By Steve Cuff
IF you are feeling somewhat frustrated with how the 2020 season has developed so far, you would hardly be alone. There are thousands of keen snow enthusiasts each with their own version of what could have been done different.
But here is a snapshot of what we know so far, plus our own commentary.
The snow season has entered what would normally be a thriving July school holiday period. But this year you will find the slopes slightly subdued, with covid-19 capacity restrictions limiting the number of people who can access the mountains.
For those families who managed to secure tickets, there will at least be a smile on their kids’ faces as they enjoy their holiday on what runs and lifts are open after a slow snow start to the season.
Kids were all smiles at Thredbo for school holidays.
The snow depth in NSW currently sits at 21.6cm, which will be upgraded by Snowy Hydro when they make a reading later this week. Not an overly encouraging number and one of the worst starts for years. BUT it always recovers, there will be more snow, this we know from history.
We always knew this season was going to be difficult, but with mother nature holding back on a decent heavy snow fall, and somewhat limited terrain open, it has made it even harder for the resorts.
As we stated in our July magazine, there were never going to be any winners this year. Resorts had to demonstrate to the NSW health authorities they could reduce their number capacity to comply with social distancing and covid restrictions.
The alternative, no snow season at all.
This has certainly led to frustrations from guests. The demand for tickets so great, resort websites crashed, and very disappointed patrons missed out on their preferred tickets.
Guests trying to contact the resorts via email or leaving phone messages were left stranded, with many receiving no response at all, even weeks after. As expected, most have taken to social media to vent their angst and displeasure. No resort was spared the abuse, and really, they should have done better.
With rumours of thousands of incoming emails per day and voice messages ongoing, their guest services teams were never going to cope. But you would have thought more regular communication would have been advisable.
Perisher in winter mode in early July. PHOTO: Perisher.
Today there is another twist with the Victorian and NSW borders closing from midnight tonight (July 7) due to outbreaks of covid-19 in Melbourne.
New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian says the decision to close the border was not made lightly.
“What is happening in Victoria is unprecedented – it’s a new phenomena,” Ms Berejiklian says.
“It’s the first time we’ve had major community transmission.”
The Premier says the next few days will be tough on border communities like Albury-Wodonga.
“For some, they will be restrained until the permit system is put in place. We know there will be queues and disruptions along our borders and we apologise for that.”
How that affects an already disruptive snow season for holiday makers is yet unknown. With Vail Resorts’ Perisher in NSW, and the Victorian resorts of Hotham and Falls Creek all linked on the Epic Australia Pass, it surely will add to the confusion.
Vail Resorts announced they will be continuing with their reservation system for season pass holder mountain access for next week, July 13-19.
Plus, weekends until further notice will require reservations.
We don’t own a crystal ball or know exactly how to read one if we did. What will the coming weeks deliver both news wise and snow. Will it snow heavily and how will this affect the systems in place at each resort?
Thredbo went to market with their ticket system allowing for discounted tickets for season pass holders. They have sold most of their tickets for the season but have scope to ramp up as restrictions are eased (they are expected to ease).
Thredbo also have a great new gondola, which for anyone who has taken a spin is extremely impressed. Their snowmaking has enabled the golden triangle to open, but the Supertrail would be a welcome addition.
Perisher have kept their season passes and are still selling them until July 12. Their continued reservation system is related to not being able to open more terrain. Their snowmaking has been good, but a huge blizzard is what is required to continue opening more terrain. They have a large season pass database, so they need more snow to spread the masses out on the mountain.
Currently they have 17 lifts operating.
Perisher snowmaking in action in July. PHOTO: Perisher
Failing a big snowstorm soon, or more easing of restrictions, it will be more of them same for July you would think.
None of the forecasting website have any massive snow on their radars in coming weeks, but there are systems developing with some snow. Let’s hope they build up for major precipitation.
The snow gods have been in early hibernation, which has happened in previous years. But we all know one huge storm can make all the difference.
The key is if you have tickets pre-booked or season passes, don’t give up on the season in its entirety just yet. In fact, this may be a better outcome for most to have a later season. If you have not skied yet but are planning to, so far it has not affected you.
Imagine if the government ease their restrictions and the mother of all snow storms lash the mountains, everyone will have the chance for more snow time on their favourite mountain in August and September.
If you know where to buy that crystal ball, or better still, if you have one, gaze deeply inside and advise when the next blizzard or polar vortex will arrive and how this season will pan out in its entirety.
Thredbo’s High Noon, one of the longest runs in Australia. PHOTO: Thredbo Resort.
Early morning Front Valley at Perisher. PHOTO: Perisher.