We reveal the anatomy of the ski season 2020 in New Zealand & Australia.
A race against time
The Covid-19 pandemic seems to have thrown the world’s tourism plans into turmoil. The future of such a virus for which there is currently no vaccine is hard to predict. What is clear is that the future of tourism is going to be an unprecedented one, especially for the ski industry.
All the ski resorts worldwide have to figure out how they will adapt to this new reality and how to prepare for all eventualities. There is nonetheless a crucial difference among them: the matter of time. While the Northern Hemisphere is trying to save the current season and cautiously planning for the next one with a bit more time ahead, in the Southern Hemisphere the season is heading towards winter but the virus is still there.
The mountains are calling in Australia and New Zealand – and we must go!
Mother Nature does not wait, it has already blessed the South Pacific with layers of powder during the past weeks. As green hills give way to snow-capped peaks, ski resorts are preparing for different operating scenarios according to the state of the pandemic. The previous weeks have been quite hectic for Australian and New Zealand resorts, who are trying to plan their winter while dealing with circumstances that are changing on a daily basis. With just a few weeks before the scheduled start of the season in both New Zealand and Australia, these resorts are certainly snowed under with work in order to assure the ski season for 2020.
In these uncertain times, there has also been a lot of debate around the Australian and New Zealand’s ski plans. Ski resorts in New Zealand have been the first ones to get the green light to reopen, with physical distancing requirements and safety guidelines. In view of the global travel restrictions and the financially stressed domestic market, limitation of daily skiers does not seem to be an issue for Kiwi resorts. Meanwhile across the ditch, Australia has been hoping to open their resorts early in June, but they will have to wait until the end of the month. Aussie resorts are already carefully planning the season ahead and will be ready to flick the switch on the chairlifts in late June or July. Moreover, the Australian Ski Areas Association CEO, Colin Hackworth, who has been selected as the spokesperson for all the resorts, prepared a ‘Covid-19 Ready’ plan while monitoring the progress of Covid-19.
Despite the delays and remaining uncertainties, it looks like most ski resorts in Australia and New Zealand will be up and running for the upcoming season. The main question is, what will it look like? – There is one thing for sure: ski holidays will no longer be what we once knew.
Skiing in times of Covid-19
Ski season 2020 will certainly look different to what Aussie and Kiwi skiers are used to. Images of tourists flocking to the slopes won’t be a 2020 thing, since overall resort occupancy will now be limited in most ski resorts. Social distancing measures will indeed be in place and will stay for a while. These distancing rules are set for lift queues, including limiting capacity in gondolas and chair lifts, permitting only people from the same family or group to sit together.
Lift passes and rental equipment are to be hired in advance in order to avoid queues and allow time to safely apply the appropriate hygiene measures. In addition to this, technology will enable contactless and cashless payments. While refunds and passes are generally up to each individual resort, Vail Resorts will offer full refund options for Epic Australia Passes as well as new pass offerings for the upcoming season.
It goes without saying that skiers can be required to wear face coverings and gloves, which is a practice for cold days regardless. In general, we can expect the main things to be running normally, whereas rentals, ski schools and especially the catering sector might not operate 100% due to safety restrictions.
The Kiwi tourism industry relies heavily on Australian visitors, while Australia’s winter tourism is a predominantly domestic market. A call for an early opening of the border between the two has been made, as well as arrangements for quarantine-free travel between them. This so-called ‘trans-Tasman bubble’ would provide significant benefits for the tourism industry. On the other side of the ocean, the possibility of international travel & tourism within the next few months is rather low. Someone has to say it, but some local skiers will be low-key happy to know they will be able to enjoy the slopes all by themselves without having to go through annoying queues.
Our advice for snow lovers in the South Pacific? While conditions change every day and most aspects of the reopening still remain up in the air, do not become victims of your own expectations: you may be limited or you may be pleasantly surprised. The slopes will always be there for us, just because we can do something, it doesn’t mean we should go and race out. Remember our passion for the outdoors is what keeps the momentum going, so we need to be flexible and patient in order to protect what we love the most.
Feature photo: Planet Ski (www.planetski.eu)