Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Hope for the Ski Industry: 3 Nations Still Have Open Ski Resorts — More May Open Theirs Soon

After two months of tight lockdowns, China reopens two of its indoor ski areas. Photo by inthesnow.com
As the world stands still, ski lifts everywhere have stopped spinning. All North American ski resorts are now closed, there are rumors that ski areas in New Zealand and Australia may not open for their winter season, and a tremendous amount of uncertainty is present about how the next ski season is going to look due to the possibility that further waves COVID-19 infections can still impact the general population. But two nations — Sweden and Japan — are still hanging in there by keeping a select few of their ski areas open. And, according to the FIS, China has recently reopened two of its ski areas but they are currently operating with a restricted number of guests and other anti-virus-spread initiatives.

In the far north of Sweden, there are still two ski resorts that remain open: Björkliden and Riksgränsen

Both of these Swedish ski areas are owned by Lapland Resorts and are located well above the arctic circle. They are known for their beautiful scenery, variety of skiing, and excellent snow conditions. Even though Lapland Resorts is keeping its resorts opening during the COVID-19 pandemic, they have addressed the situation and mentioned the possibility that they may begin limiting pass sales. They wrote in a statement on April 6, 2020:

UPDATE ON 06/04/20 - 16:30

Kara Guests, 
Additional information about Ski Pass 
We get some questions regarding our announcement on April 2; " Sales of external ski passes may be limited to a maximum number." 
Season ticket holders and residents at Lapland Resorts always have access to the ski systems and transfer bus for lifts / bus rolls. Since we cannot know in advance exactly how many people appear on the slopes, we must reserve the right to be able to stop new sales of Skidpass if congestion begins to occur. 
On April 2, we announced that new bookings for Lapland Resorts have been stopped. The number of already booked accommodation guests is currently only about one third compared to "normal" Easter week and there will be no more, but perhaps fewer. The border from Norway is in practice closed. Thus, it seems likely that no great pressure from ski stoves will arise for our ski systems. 
If all guests in our ski system are careful to keep their distance and take into account, our assessment is  that we will not have to stop new ski pass sales.
Information about Lifts 
In Björkliden, Lappbergsliften closes at 15.00 for the rest of the season. The pot lift rolls as usual until April 13, then closed the rest of the season. Other lifts go as usual.
In the national border, the Nordalsliften will be closed for the rest of the season. Katterjåkklift's open holding is expanded and it rolls from 09:00 to 16:00 until now (today, however, 10:00 - 16:00). Other lifts go as usual. 
We look forward to a quiet, safe and respectful Easter weekend. 
Warm Greetings from Lapland Resorts
Northern Sweden has no shortage of snow this season. Riksgränsen ski patrol work to get the lifts running again on Feb. 21. Photo by Riksgränsen/Facebook.
Björkliden has a planned closing date of May 3, 2020, and Riksgränsen expects to close on May 17. 

It should be noted as well that Sweden is handling the COVID-19 crisis a little differently than other nations. And by a little, I mean a lot. Sweden is charting a different course, according to Vice News: "It’s keeping schools and businesses open, with the idea that resistance to a disease comes when enough people in the general population have survived it — aka "herd immunity.”

Meanwhile, in Japan, six ski resorts remain open. They include:

Niseko United in Japan is still open. Photo by Niseko United.
Niseko United addressed the COVID-19 crisis and its decision to remain open in a statement below.
Due to the recent outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) around the world, many people have been asking us, “Is Niseko United still open?”. The answer is yes! Niseko United is still spinning lifts for the public to enjoy our slopes. However, the operation of the resort is subject to change given the snow conditions as well as the development of the coronavirus pandemic. Here are the scheduled closing dates for each resort of Niseko United
Annupuri – May 6th, 2020 
Niseko Village – Closed April 12th, 2020 
Grand Hirafu – May 6th, 2020 
Hanazono – Closed March 29th, 2020 
March gave Niseko several storms of fresh snow, so there is currently enough of a snow base to keep operating. This means fun spring skiing conditions in Niseko! Come up to the slopes early to carve the corduroy while it is cold and fast, or wait for the snow to warm up and enjoy slashing around in the sun and the slush. The famous Hirafu Spring Park will once again be available for advanced park riders who want to enjoy larger freestyle features. 
The entire Niseko community is responding and taking all precautions possible to ensure a safe environment due to the coronavirus outbreak. Ski resort facilities, restaurants, and public spaces have added hand sanitizer dispensers all around for the public to use. Signs and instructions for everyday preventative measures can be found all around to encourage washing hands thoroughly with soap and water, as well as covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing. In Japan, wearing facemasks is a widely accepted way to protect yourself as well as preventing the spread of any disease to others. As facemasks are already commonplace in Niseko’s culture, this adds another level of preventative safety in the area. Niseko is an international community and we understand the importance of working together and preventing the spread of the coronavirus into the area.
Once again, lift operation and closing dates for each resort are subject to change. If you have any direct questions regarding lift operation details for the 2020 spring skiing season, please reach out to each resort individually. Also, please check our live Niseko United lift status page for real-time updates of the chairlifts.
A snowcat grooms the slopes of Niseko in the morning sun. Photo by Niseko United.
In China, Guangzhou and Kunming indoor ski areas are among those that have re-opened after months of being closed due to state-imposed lockdowns. The ski areas are now operating with a restricted number of guests and other anti-virus-spread initiatives. Harbin Snow World 24, the world’s largest indoor ski area, located in the north-eastern province of Heilongjiang, is reported to reopen soon as well, the FIS reports.

Chinese ski areas are beginning to reopen after months of being closed due to COVID-19 related lockdowns.
And then more good news: there's hope for even more ski areas to potentially open soon as well. Ål Skisenter in Norway is hoping to reopen shortly and will be announcing whether or not they will any day now. The ski resort said on their website:
We have, like everyone else, closed due to Korona. But as of April 14, we may be open if we adhere to guidelines from the Institute of Public Health. — Ål Skisenter
In the United States, Beartooth Basin, a summer-only ski area located on the scenic Beartooth Highway that runs between Wyoming and Montana, has announced that they still plan to open on May 30, 2020, for the summer ski season. This, of course, is still subject to change due to the global pandemic that is unfolding by the day, but the ski resort — as well as skiers and snowboarders  — are hopeful that they will still be able to make some turns this year.
Getting buttery at Beartooth Basin in June 2019. Photo by Martin Kuprianowicz.

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