While it has been confirmed that the 2020 NSW ski season will go ahead, it’s not yet clear how ongoing COVID-19 social distancing restrictions will change how snow lovers holiday this year.
The CEO of the Australian Ski Areas Association, Colin Hackworth, said “it would be really helpful” to have a firm start date for the ski season. He is hoping to hear from the office of NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian during the next few days.
“We just have to be patient and remember that, ultimately, the premier has to keep public safety in mind first,” said Mr Hackworth.
Some operators have already been given the go-ahead, including Thredbo-based K7 Adventures, which runs backcountry tours and a Nordic cross-country ski school.
“We are delighted and excited to announce that the NSW Government has granted permission to commercial tour operators to start guided tours again in NSW national parks, effective immediately,” said K7 Adventures director Peter Cocker.
One of K7’s cross-country ski instructors, Acacia Rose, said the company’s phones have been ringing hot and that K7 expects to have a bigger year than usual due to the fact that backcountry snow sports are a natural fit for social distancing.
“We have always focused on small, boutique tours, usually with a maximum of six people, and social distancing happens naturally with skiing, both to give skiers the best experience and for safety,” said Ms Rose.
However, the organisation will be operating under NSW Public Health Orders and Restrictions and following COVID-19 guidelines, including making sure guests are symptom-free when they arrive for their tour, checking temperatures, sanitising equipment between uses and asking guests to frequently use hand sanitiser.
Some of the winter activities on offer are family-friendly snowshoe tours, backcountry ski touring and splitboarding, including to Mount Kosciuszko with Jeff Becker and his team of guides.
“We are waiting for confirmation that the NPWS [NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service] will be able to groom the Perisher Nordic trails, however, it will still be possible to ski up Kosciuszko Road from Perisher to Perisher Gap and Charlotte Pass,” said Ms Rose.
Cross-country ski instructor Jane Scheer expects Perisher Ski Resort to open in late June or early July, while a spokesperson for Thredbo Resort said continued uncertainty meant they were not able to comment yet.
A statement from Charlotte Pass Snow Resort said: “We are actively working with all levels of government, as well as police and health professionals to keep the health and safety of all staff and visitors a top priority.”
But for the K7 team, it’s (almost) business as usual despite ongoing COVID-19 restrictions.
“The K7 Ski School will be ready to operate as soon as we have enough snow on the Perisher cross-country trails and the Kosciuszko Road up to Perisher Gap and Charlotte Pass,” said Ms Scheer. “We are excited and raring to go.”
This week’s wild weather is a reminder to take precautions when entering the snowy mountains backcountry.
“We’ve been socked in for days this week,” cautions Ms Rose. “It’s really important to use commercial tour operators to minimise the risks if you aren’t used to being in the backcountry. If you come into a whiteout, it’s very easy to get lost.”
For more information, visit K7 Adventures.