Australia Weather News

Thredbo resort in 2019, during the peak of the snow season. - ABC

The major ski resorts in the Australian Alps are continuing to plan for the 2020 snow season despite the uncertainty around coronavirus.

Thredbo, Perisher and Charlotte Pass ski resorts have all said they were closely monitoring the progress of COVID-19, but that they were also progressing plans to operate from the long weekend in June onward.

The CEO of peak body Australian Ski Areas Association, Colin Hackworth, said while ski resorts were in the hands of health authorities and governments, he was confident they would have an opening of some sort.

"It will be a different season than we're used to seeing, but once the restrictions are lifted by government we can have a snow season," he said.

Mr Hackworth said the industry was flexible and was accustomed to delayed openings.

"All of the operators are highly experienced at onboarding large numbers of seasonal workers in a pretty short time," he said.

'Unrealistic and optimistic'

But the Rural Doctors Association said it was too early to book a skiing holiday and plans for a June opening were "unrealistic and optimistic".

"The reality is we are only two months away from the opening of the ski season and social distancing regulations may be in place for six months," the association's chief executive Peta Rutherford said.

"The ski season is supposedly opening in eight weeks — that is too soon to be allowing for large gatherings of people in areas that they're not normally visiting."

Ms Rutherford said regional health services were not equipped to deal with an outbreak of COVID-19.

"These small communities have very limited health resources. There are many risks," she said.

Too early to call?

Jindabyne Chamber of Commerce president Olivier Kapetanakos said it was too premature to call the entire ski season off.

"We're at the beginning of the shutdown period. We've still got weeks to go. A lot of things can happen," he said.

Mr Kapetanakos was hoping the current restrictions on social gatherings would help flatten the curve in time for ski resorts to open this winter.

Even if restrictions remained in place throughout June, he said there was still a chance to achieve some sort of season.

"The snow stays on until late September. Even if they start in August we'll get half a season," he said.

"A lot of these communities live off winter. If they have six weeks or two months that's going to be a lot better than nothing."

The Snowy Mountains' economy was severely impacted by this summer's bushfires, with thousands of tourists forced to evacuate.

Mr Kapetanakos said many businesses were still counting on Perisher, Thredbo, and Charlotte Pass to open this winter.

"We didn't have a summer. If we don't have a winter that's pretty bad," he said.

At Mount Hotham in neighbouring Victoria, the Alpine Resort Management 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.