COVID-19 Ski Plan B: let’s max this season!

Much better news for NZ and Australia the past couple of weeks as COVID-19 Ski Plan As gets rolled out. Or at least partially so, with many details yet to be finalised/seen.

The announcement from Thredbo they will open on June 22, the first resort in NSW to announce that, is a welcome addition.

UPDATE JUNE 2: We checked with Thredbo and they are going to allow family members to ride together. Which is a good start.

Also with Group Lessons off the agenda and only Private Lessons you can have up to 3 people from same family in a Private Lesson. Lessons will have lift line priority, so anyone who can afford to will be booking an instructor just for that purpose if the lift load restrictions make queues bad.

But since the start of restrictions all the State governments have recognised households are the same as families – more so really, as if you don’t live with a family member but do live with friends/flatmates obviously they are the ones you are in contact with.

And whether you live with them or not, sharing the 6 hours drive to the snow and your accommodation when there etc basically convert you into a unit. So why not be treated as one for lift purposes?

Thredbo (and all resorts/businesses) are dependent on government guidelines, so we have put this anomaly to Deputy Premier John Barilaro with the recommendation they look at it to expedite matters ASAP – as the NSW Government rolls out it’s Visit NSW campaign it makes more sense than ever to remove accidental roadblocks like this to letting us do exactly that.

If people are moving as quickly as possible in lift lines agglomerations of people are reduced – which with aprés shut down and indoor limitations in place – are the main potential area for any infections to occur.

Original article (outlines how easy it is to work lift loads to reduce capacity by way less than 50%)

Thredbo’s announced guidelines/operating COVID-19 Ski Plan A includes lift load limits of 2 people per chair on quad lifts and one on t-bars/pair chairs. Which is a lot better than nothing of course, but immediately slashes lift capacity by 50% on those lifts.

Four mates on the Freedom Chair at Guthega – if you drive to the snow together 6 hours, splitting up to ride quad chairs won’t make any difference © Owain Price

Which brings us to Snow Action’s COVID-19 Ski Plan B to save 75% of lift capacity

Let’s take lift capacity for a 4 seater.

A group of 4 mates, a family of 4 [now allowed], 4 housemates etc drive 6 hours together in their small SUV from Sydney to the snow. If one has it, they all have it already by the time they get there. There is no increased danger from them doing things together either at home or when they are out.

So the simple solution in the lift lines is to have 2 singles lines on the right and left sides, plus a line for groups of 2 to 4 people who are already in contact with each other as above – ideally groups of 4 like that.

You can see how easily it would work in the picture of the Koszi Express at Thredbo. Adding an extra singles line at the right is simple enough. The lifties need to ensure there’s enough space to sort alternating loads so they are ready to approach turnstiles (so there’s no choke up at the pass gates). If numbers are limited to pre-purchase ticket limits only then maybe there’s no need for the turnstiles anyway – which would speed people up through the main choke point.

But this way straight up you only lose 25% of capacity on the quads.

And what a shame for the new Merrits Gondola not to be running at something like true capacity as well? Fill a cabin with known groups/families, alternate with the 2 x singles, same principle.

How to aply a COVID-19 Ski Plan to keep quad chair capacity at 75% of normal
Just add a singles line on the right, ensure there’s enough space for lifties to sort alternating loads to approach turnstiles – left circle above – so there’s no choke up at the pass gates, right circle above, and quad chairs only lose 25%, not 50% © Owain Price

The same idea, and same percentages, applies to 2 person lifts like t-bars and double chairs, except you don’t need a second singles line.

On triple chairs, assuming a one person gap in the middle is OK for the authorities, you would only lose 16.66% of the capacity. If they insist on 2 it’s 33.33% ..

When you get to awesome 6 pac lifts like they have at Buller (which has yet to announce their detailed guidelines for this – they have an excellent team working on all these issues) and all the main South Island NZ resorts, the maths starts to tax our limited brain power.

A couple and two mates demonstrate social distancing on Mt Hutt’s 6 seater © Owain Price

But if a one person gap is OK, the minimum load could be 3 people from the singles’ lines (smart liftie, alert punters as 2 get called through from one of those lines, one from the other) alternating with anything from 4 – 6 people from the known groups/family central line.

So that’s a capacity reduction only around 25 – 35%.

Perisher’s 8 seater makes the logistics of the carpet load maybe more complicated, but again applying the minimum 1 empty seat gap rule would allow only a 25% capacity reduction filling left and right sides from 2 single lines and 4 of the middle 6 seats with known groups/families. If you alternated that with larger known groups you could lower the capacity reduction even more, but that is probably over-estimating people’s organizational capacities. A steady flow of 4 through the middle plus a single either side would deliver consistent 6 passenger loads without many dramas.

As for pomas, j-bars and carpet lifts, if this was the Who Wants to be a Millionaire final question for the big bucks we should all get it right – there is zero reduction in capacity for single person (at a time) lifts.

So that’s one simple way to keep lift capacity reductions to a minimum.

Obviously: 1/ people need to get their act together and 2/ resorts want to have their best lifties on the key lifts/shifts to keep things moving smoothly.

It will be very interesting to see what other resorts come up with for their operating plans.

As the season progresses there will be a learning curve for the resorts and paying punters. Let’s hope it’s a short one – with limited capacity it’s more important than normal for people to be alert in lift lines. And lifties to be on the case.

The fact you can have a completely safe snow season is amply demonstrated by Japan’s recent season. We experienced no limited lifts at all there.

Let us know your thoughts on our socials, and any of your own bright ideas to make this whole COVID-19 ski gig work better.

Getting a lonely top to bottom line at Thredbo might be harder this year © Steve Leeder