Did Victoria just get the go ahead for skiing and boarding?

Mt Buller. Pic: Jordan Mountain

There’s a paragraph buried in the new “eased restrictions” for Victoria that has the ski industry puzzled and Victorian skiers and boarders waxing their skis. But don’t get too excited, just yet.

Victoria’s State Premier, Dan Andrews, announced an easing of Covid-19 restrictions for the state today with gatherings of up to 5 people allowed at home and 10 people together outdoors, with appropriate social distancing. The AFL has also been given clearance to resume training from Wednesday and community sports can also resume with physical distancing rules and a 10 person limit. 

Victorians are permitted to leave their home for work, education, shopping for essential supplies, medical and compassionate care, visit family and friends with the 5 person limit and exercise. 

National Parks

Day trips are now permitted to State and National Parks, and that’s where it gets confusing for the snow industry.

“Under the new directions, parks may reopen for hiking and other recreational activities, but you cannot gather in groups of more than 10 people at any one time” says the Department of Health and Human Services Victoria website which also states “you can go for a drive, but you are encouraged to stay local, and only go to places where you can drive there and back within one day.”

Snow sports

But when it comes to snow sports the site now explicitly states:

“Snow sports can continue. Use of shared sporting equipment should be minimised and there should be no sharing of equipment that touches the face or head (e.g. helmets, goggles or masks). Travel is allowed only for permitted activities and includes day trips but no overnight stays. As always, Victorians are being asked to use common sense when it comes to travelling.”

They also state that under Sport and Exercise “permitted activities” you must keep your distance 1.5 metres apart (easy for skiers and boarders) and you are not doing your activities indoors (enough said) and they are not competitive (team vs team) and you can have a maximum of 10 people.

If your household is greater than 10 people, you can practice your sport/recreation activity with your household.

What does this all mean?

Firstly you can’t ski or snowboard without snow, right? So there would need to be more of that. Secondly you can’t theoretically ski or snowboard within a resort unless it’s open and the earliest resorts would traditionally open would be the June long weekend. 

But you can, according to the regulations, ski and snowboard in the national and state parks, so backcountry would be an option, so long as you know what you’re doing and don’t put others lives and local health services at risk. There lies the problem.

You’d also need to be able to travel there and back from your home within a day and you’d have to make sure you weren’t skiing in a group of more than 10 unless you were living with them. 

What do the resorts say?

We’ve reached out to each of the resorts and the Australian Ski Areas Association for comment and at time of print most were still in an industry huddle nutting out the finer details of what this means. You’ll know, when we know.

What we do know is they don’t want an influx of people they can’t support or handle and they do want to protect their season ahead. A mad rush of people could be a disaster.

Laurie Blampied Buller Ski Lifts General Manager commented, “The industry will provide a statement when it has a had a chance to digest today’s events.”  

So watch this space.

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Rachael Oakes-Ash is the name behind @misssnowitall and the founder of SnowsBest.com. A long time travel and lifestyle journalist and ski writer, she's been published in ESPN, TIME, Wallpaper*, Action Asia, Inside Sport, Australian Financial Review, Emirates Open Skies, Conde Nast Traveler and more. She was the Fairfax snow blogger from 2007 to 2017 and the Southern Hemisphere editor for OnTheSnow. Rachael is also a documentary producer, author, radio announcer and humorist.