Resorts set for bumper 2021 ski season
Opening weekend of the ski season is just days away and everyone in the game is an optimist.
Not even Victoria's COVID-triggered false start can dampen enthusiasm for what should be a bumper year, Australian Ski Areas Association CEO Colin Hackworth says.
While Greater Melbourne is not permitted to visit the state's regions until after the June long weekend, "it's only three days out of a long season", he said. "There's still 120 to go.
"That aside, bookings everywhere are very heavy and temperature conditions have been conducive for snow making."
At Cooma, in the NSW Snowy Mountains, Justin Rees agrees. He runs Ski Co, an equipment-hire outlet servicing the steady stream of ski enthusiasts en route to the slopes each June to October.
"Everyone's talking about a busy season and the way things are all booked up at the resorts, it sounds like we're going to be," he told AAP
"Put it this way, it's looking a hell of a lot better than last year."
Putting 2020 aside, the number of day passes purchased at Australian resorts has grown consistently since 2015 and was a touch under 2400 for 2019.
As Mr Hackworth insists, "going to the snow has never been more popular".
Exactly why that's so is up for debate but it's surely not because skiing and snowboarding is getting cheaper.
The asking price for a weekend's accommodation for two at some resorts can top an eye-watering $3000.
A single day adult lift ticket from late June at Mt Hotham or Falls Creek will set customers back $165, while at the country's biggest resort, Perisher, the price is $180, a rise of about $50 since 2016.
Food prices are mountain steep too. Don't expect change from $20 for a burger while a handful of chicken nuggets can go for $15.
The association argues the rising expense of ski holidays has been offset by infrastructure upgrades which equal enhanced experiences.
Perisher, which actually consists of four smaller former resorts, has installed two new lifts over the past several years, the most recent part of a $4.2 million investment in 2019.
It's spent $22 million on snowmaking since 2007 and has the capacity to fire up 236 snow guns across the park's 53.4 hectares, with more in the works.
"Like all high-technology industrial systems, snowmaking's not cheap but it's highly effective," Mr Hackworth said.
"That's why operating days have actually increased for all resorts because they're able to make a great deal of snow earlier and earlier in the season."
As for on-snow accommodation, he points to the fact that new and interesting offerings are popping up every year. Mt Buller and Falls Creek are stand outs, regularly achieving awards for stays and dining offerings.
But if ski-in, ski-out lodgings aren't within budget, there are alternatives.
Club facilities offer a cheaper choice at most resorts, but availability can be scarce. Staying off-piste can also mean good deals.
Perisher has its own budget digs at Jindabyne, 30 minutes' drive from the slopes, with 248 cabins.
As for boots, skis and poles, if you don't have your own, don't hire them on the mountain.
Aldi's annual skiwear sale has become something of a phenomenon among bargain hunters. And there's always the option of stopping at places like Ski Co on the way to the resort.
Mr Rees says he can save customers around half of what they'd pay on the mountain and up to 70 per cent on kid's packages.
But again, booking early is key.
"If you decide on the 11th of July to go skiing on the 12th of July, well, it won't be cheap because you'll have to take what you're given," Mr Hackworth said.
"But if you think and plan ahead, it doesn't have to be an expensive pastime."
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