As skiers across Australia prepare for winter, many are fearing the snow season will be cancelled amid the spread of coronavirus.
Resorts in New South Wales and Victoria including Falls Creek, Thredbo and Perisher are determined to stay open when the season kicks off in June and ends in October.
But as the government enforces harsher restrictions on mass gatherings, causing a string of businesses to shut down, many fear ski resorts will be the next victims.
Sporting events have been cancelled across Australia and people have been instructed to keep 1.5 metres apart to help combat the spread of the disease.
The Australian Ski Areas Association (ASAA), which looks after resorts across the country, said it was uncertain if skiers would be able to take to the slopes this year.
‘While all resorts continue preparations for the 2020 ski season, it cannot be said with any certainty that the Australian ski season will open as intended on 6 June,’ the ASAA said.
‘The Australian snow resorts will not operate unless advised by governments and health authorities that it is appropriate to do so.’
But a flurry of resorts including Falls Creek Ski Resort in Victoria remain hopeful for the winter season.
‘We love the snow season as much as you do. If not even more. And just like you, we are navigating our way through the dynamic and ever changing challenges that COVID-19 is presenting,’ the resort said.
‘We and our partners are currently preparing as we normally would in preparation for the snow season. That we can confirm.
‘During this time, many of our staff are working remotely. Our phones are being manned and our social channels monitored to answers questions where we can.’
The resort also offered cancellations and postponements of early passes that had already been bought if the resort was to close.
Mt Hotham, the country’s highest ski resort, said businesses in the community would be drastically hit if their season wasn’t to go ahead, following the disastrous summer of bushfires.
‘Unfortunately, current events mean things are far from normal. We are grappling with what the evolving coronavirus (COVID-19) situation means for Hotham, for our staff, for our stakeholders and guests,’ the resort said.
‘We know people are concerned, businesses everywhere are already hurting, and we are not clear on what this means for the 2020 season.
‘One of our priorities is the health and safety of our staff. Mount Hotham Alpine Resort Management Board (MHARMB) staff are now working remotely where possible, and we only have essential services staff on the mountain.’
The ski resort is also offering refunds and cancellations for any ski passes if the season can’t go ahead.
On Tuesday, the Mt Buller ski resort in eastern Victoria said their main priority was the health and safety of the community.
‘We would like to ski and snowboard too, and the resort has been working hard over summer preparing for the 2020 season with the expected completion of the village development, expanded snowmaking and a large new water storage reservoir,’ Mt Buller said,
‘For now we will follow all government guidelines to keep our staff and community safe as the first priority and adapt all plans to respond to the changing situation.
‘We will share Mt Buller’s intended operations when we are able to do so.’
Vali Resorts which owns the Perisher ski resort in the Snowy Mountains said they were preparing for the season to begin over the June long weekend and would update skiers for any changes.
Thredbo, one of NSW’s most popular ski resorts said they too were hoping the season would go ahead.
‘We’ve been hanging all summer to ski and snowboard this winter and we’re working hard to come up with a plan so we can all ski and snowboard this winter,’ they said on their website.
‘At this point, while we closely monitor the situation a decision in relation to the winter 2020 season is yet to be made.
‘We’ll keep you all posted with our updates relating to the winter 2020 season.’