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Doubts over Australian ski season as Coronavirus restrictions impact
Government bans on gatherings look set to impact the Australian ski industry with fears that the ski season, which normally commences in June, may even be cancelled.
With March and the coming months normally a time when resorts prepare for the snow season, bans on large gatherings and other sporting events, to try and combat the spread of Coronavirus, presents the possibility that there may be no ski season this year.
With alpine alpine communities struggling to recover from summer bushfires, this could have a major negative impact.
Vail Resorts, which runs the Victorian ski fields Mount Hotham and Falls Creek and Perisher resort in NSW, told the ABC "Perisher, Hotham and Falls Creek continue to make preparations for our scheduled opening of the 2020 winter season on June 6.
"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."
At Mount Hotham, Australia's highest ski resort, the Alpine Resort Management Board has been advised to plan for the worst, planning for a range of scenarios to project how a delayed season might operate, or worse - the impact of not opening at all.
A spokesperson for the Board advised “there are many elements to consider, and this is taking a considerable amount of time, checking that all things have been taken into account and thinking creatively to keep our mountain sustainable.”
Mount Hotham has already launched its annual employment campaign to hire ski and snowboard instructors, hospitality workers and lift operators, many of whom travel to the mountain from around the world.
Regular snow enthusiasts have already purchased deposits for season passes, and accommodation providers already hard-hit by cancellations due to the bushfires are fearing the worst.
Expressing his concern about what a cancelled ski season would mean for his community, Alpine Shire Mayor Peter Roper told the ABC "I cannot even begin to imagine what the effects would be on the community.
"At this stage, I'm rather hoping we just have a delayed start to the season.
"If we end up with three months to get on top of this pandemic, it puts us at the start of July."
Councillor Roper said it was vital people adhered to the Governments' strict orders to help contain the spread of COVID-19, if there was a chance of the ski season going ahead, adding “a lot people in the shire rely on work either with the ski resort or management board at Falls Creek or Mount Hotham.”
At Mt Buller, a new COVID-19 specific cancellation policy has been rolled out which enables skiers to request changes to dates, and to cancel or seek credit or refunds if they or a family member contract Coronavirus.
The cancellation policy would also apply if the resort closed, or transport was disrupted due to the pandemic.
Falls Creek Resort confirmed it would postpone early entry payment instalments and allow cancellations on early entry passes.
It is also reviewing terms and conditions of the Resort Season pass that it had deemed non-refundable and non-transferable.
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.
Advised the industry that it believed the restrictions relating to COVID-19 were temporary, an ASAA statement advises "Australia's ski area operators continue to prepare the resorts for the official opening of the Australian ski season on Queen's Birthday weekend.
"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."
Images: Alpine communities hard-hit by bushfires are relying on this year's ski season to boost regional economies (top, courtesy of Mount Hotham), snowmaking at Perisher (middle) and skiers and snowboarders during a past season at Mt Hotham (below).
30th March 2020 - VTIC calls for immediate hibernation and wage subsidy packages
6th February 2020 - Extensive bushfire damage prevents Selwyn Snow Resort opening for 2020 season
19th January 2020 - Mount Hotham reopens and encourages visitors
7th January 2020 - Bushfires destroy Selwyn Snow Resort
14th November 2019 - Ski and Snowboard Australia launches new Snow Australia brand
9th August 2019 - Significant snowfalls transform alpine resorts
1st August 2019 - Perisher’s new Leichhardt chairlift gets official opening
31st March 2019 - Perisher commences construction of new chairlift
22nd February 2019 - Vail Resorts confirm purchase of Victoria’s Falls Creek and Hotham ski resorts
18th January 2019 - Jindabyne towns to have input into Snowy Mountains revitalisation initiative
7th October 2018 - Falls Creek flags 2018 snow season highlights
8th August 2018 - Report shows Australians prefer NSW snowfields
17th June 2018 - Victorian ski resorts enjoy significant early season snowfalls
31st May 2018 - Thredbo ski resort bans tobogganing and ‘snow play’
8th December 2017 - Perisher to invest $4.2 million in snowmaking and new chairlift
28th November 2017 - New governance model to be introduced for Victoria’s alpine resorts
6th August 2017 - Alpine resorts invest in snowmaking to reduce impact of climate change
29th November 2016 - Perisher named Australia’s Best Ski Resort at 2016 World Ski Awards
6th July 2015 - Vail Resorts completes Perisher acquisition
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