As summer returns to the Northern hemisphere, the Aussie and South American ski season starts to ramp up. But this winter is different. The novel COVID-19 pandemic shut Northern resorts in the middle of their season, and they’re not really sure what reopening for 20/21 is going to look like. This is usually the time when Navarro is dropping wild clips from the Andes, or Smoothy is skiing mangled glaciers in NZ. But we don’t really care about that this year… We just want to know if we can ride the quad chair with our friends next winter.
Rob Katz, CEO of Vail, has been in coordination with air travel experts, economic analysts, and Wall Street bankers to try and gauge what the snow business is going to look like for 20/21. The bottom line got chocked up like this: the resorts can’t depend only on locals, and probably not even on guests within driving distance of 10 hours or less. It remains imperative to fill the lodging vacancies in town. However, the amount of pent-up demand to go skiing is a very encouraging metric for the upcoming season. Eyes will be on the Australian resorts this winter, to learn and adapt to this evolving situation.
We’re not looking to the Southern Hem for conditions report, but how they’re taking on a socially distanced ski season. American resort leaders like Deer Valley’s Todd Shallan are putting plans in motion for a safe season. Demand is expected to be even higher this year because the lifts stopped spinning in mid-March, so people are really ready to ski again. It has seemed like an extra-long offseason already, so Northern resorts need to start preparing.
Ski towns had trouble with COVID-19 since it first appeared. Small towns like Crested Butte, Jackson, and Sun Valley had huge numbers of cases within limited local/rural health facilities. Mono County, home to Mammoth Mountain, had the highest number of cases per capita in all of California early on. But the paradox remains that these ski towns depend on non-local tourists to sustain their economies, and they need to open their doors.