Ski Australia or don’t ski at all, maybe till next year

UPDATE 9 JULY: Vail Resorts announcement that Hotham and Falls lifts are closed from today through till at least August 19 mean things are even worse – for most Victorians there is not going to be much of a season at all even at home.

So we were too optimistic ..

Ski Australia or don’t ski at all is looking more likely as time passes and COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc. Anyone thinking they might just sit our winter out and happily head off north over our summer to make up might have to think again.

Even the much touted “Trans-Tasman Bubble” flights seem to be going nowhere fast. A handful of quarantine cases in New Zealand, and the spike in Victoria, seem to have calmed even the most enthusiastic promoters of the process.

Mt Hutt is off to a great start with over 150cm of snowfall so far © Brinkley Village

NZ’s Deputy PM Winston Peters, a strong advocate for opening links to Australia sooner rather than later – even with single state offerings like flights to Tasmania as we reported a couple of months back – has had second thoughts.

“There are countries and populations – Queensland is one state and Tasmania is a second state, where we can get started. The Cooks, Niue, maybe other ones as well. But we need to be sure if anything went wrong there we had the facilities to deal with it” he said on Newstalk ZB today.

He says countries would have to have a clean record – zero community transmisson cases, like New Zealand has had since April 28.

But for Australia his comments imply that could apply to a state, not the whole country. Though how that would be policed is a difficult question – for example, the Northern Territory has just had the first new case for weeks from someone returning from Melbourne.

Australia’s Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham said over the weekend he is still hopeful of September ‘bubble’ flights happening subject to all the variables being met.

So while there may be cheap deals being advertised to ski New Zealand at the moment, until any quarantine free flights are acrtually confirmed as available it is really pointless booking anything. Unless a decision is made soon it will be game over till next year.

Vail last run to Minturn Saloon
Smashing lines at Vail or anywhere in America might be off the menu next northern winter © Owain Price

Looking further ahead too the northern winter any chance of an early resumption of quarantine free flights to America have been dashed by the worsening situation there.

Far from flattening the curve the USA recorded a record number of cases yesterday: 48,477 new coronavirus cases reported in a single day. That passed the previous record total of 45,255 new cases set on 26 June (according to data complied by Johns Hopkins University).

Ski USA? Even if there were flights, who is going to risk it?

Canada’s situation is better relatively than America’s (228 deaths per million vs 395 on the grimest statistic), with a largely flattened curve. But recent spikes, and still yesterday more deaths in one day (28) than Australia has had total and a far worse record than us overall make it highly unlikely there be any rush from the Australian side to renew quarantine free flights.

Shame Revelstoke is likely off our menu for next winter © Revelstoke

In Europe the EU has just published a list of 15 countries whose citizens would be permitted to visit their shared travel area from July – Australia is on the list, along with New Zealand, Algeria, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia and Uruguay and China.

In all cases, that is subject to recoprocity – so we would have to allow EU citizens the same rights. So don’t hold your breath planning a Euro snow trip either.

Zermatt is open now for summer skiing, but can we get there for next winter? © Zermatt Tourismus

Which among the majors leaves Japan – our number one choice for offshore snow trips for over a decade. Their overall death rate of 8 per million remains low, and overall the virus largey under control.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, responding to the EU decision to list Japan as above, had this to say at a news conference yesterday, “We understand that the EU policy that exempts 14 countries, including Japan, from entry restriction takes into account objectively Japan’s infection situation and is based on amicable Japan-EU relations.” 

He added that Japan is considering allowing travel from Australia, Vietnam, Thailand and New Zealand while imposing infectious disease control measures, and will consider whether to expand the list to include other countries and areas, such as the EU, based on the infection situation at home and abroad.

So we are on Japan’s radar as basically OK. Hopefully Australia and New Zealand likewise have Japan high on their lists.

Which makes Japan by far the most likely ski option to be available. But there’s a long way, and time, between likely and reality. Australian PM Scott Morrison has said recently international travel may not resume till July next year, but that “No one knows.”

Iwate Prefecture still has zero COVID-19 cases, so Geto would be high on our list of where to safely! © Dave Windsor

Which brings us back to square one. It’s ski at home or nowhere at the moment.

Good luck Victoria – if the new post code lockdown measures work in the next month hopefully their resorts will stay COVID-19 free, Buller will continue to open more terrain and Falls and Hotham will open as planned on July 5.

NSW is – so far so good – looking much better.

Thredbo have done their pre-sale, for better or worse. As more terrain opens they expect to offer some more tickets, especially if restrictions ease further, at $159 a day (or whatever discount level you have achieved for former 2020 season pass holders).

Which leaves Perisher as the last best hope for people wanting to get as much snow time in as they can without breaking the bank. The Epic Australia Pass is on sale till July 12 (just extended). At $889 if you can get 6 plus days out of it locally you will be ahead.

Your chances of using it in North America are not great at this stage as outlined above – that would be a big bonus. Using it in Japan at either or both of Hakuba and Rusutsu for the 5 consecutive days on offer at each of those remains a big, if smaller, if.

But otherwise it could well be wait till the 2021 winter downunder for your next chance to ski or board anywhere.

Maxing your time at Perisher sounds like a plan to us; Steve Leeder is © Owain Price