Down-Under Whakapappa Ski Resort, New Zealand is a guinea pig for the 2020 ski season in the north.

As the sweltering summer heat persists in the Northern Hemisphere, the unknowns associated with the upcoming 2020 ski season persist with it.

Below the equator, it’s mid-winter, and ski resorts in New Zealand, Australia, Chile, and Argentina are struggling to operate during the COVID-19 pandemic. In Australia and New Zealand, ski season has commenced with special protocols put in place to ensure the safety and well-being of guests, while skiers in South America continue holding out hope that a ski season can be salvaged. The Southern Hemisphere ski resorts are, in a sense, the guinea pigs for the inevitable experiment that will be the 2020 ski season in the northern half of the globe.

New Zealand has had tremendous success in handling the pandemic, and moved to Level 1 of its four-level alert system on June 8, meaning residents can return to work, school, sports, and domestic travel without restrictions. On March 25, New Zealand was at Level 4 and entered a nationwide lockdown which helped curb the spread of the virus.

With restrictions lifted, many resorts in New Zealand opened at the end of June, without COVID-19 specific social distancing and personal protective equipment (PPE) protocols required. However, because of international travel restrictions still in place, specifically from Australia, many resorts are predicting a large decrease in visitors this season, which has also resulted in staffing cuts.