Piste off: ‘perfect’ snow as Covid-19 leaves Japan’s ski resorts deserted
The snow this winter on Japan’s ski runs and the powder on the off-piste is probably the best it has been in a decade.

Unfortunately, there is virtually no one to enjoy it as foreign winter sports fans are not permitted to enter the country due to the coronavirus pandemic and worried Japanese are opting to batten down the hatches and stay at home.

The result is that resort operators, hotels, ski schools and all the related businesses, from owners of rental properties to restaurants, rental shops and stores in towns that would usually be overrun at this time of year, are struggling to stay in business.

The industry was hit hard by poor snow conditions last year, operators say, and it is ironic that this year, with perfect conditions, the slopes are deserted. The only thing to do, they say, is to hang on and hope that things return to normal next season.

Some may not make it that far, they admit, while the bankruptcies could begin to pile up if the pandemic wipes out next winter as well.

Daniel Mee, a New Zealander who owns the Hakuba Snow Sports School in one of Japan’s most famous winter sports destinations, says this year has been “grim”.

Shorn of the international travellers who have in recent years flocked to Japanese ski resorts, operators had hopes that home-grown travellers who were not able to travel abroad might take advantage of the situation and pick up some of the slack.

There were expectations that subsidies available under the government’s “Go To Travel” campaign would encourage some to hit the slopes this winter, but rising coronavirus numbers forced the authorities to suspend the travel promotion programme in late December, just as the season was about to get into full swing. To make matters even worse, a state of emergency has been declared for Tokyo, Osaka and eight other prefectures across the country, with the public asked to strictly limit the time they spend mixing with other people.

Shorn of the international travellers who have in recent years flocked to Japanese ski resorts, operators had hopes that home-grown travellers who were not able to travel abroad might take advantage of the situation and pick up some of the slack.

There were expectations that subsidies available under the government’s “Go To Travel” campaign would encourage some to hit the slopes this winter, but rising coronavirus numbers forced the authorities to suspend the travel promotion programme in late December, just as the season was about to get into full swing. To make matters even worse, a state of emergency has been declared for Tokyo, Osaka and eight other prefectures across the country, with the public asked to strictly limit the time they spend mixing with other people. - South China Morning Post


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