Call ski patrol – Victoria’s 2020 ski season needs saving

Mt Buller groomers
Mt Buller groomers. Photo credit: Mt Buller

Dear Victoria ski fields, it was great while it lasted. All 24 hours for Hotham and Falls Creek and not much longer for Mt Buller.

After a late and continually delayed start to a dry snow season with a plethora of ticket meltdowns, comms breakdowns and social media blackouts, skiers finally got to click into their skis, and snowboarders took an edge, all was forgotten and the world truly seemed right again.

That not-so-petty pandemic disappeared with the first turn back on snow. The turns the entire industry had been working so hard for months for. 

Then today happened.

Well, technically yesterday happened when the NSW Premier announced the border with Victoria would be closed for at least 4 weeks to follow Queensland who had already done so, as had South Australia and friends. 

At first it seemed like a Melbourne skier’s jackpot, three resorts to choose from and guaranteed no lift lines with state borders closed. Bring it on. 

Then the second wave of Covid-19 spiked even higher in Melbourne and the city will now be in lockdown for 6 weeks from tomorrow night. Melbournians are being sent home from school holidays and told to stay in their primary residence. That means no beach houses, no lake houses, no ski lodges and no slope side condos – take note Aspen 5.

For six weeks there’ll be only four reasons to leave your home if you live in metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire. Shopping for food and essential items. Care and caregiving. Daily exercise. Work and study — if you can’t do it from home.

There will also only be three reasons to cross the border of these metropolitan areas: shopping for food and essential items – care and caregiving and work and study (again, if you can’t do it from home).

So, where does that leave a Victorian ski season that has already limped into the start line?

Throughout Covid we’ve done our utmost to remain positive and hopeful, but even we’ve found it hard today. The ski season may yet still continue in regional Victoria and that’s good news for locals who will have the pick of the runs on any day and 1000 tickets to choose from. 

Mt Buller released a statement this evening: 

Mt Buller is reviewing the implications of the Melbourne lockdown announcements shared by the Premier this afternoon and how they will impact resort operations.

This process will be carried out in close consultation with government and other alpine resorts before finalising an agreed path forward with our staff, guests, resort stakeholders and wider community tomorrow.

Resort operations will proceed as normal tomorrow, 8 July.

Mt Buller had already honoured all season passes in 2020 and given priority for tickets to those who had already booked accommodation. With 6 weeks of skiing gone for them, will they be compensated and how will resort businesses survive? 

Vail Resorts Australia had consistently pushed back their refund deadline date for Epic Australia Passes to July 12, but what of those Melbournians who had already used their Epic Australia Pass and now are in forced locked down in the city?

So many questions. 

Guest services at all resorts are already working overtime with the number of emails thanks to constantly changing goal posts in a pandemic season. The phone lines will now be hotter than a tamale on a midday grill.

So if you’re calling or emailing, please be kind AND BE PATIENT.

Though, it may be time to offer some short term employment to all those unemployed Qantas flight attendants, who know how to manage difficult people, and get them to man the phones and emails. 

You have to feel for the satellite towns, small businesses, tourism operators and any business that relies on snow tourism right now. You also have to feel even more for those in hospital with Covid-19, and their families.

One thing’s for sure, 2020 will end, dear Victorian people. It will end. I guarantee you that.

But before then, September spring skiing could still be a thing (you may just have to cross the border to get it).

We’ll update you with Victoria’s ski season decisions here. 

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Rachael Oakes-Ash is the name behind @misssnowitall and the founder of 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.