When will the ski season in Australia start this year?
Colin Hackworth, CEO of Australian Ski Areas Association, told Lifehacker Australia plans for a 2020 ski season were currently underway.
“So the situation is that all ski resorts in Australia are preparing for a 2020 ski season, however, they may open at different times,” he said over the phone.
It was announced on 24 May by the Victorian premier the ski season in Victoria would commence on the 22 June. Shortly after, on 28 May, NSW confirmed the same date for its own ski season.
Deputy Premier John Barilaro said they were working to ensure the correct safety measures were being put in place at Thredbo, Charlotte Pass and Perisher.
He said there would be a cap on the number of people allowed to stay, there would be no ‘snow play’ and cleaning requirements would exponentially increase.
“One of the highlights of the winter tourism season is a trip to our alpine regions,” he said in a statement.
“However, while many people are eager to return to the slopes, it is important that visitors can enjoy themselves safely and responsibly.
“The NSW Government, through NSW Health and NSW Police, is working closely with ski field operators, associated businesses, suppliers and industry associations to ensure COVID-safe measures are in place when the season commences.”
Skiing in NSW
On 20 May, Barilaro had announced regional travel would open up again starting 1 June.
“I’m very pleased to share that this means we will have a ski season this year. However holidaymakers should be aware that ski resorts will likely need time to put COVID plans into place and you should make contact before visiting,” Barilaro’s statement said.
Although this was welcome news for many businesses in Thredbo and Perisher, official announcements from ski resorts are just starting to trickle in.
On 28 May, Thredbo announced via Twitter that it had released new info on its website for the upcoming ski season in NSW. The post stated the resort will function at half its usual capacity, enforce regular hand sanitising and social distancing measures, keeping it ‘tip to tail’ this season. Additionally, only two people at a time will be allowed on the ski lift quad chairs and only private ski lessons will be available.
Great News ???? We’re OPENING for skiing & snowboarding on 22 June for the season ❄️???? Hit the link for a full rundown on everything you need to know surrounding this season and see you up here for some turns ⛷???????? https://t.co/EbLhq9oNRg pic.twitter.com/gtfEjSwKd5
— Thredbo (@ThredboResort) May 27, 2020
Perisher, another popular ski resort in the region, announced in a press release on 29 May that it will be open for skiing and snowboarding on 24 June, following approval by the NSW government.
“We are grateful for the opportunity to open our resorts for the 2020 snow season, especially given the difficult year endured by our mountain communities, and we take seriously the responsibility we have to keep our employees, guests and communities safe in this new environment,” said Pete Brulisauer, senior vice president and chief operating officer for Vail Resorts, Perisher and Australia.
“Delaying our traditional opening from the June Long Weekend to 24 June is intentional to ensure our entire team has the time to fully understand and embrace our new COVID-19 Safe Operating Plan so that we can deliver a safe experience for our guests.”
Visitors will only be able to access the resort with a pre-purchased pass or lift tickets so it’s important to plan ahead. For more details, visit its website where further details will be announced in the coming weeks.
Skiing in Victoria
Mt Buller, which is just three hours’ drive from Melbourne, made an announcement on its Facebook page that it was working towards the 22 June target “in consultation with government, health authorities and others, to conclude our COVID-19 Operating Safely Plans, and once these are finalised we can release more details.”
Laurie Blampied, General Manager for Buller Ski Lifts told Lifehacker Australia via email that all visitors hoping to come to the snow this winter will need to book ahead.
“There will be limits on capacity to ensure physical distancing and to keep everyone safe so pre-planning and booking in will be essential,” she said.
“The resort is currently preparing all the detailed plans for visitor volumes and will shortly be releasing online ticket inventory as soon as we are able to do so. Visitors have been and are able to book accommodation in some venues.”
Following the Victoria premier’s announcement, Falls Creek, which also falls under Vails Resorts along with Perisher, will follow the same procedures as the latter and also open on 24 June.
How can visitors start planning their trips already?
Hackworth reiterated that everybody was working towards a coordinated opening because there’s a whole bunch of service providers and emergency services involved.
“There will be at least some resorts in Victoria which will open on 22 June. Others may be opening one or two days later, we don’t quite know all the details just yet.
“What people need to do is go to the resort website and get the most up-to-date information and take it from there. Only the individual resorts will be able to confirm bookings and so on.”
Lifehacker’s included the latest information from some of the more popular ski resorts but as Hackworth mentioned, it’s best to reach out to your preferred destination regarding bookings.
What health and safety precautions will the resorts be undertaking?
Hackworth said making sure the right arrangements were made for the health and safety of both visitors and the staff was top priority.
“Of course the health and safety of the staff and guests is the first priority,” he said. “Let’s put it this way, ski resorts won’t open unless it can be done in a safe and hygienic manner.
“Not just the resorts, but all the businesses involved will have to be able to comply with government restrictions and directives which are in place at any one point in time. The key ones at the moment are social distancing, and primarily sanitation and hygiene.”
Hackworth did explain that this was an evolving story and exact plans would be made public when things were finalised from their end.
“We’re kind of a month away from opening up. So that’s sort of an evolving story,” he said.
“But yes, there will be capacity constraints of some sort because that responds to social distancing requirements and we’ll have to workout how people can safely be grouped together. There’ll be more details on that released soon.”
Visitors need to play their part in ensuring public safety
It’s not only up to the ski resorts to ensure public safety. Hackworth said visitors would need to take equal responsibility.
“Right from the start, COVID-19 has been a shared responsibility,” he said. “We’re all in this together.
“So when people come to the resorts, you know, please continue to practice sanitation and hygiene and social distancing. And one of the key things, keep our season safe and download the COVID safe app, and keep it running.”
We’ll keep updating this story when new information becomes available.
As Australia begins to re-open, state border restrictions are being eased giving many of us the chance to visit family and friends as well as take some much-needed day trips. With each state and territory announcing their own plans, however, it's gotten a bit complicated as to where you can go and when. Here's a breakdown of the new rules and we'll keep updating it as the situation changes.Read more
UPDATE: 1 June 2020: This story has been updated with new information from the ski resorts.