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New Zealand ski areas look to snow season operations with restrictions

New Zealand ski areas look to snow season operations with restrictions
May 1, 2020

With New Zealand’s Coronavirus lockdown having been eased, ski resorts are cautiously optimistic they will be able to open for a locals’ season, albeit under tight restrictions.

As reported by winter sports website PlanetSKI, ski resort representatives have met with New Zealand Government officials to see if the ski areas can open safely and within current and anticipated Coronavirus restrictions.

With the New Zealand Government having eased Coronavirus restrictions to Alert Level 3, maintenance teams have been at work on the ski fields this week as operators get ready for a potential opening in June.

The billion-dollar industry - which employs about 3000 people and accounts for two million visits per year - has seen the year’s first snow falling at resorts over recent days, with strict social distancing measures and other working restrictions in force for those preparing the resorts.

A statement from NZSki noted that teams have already started work at Coronet Peak near Queenstown, advising “during level 3 we have some of our team back on mountain getting things ready for the winter.

“For anyone coming up to ride bikes or go hiking we ask that you help keep our staff safe and remember social distancing.

“The mountain bike trails are still open but we are diverting people from the drop in zone and around our base building for the health and safety of our team.

“We ask that you please follow the government recommendations on recreation activities during alert level 3 including sticking to low-risk activities, sticking with your bubble and maintaining 2 metre distancing.”

NZSki, which also manages the Remarkables near Queenstown and Mt Hutt in Canterbury, says all three skifields intend to open near the end of June, though exact dates have not been set.

As also reported by PlanetSKI, Mt Dobson skifield plus Cardrona Alpine Resort and Treble Cone in Wanaka also plan to open their doors at the same time.

However, with visitation to ski fields almost certainly set to be restricted to New Zealand residents, questions exist whether the season will be financially viable with no overseas visitors and social distancing likely to see reduced numbers on the slopes. With expenses involved in running a ski area likely to be at the same level, resorts will have to deal with broadly similar costs while having to absorb a fall in revenue.

RNZ has reported that operators want special dispensation to allow more than the 500 people permitted at Alert Level 2 or it may not be viable for them to open.

The Chief Executive of NZ Ski, Paul Anderson, said it was expecting a quarter of the normal number of visitors in Queenstown and half at Mt Hutt.

The business model for many resorts relies on the early sale of lift passes, but this has been hit by the virus and the uncertainty.

Prices for adult tickets with early bird discounts at NZSki cost $799, children $319.

The offer was due to end on 31st March but most ski resorts have extended their early bird offers to early June.

Bridget Legnavsky, General Manager of Cardrona Alpine Resorts, which runs Treble Cone and Cardrona ski fields, told RNZ "if we get to alert level 2, yes we will open.

"We'll open to the local market, people in the region. If we get to alert level 1 we will also open but we'll have hopefully more people because we'll be able to travel more."

With New Zealand potentially able to move to Alert Level 2 as of early next month, mass indoor gatherings of 100 people or less and outdoor gatherings of up to 500 will be allowed.

Commenting on the preventative actions taken by the country, New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, has said the nation could never know how bad the Coronavirus pandemic would have been, advising that “through our cumulative actions we have avoided the worst”.

Images: Cardroan Alpin Resort (top) and young snow sport participants at Mt Hutt (below)

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25th November 2019 - Mt Hutt named New Zealand’s best ski resort for fifth year

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15th May 2019 - Skills Active Aotearoa shares Cardrona Alpine Resort’s workforce development practices

13th June 2019 - Record conditions and multi-million-dollar upgrades marked at Mt Hutt’s 2019 snow season opening

28th November 2018 - Fiona Boyer appointed to the role of General Manager Customer at NZSki

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25th July 2018 - Cardrona Alpine Resort set to double in size

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31st May 2018 - Treble Cone ski field welcomes new Brand Manager

6th March 2018 - New Zealand ski areas report record visitation during 2017 winter season

23rd December 2015 - NZSki season passes aimed at increasing snow sports participation


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