Australians will soon be able to enjoy ski fields in Victoria and NSW, with alpine regions to open from June 22 after a coronavirus-affected start to the snow season.
With the cancellation of the traditional June long weekend start to the snow season, NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro said he was keen to see tourists back on the slopes.
Victoria also announced this week that resorts in its state could reopen from the same date.
But ski field operators will need to ensure resorts are COVID-safe through physical distancing, controlled access to ski lifts, no snow play and enhanced cleaning procedures.
“These measures will mean that fewer people will be able to visit and stay at resorts this season, so it is essential that people book and confirm their travel arrangements and accommodation before they travel,” Mr Barilaro said.
“We are welcoming every visitor to regional NSW with open arms and I will be celebrating by shouting a few beers, but it is more important than ever that we continue to be responsible and maintain good physical distancing while we are enjoying ourselves.”
In NSW, Thredbo, Charlotte Pass and Perisher will open but Mount Selwyn resort will remain shut throughout the 2020 season due to bushfire damage.
In Victoria, Falls Creek, Mount Hotham and Mount Buller are working towards a June 22 opening.
Mount Buller Ski Lifts general manager Laurie Blampied said this season would be one like no other, because of coronavirus measures.
“We are going to see some very different aspects to the resorts,” he told the ABC.
“There will be no international ski instructors – the Austrian ski instructors are part of the folklore of the ski industry in this country.
“Because of social distancing in staff accommodation, we’ll have reduced numbers of staff that will mean that the range of services that we will be able to offer will be reduced significantly.”
Australian Ski Areas Association chief executive Colin Hackworth welcomed the NSW government’s decision, saying it would provide a shot in the arm for operators.
“The NSW resorts are, of course, disappointed to miss the traditional opening of the snow season on the June long weekend but operators are looking forward to the season ahead and are busily preparing for the safe opening of the resorts from June 22,” Mr Hackworth said on Thursday.
Earlier in May, Mr Hackworth said the association was in “lock step” with the government on safety protocols on ski fields and would encourage conservative behaviour.
The announcement gives resorts three-and-a-half weeks’ notice to bring staff in and train them where required, stock up and begin operations.
In Jindabyne, The Shed Ski Hire owner Gary Vaughan said in April he had been working towards a season opener over the June long weekend or July 1.
“Tourism is paramount, it’s the most important thing, everybody wanting to come down to see the snow and touch and feel it,” he said.
“That’s all we depend upon.”