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Snow.NZ confident there will be a winter sports season in 2020

Snow.NZ confident there will be a winter sports season in 2020
April 20, 2020

Snow.NZ, New Zealand's leading ski and snowboard online resource, is confident that the country will operate a ski season in 2020.

In an opinion piece on its website, Snow.NZ Squad Leader, Lawrence Smith advises "skiing will be happening in 2022 ... however ... it will be different to our normal skiing experience, for a few reasons."

Smith advises "in the next two to three months, almost certainly we’ll see our alert level drop to Level 2 at least, and maybe even Level 1, and if that’s the case we’re good to go."

Here Smith cites the New Zealand's Level 2 guidelines that “participating in sports and recreational activities is allowed, subject to conditions on gatherings”.

However, Smith cautions "lifts present maybe the biggest challenge and it could mean limited loading, and different queuing arrangements. But (as) numbers may be down so maybe that impact will even out? "

Smith (pictured below) goes on to suggest that ski area cafes may have to be closed.

New Zealand's Level 2 Coronavirus guidelines are:

• Businesses open, but physical distancing applies.
• People advised to avoid non-essential travel.
• Participating in sports and recreational activities is allowed, subject to conditions on gatherings.
• Gatherings only allowed for up to 100 people, indoors, and up to 500 outdoors.
• Physical distancing and infection prevention and control requirements must be met. 

Based on the Level 2 guidelines, Smith suggests "if this is the case, we’d suggest the ski areas could potentially open at Level 2, but the 500 person limit might pose a challenge given a busy day is often thousands at larger areas. So will this be economic for a ski area? Maybe, if services are running at minimum levels? And non-essential travel, that could also be interesting. Maybe within region is OK, that hasn't been detailed at this point. Clearly there are some unknowns at this level.

"If we see a drop to Level 1, no physical distancing is required so lifts etc should be all good and ski area cafes and services could probably open. But there’s another problem potentially, staffing. Think back to last season, did you hear many accents? Yes, right. Many internationals come here to work for our winter, and with our borders closed for the foreseeable future, that means staffing could be a challenge. But then, there will be many Kiwis looking for roles, so this could balance out?

"And talking of staff, pre-season, right about now, there’s tons of work usually happening at ski areas in preparation for opening. That’s not happening currently, so some ski areas are looking at limited openings, or in extreme cases not opening at all. Temple Basic for example, as smaller club field, has already announced they won’t be opening in 2020. Craigieburn has also announced a limited opening, members/season pass holders only and limited to 100 people per day. Even Mt Ruapehu has announced 'we are currently working on whether it is possible to commit to the pre-winter costs of contracting labour and preparing the mountain'. And while that might all sound a bit dire, you can be sure that if the ski areas can open, they will. It’s just going to be a bit different and patience may be required. But, we’re sure it will be worth it! And talking of waits … it’s quite possible some openings will be delayed, due to preparation, staffing, etc.

"The upside - for snow lovers, but not so much the ski areas - is that it will be less busy at some resorts this season. As we all know, the New Zealand border is currently closed, and is likely to be so for many months, up to 12 some suggest. This means no Australian visitors, so if you ski Cardrona, Coronet Peak, or the Remarkables; you may well feel like it truly is 'my mountain'. We’ll temper that with the suggestion of an 'open border' between Aussie and NZ, but who knows if that might happen in time for the snow season.

"So yes! Let's plan on skiing in NZ this season!"

Earlier this month, Stuff suggested that southern skifields are expecting fewer visitors this season as the impact of Coronavirus hits, but "are optimistic they can still open without a hitch".

Ruapehu Alpine Lifts in the North Island has announced on if they opened this winter, operations would be "significantly different", as it put them behind schedule in maintenance.

However, major skifields in the South Island are priming for a mid-June opening.

Paul Anderson, Chief Executive of Mt Hutt, Coronet Peak and The Remarkables skifields operator NZ Ski told Stuff "we're keeping a watching brief on how the alert levels change (but) we need to get back to level 2 or level 1 to operate successfully."

The Wage Subsidy Scheme has already paid out close to $600,000 to 84 NZ Ski employees, including its 71 permanent staff.

Physical work has stopped on the fields, possibly delaying the installation of the new six-seater Sugar Bowl chairlift at The Remarkables.

Ski Area Association of New Zealand Chairman Marty Toomey, based in Wanaka, said there were many unknowns and the impact of Coronavirus restrictions remained "the biggest challenge".

The information resources at Snow.NZ can be viewed at

Images: Coronet Peak in 2018 (top, courtesy of NZSki) and Snow.NZ Squad Leader, Lawrence Smith (below).

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25th March 2020 - New Zealand’s latest Coronavirus measures significantly impacts outdoor recreation

21st March 2020 - New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern introduces alert system to halt spread of Coronavirus

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4th December 2019 - Significant fall in New Zealand skiing and snowboarding injuries attributed to risk management and education

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

19th August 2019 - Research assesses merits of season passes for New Zealand’s ski fields

6th July 2019 - Queenstown ski fields ready for school holidays

17th June 2019 - Queenstown’s Coronet Peak marks 2019 ski season opening with new chairlifts and improved snowmaking

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

13th December 2019 - New Zealand Commission clears Cardrona to acquire Treble Cone

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

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

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