Virus may hit snow tourism season hard

Skiers and snowboarders are unsure if they will have a snow season this year due to COVID-19 rules, with Australian tourist towns to feel the pinch.

Skiing.
Skiing. Picture: Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

Going to the snow is in the blood for back-country skier Dale Brearley.

The Canberran is upset when there is a dump of snow and he can't go to the mountains, with his plight made even worse by COVID-19 restrictions.

"Skiing is my blood. Every year I need to go up there at least once," Mr Brearley, 39, told AAP.

"When there has been a big storm, and I know there is good snow up there and I miss out, I get a bit down."

Instead of hitting the snow resorts, Mr Brearley puts on his alpine touring gear and heads off into the national parks.

Mr Brearley is unsure if he'll be allowed to go close to Thredbo or Perisher this year due to the coronavirus restrictions in place.

"I really hope that the states lift the restrictions so people like me can at least go into the national parks and back country ski," he said.

"If the resorts are open, that's a bonus."

The uncertainty isn't just punishing die-hard skiers, it's hurting NSW and Victorian tourist towns and ski resorts.

Moguls skier Matt Graham said local communities will suffer if the season doesn't plough ahead.

"They had a bad summer with the bushfires and now if they lose the winter season because of COVID-19 then it's going to be extremely hard for them," the Olympian said.

"Snow towns around Australia are heavily reliant on the winter season, so they will be the ones most severely impacted."

Australian Ski Areas Association chief executive Colin Hackworth said resorts are preparing COVID-safe operating plans.

"The industry remains in lock step with the state governments and the push to maintain common sense and conservative behaviour," he said.

"We just need to continue to be patient for a bit longer."

Ski resorts in NSW and Victoria are preparing for a season in line with the respective COVID-19 rules, but are yet to find out if it can happen.

While Thredbo ski resort is planning for a 2020 snow season, it anticipates modifications to meet social distancing rules.

Thredbo accommodation provider, Thredbo.com, wants at least four weeks' notice to bring staff in and train them, stock up and operate.

"The impact is beyond all our wildest thoughts, having been evacuated in early January and then returned January 15, we thought the worst was over but now it's unimaginable," managing director Glenn Smith said.

"We can plan all we like but we are working in the dark, there is no guidance or even maybe 'ifs'."

Rydges Snowy Mountains general manager Edwin Erftemeyer said two weeks' notice would be ideal for operations ahead of a season opener.

"Not knowing what lies ahead or what health implications it could have on the region can be stressful in managing a business," he told AAP.

"It will survive and next year we will still be here."

In Jindabyne, The Shed Ski Hire owner Gary Vaughan is working towards a season opener on Queen's Birthday long weekend or July 1.

"We're not selling jackets and skis, we're there for hire, we've got nothing else to sell," he said.

"Tourism is paramount, it's the most important thing, everybody wanting to come down to see the snow and touch and feel it. That's all we depend upon."

Over the border in Victoria, Bright Ski Centre partner Ben Dawson is optimistic the season will go ahead and COVID-19 rules will ease.

"This year is a just year we have to tread water," he said, given tourists have already stayed away from the town after the summer's bushfires.

"Hopefully we will rebound next year. As soon as travel restrictions lift, I think Bright will boom, regional Victoria and Australia will."


AAP