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Here we go again. Covid cases have ticked up in Australia this week to the point where the entirety of New South Wales has been forced back into lockdown, closing down the region’s major ski resorts of Thedbo and Perisher. According to New South Wales premier Gladys Berejiklian, this is “the worst situation Australia’s been in” since the start of the pandemic.
The resorts took to social media to announce the hopefully temporary suspension of what’s essentially the middle of the ski season in the Southern Hemisphere.
“This means that unfortunately Perisher’s operations will close, but we hope to see you again as soon as possible,” read a post dated August 14 on Perisher’s Facebook page. “This is difficult news for all of us, and we hope all our guests, employees and communities stay safe.”
Skier reactions ranged from grateful to have had any part of a season at all to folks wondering if they might extend the season if conditions warrant to season pass holders calling on Vail Resorts to return their money.
“Are you going to finally refund all the people who applied for their Epic Passes to be cancelled over a month ago?” asked one frustrated pass holder. The city of Sydney, where many skiers travel from to ski Perisher and Thredbo, has been under travel restrictions since June, so those skiing the resorts were mostly locals. Ironically, the Sydney restrictions are set to lift on Aug. 28 if health conditions allow.
Ski resorts in Victoria remain open presently, but due to the travel restrictions in place there, only locals can enjoy the slopes at the region’s resorts of Falls Creek, Mt. Buller, and Mt. Hotham. Melbourne, the closest urban center that serves the resorts, just extended its lockdown through Sept. 2.
Rising cases in the U.S. are wreaking havoc on back-to-school and back-to-office plans, but there’s been little word from North American resort operators regarding the upcoming season. In March, Vail Resorts announced that it didn’t intend to require reservations for the 2021-’22 season, but that was before the Delta variant reared its head.
“While we do not know exactly how COVID-19 will impact our industry next winter, we are not planning to have a reservation system next season,” former CEO Rob Katz wrote in a letter to pass holders last spring. “For anyone worried that the absence of a reservation system will lead to longer lift lines, we have extensive learning from this season around lift loading efficiencies and are implementing new strategies to materially reduce wait times.”
We anticipate starting to hear about proposed health guidelines at resorts for the upcoming season over the next couple of months, and will keep you posted as the situation continues to evolve.