Australian ski resorts could face huge losses if the 2020 season is delayed or cancelled due to coronavirus (ABC Gippsland: Kellie Lazzaro)
Normally about now, Australian ski resorts would be gearing up for snow season.
- Vail Resorts, owner of Mount Hotham and Falls Creek in Victoria and Perisher in NSW, is preparing for a postponement or cancellation of ski season, which normally kicks off in June
- Cancellation would be a major blow for Victorian alpine communities struggling to recover from summer bushfires
- Mt Buller is allowing skiers to request date changes, and to cancel or seek credit or refunds if they or a family member contract coronavirus
Instead, they are planning for the worst — the possibility that in 2020 there may be no ski season at all.
The Government ban on large gatherings and other sporting events, to try and combat the spread of coronavirus, could be disastrous for Vail Resorts.
Vail Resorts purchased the Victorian ski fields Mount Hotham and Falls Creek in 2019 for $179 million.
It also owns the Perisher resort in New South Wales, where the season normally kicks off on June 6.
“As the season approaches, we will advise of any planned changes to resort operations for the 2020 winter season,” a Vail spokesman said.
Ski, snowboard instructors being hired
At Mount Hotham, Australia’s highest ski resort, the Alpine Resort Management Board has been advised to plan for the worst.
“One of our priorities is the health and safety of our staff,” a spokesman for Mount Hotham Alpine Resort Management Board said.
The board is planning for a range of scenarios to project how a delayed season might operate, or worse — the impact of not opening at all.
“There are many elements to consider, and this is taking a considerable amount of time, checking that all things have been taken into account and thinking creatively to keep our mountain sustainable,” the spokesman said.
Mount Hotham has already launched its annual employment campaign to hire ski and snowboard instructors, hospitality workers and lift operators, many of whom travel to the mountain from around the world.
Regular snow enthusiasts have already purchased deposits for season passes, and accommodation providers already hard-hit by cancellations due to the bushfires are fearing the worst.
Alpine Shire Mayor Peter Roper said he was worried about what a cancelled ski season would mean for his community. (ABC Gippsland: Kellie Lazzaro)
Alpine communities reeling
A cancelled ski season would be another major blow for Victorian alpine communities struggling to recover from this summer’s bushfires.
Alpine Shire Mayor Peter Roper said he was worried about what a cancelled ski season would mean for his community.
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Alpine Shire Council has estimated the region’s total economic loss for January — caused by bushfires that hit during a peak tourism season — to be $90 million.
“I cannot even begin to imagine what the effects would be on the community,” Councillor Roper said.
“At this stage, I’m rather hoping we just have a delayed start to the season.
“If we end up with three months to get on top of this pandemic, it puts us at the start of July.”
Councillor Roper said it was vital people adhered to the state and federal governments’ strict orders to help contain the spread of COVID-19, if there was a chance of the ski season going ahead.
“A lot people in the shire rely on work either with the ski resort or management board at Falls Creek or Mount Hotham,” he said.
Buller, Falls Creek allow cancellations
At Mt Buller, a new COVID-19 specific cancellation policy has been rolled out.
It enables skiers to request changes to dates, and to cancel or seek credit or refunds if they or a family member contract coronavirus.
The cancellation policy would also apply if the resort closed, or transport was disrupted due to the pandemic.
Falls Creek Resort confirmed it would postpone early entry payment instalments and allow cancellations on early entry passes.
It was also reviewing terms and conditions of the Resort Season pass that it had deemed non-refundable and non-transferable.
Alpine communities hard-hit by bushfires are relying on this year’s ski season to boost regional economies. (Supplied: Mount Hotham)
The Mount Hotham board spokesman said staff had been inundated with calls.
“Please keep in mind that our staff may not be in a position to immediately answer your questions,” he said.
According to the Australian Ski Areas Association (ASAA), ski resort visits in Victoria had a $1,076 million impact on gross state product in 2018.
The ASAA had advised the industry that it believed the restrictions relating to COVID-19 were temporary.
“Australia’s ski area operators continue to prepare the resorts for the official opening of the Australian ski season on Queen’s Birthday weekend,” an ASAA statement said.
“The resorts, which play a significant role in driving the local economies in bushfire-affected communities such as the Snowy Mountains in NSW and Bright, Mansfield and surrounds in Victoria, continue to progress programmed summer projects ready to greet their first guests this winter.”
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