The Virus Is Contained, Resorts Anticipate Regular Openings.

Mt Hotham in mid-season. This year, the resort awaits eager visitors after closing in 2020.

We, the skiing public here in Oz, are quietly excited about the prospect of finally skiing again after a year off. While we wait for government decisions and confirm opening dates at Mt Hotham, Falls Creek and Mt Buller here in Victoria and similarly for the resorts in NSW at Perisher and Thredbo. There is a very good indication that with virus levels in Australia at zero the official opening date of Friday June 11 will happen. The ski resorts are all hiring this year.

Opening, that is, except for only a couple of people in quarantine.  There are no cases in the general community. Yes, you read that correctly. Through management (and I use the term loosely), Australia, with a little diligence, has reduced Corvid to literally just a few cases. So, our various state governments figured out, finally, that hotels and strict quarantine for returning travelers has stemmed the transmission.

Contrast this with 2020, and the disaster that unfolded then for the ski industry. By July 9, 2020, it was confirmed that two popular Victorian ski resorts had closed effective immediately due to the corvid virus in the state. They made the difficult decision to suspend operations at Mt Hotham and Falls Creek, “effective Thursday July 9 through to at least August 19,” Vail Resorts, the US company which owns the ski fields, stated. NSW followed quickly with the same decision.

Perisher in NSW is the largest ski resort in the Southern Hemisphere, opening in mid-June

We were in a bad space last year after devastating wildfires in January and February and yet the announcement about the then coming season was all rosy. “Mt Hotham welcomes the State Government’s announcement that the 2020 snow season can commence with a delayed start in late June, just in time for the Victorian school holidays.” said an official. Further adding, “Mt Hotham has experienced some fantastic early snowfalls, so we’ve been eagerly awaiting news on whether the winter 2020 season would proceed,” said Amber Gardner, CEO, Mt Hotham Alpine Resort Management Board. “We are excited about the Premier’s announcement yesterday and look forward to celebrating the season opening with our mountain community at the end of June.”

The excitement continued. Queen’s Birthday Long Weekend traditionally marks the start of the snow season in Australia, but last year it was to be a low-key affair, as Mt Hotham continued to plan for scaling-up in June in accordance with Victorian public health guidelines. The usual explainer of carrying snow chains, resort entry fees, etc. was also confirmed. During this period, the ski field would be closed to downhill skiing and snowboarding. But the resort’s cross-country trails will be open in alignment with recreational trails around Victoria, albeit under a reduced grooming regime and with limited Ski Patrol support. A limited intra-village transport service would also be available. And yes, Mt Hotham board spokesman said staff had been inundated with calls. “Please keep in mind that our staff may not be in a position to immediately answer your questions,” he said.

Here’s an interesting fact about the extent of the snow area in Australia in winter, a fact I find hard to comprehend: Australia has more snow than Switzerland. And, 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. So, you can understand how devastating another closure will have on this industry in 2021. A spokesman stated that, “People in the mountains and surrounds in Victoria continue to progress programmed summer projects ready to greet their first guests this the coming 2021 Winter.”

We wait. I am quietly confident that an opening will happen. We are seeing larger groups allowed with some isolating for crowds at sporting events still. But with vaccinations ramping up across all the states, confidence may be restored. Could I be sliding down a snow-covered slope at my favorite ski hill soon? Since skiing in Canada last year in January and February, I am yet to put on the planks. A La Nina has visited us in the Pacific and unusually large rain events have occurred across the Eastern States. But we are long in the knowledge that rain alone will not increase the snow levels. It maybe cold and wet, but I will be happy enough to just be amongst the snow guns again, real snow or not.

Mt.Hotham before the virus closed her down. Credit: Dave Chambers

2 Comments

  1. When does ski season open in Australia

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