The winter ski season is set to go ahead despite the events of 2020, though opening weekend parties are certain not to take place. And that’s just one way the season will differ from past years.
With the news travel within NSW had become encouraged once more from June 1 came an influx of excitement from ski-lovers with itchy feet. Who wouldn’t want to make the most of the winter weather and get out amongst nature after months cooped up?
Thredbo has just announced it will be open for skiing and boarding from June 22, conditions permitting. It will be rolling out a revised operating model, developed under the advice provided by the NSW Health Department and the State and Federal Governments.
Thredbo is also encouraging all visitors to download the COVIDSafe app to help prevent the spread of the virus.
Let’s take a closer look at how the season might shape up.
If you’re looking to visit the snow this year, note that you really must make plans and call ahead. When the NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro confirmed the ski season would go ahead, he made very clear that anyone looking to visit will need to prepare for some big changes.
“We will have a ski season this year, however, holidaymakers should be aware that ski resorts will likely need time to put COVID plans into place and you should make contact before visiting,” he said.
One such measure is expected to be a limit on guests staying in the hotels and lodges. Speaking to Canberra Times, Nick Kennedy, owner of Guthega Inn at Perisher said the facility would run at 50% capacity. The Man From Snowy River hotel in Perisher will do the same should the resort be allowed to open.
This essentially means no rocking up. You really must have a confirmed reservation before just winging it and heading to the snow.
Après hour no more
Grabbing a drink on the slopes could be within reach, but not in a party capacity. Anyone enjoying mulled wine or Money Shots at the Denman will need to do so at a social distance. In line with hospitality laws in NSW, it’s likely bars will not be open and staff will have to serve patrons via table service only.
Thredbo’s opening weekend parties are infamous, but this year the gig is up. “Under the current restrictions we are unable to run our winter Opening Weekend (6-8 June) events. We will also not be opening the snow season for skiing and snowboarding over the June long weekend,” the resort said in a statement.
Longer lift queues
Not surprising. Social distancing measures will be strictly in place in all shared areas, and this includes in the lift lines — keep two skis between you and the next person at all times.
What’s more, fewer visitors will be allowed on a lift at any given time. “Social distancing will be maintained at all times so, for example, a quad chair, you will ride alone or with family members,” Colin Hackworth, chief executive of the Australian Ski Areas Association, told Traveller.
Thredbo says there will be one passenger per T-bar, two skiers per cabin, and two skiers per quad chair. Of course, the bright side, these measures means fewer skiers and snowboarders on the slopes.
Hackworth also mentioned that a review of rental equipment will be conducted to ensure stores that offer this service are able to sanitise equipment to health and safety standards.
As it stands now, skis, poles and snowboards should be available to rent as normal. Boots will likely undergo extra measures of sanitation considering the soft fabric interior, however, the offering may stop there. “Clothing and helmets will only be rented out this year if we can find a satisfactory way to disinfect those items after each use,” he told Traveller.
Lessons and night skiing
Thredbo has confirmed only private lessons will take place this season. No group lessons are to be conducted in an effort to help those on the slopes maintain social distancing. Resorts like Thredbo will reassess this measure as the season progresses.
Night skiing is also off.
If you’re planning a trip to the ski fields, our advice at this stage is to check in regularly for announcements and travel news relating to the specific resort you’re looking to visit.
With proper planning, anyone hoping to clock in a few black runs will have the chance to do so, and safely.