Park seeks new lessee

Irish snowboarder Seamus O'Connor (13) wins the open men's snowboard event at the Electric Quarter Pipe Battle at the Snow Park last year.
Irish snowboarder Seamus O'Connor (13) wins the open men's snowboard event at the Electric Quarter Pipe Battle at the Snow Park last year.
The owners of the Snow Park on the Pisa Range are looking for a new skifield business partner; preferably one with $50 million to spend.

Lee family representative Sam Lee yesterday told the Otago Daily Times the present lessee, Robin Sadowski-Synnott, had not expressed an interest in continuing when her three-year lease expired at the end of March.

Mr Lee said he was now looking for expressions of interest not only from those interested in running the Snow Park, but also from investors interested in "going forward" with major developments beyond the park.

The two developments he is keen to see proceed are a $20 million, eight-person gondola from the Cardrona Valley floor to the top of the mountain, and a $30 million extension of the Snow Park into the Roaring Meg Valley, with five new chairlifts.

Mr Lee said his father, John Lee, had received one expression of interest but other potential investors were being sought.

"There's a lot of international interest in investing in New Zealand at the moment. People are looking for new places to put their money. Traditional places haven't been that secure."

The Queenstown Lakes District Council gave the family approval in 2008 for a $14 million gondola, and Mr Lee said that consent had another five years to run. He believed there were also few regulatory obstacles to expanding the skifield area across freehold land where chairlifts were a permitted activity.

Mr Lee said future management options for the Snow Park were "wide open" at this stage.

Either he or a new lessee would operate the Snow Park in a similar way to previous years "but with a few tweaks", or a major party would push ahead with the development.

"The first preference is to find someone to come in and invest the money to take my father's dream forward."

Mr Lee said 1000 cars a day passed through the Cardrona Valley and if just a small portion went up in the gondola "for a look", that would make it viable.

A gondola could carry 1000 passengers an hour, the trip taking just over 12 minutes.

Mr Lee believed growing interest in mountain biking would underpin the gondola's viability through the summer months, making the Snow Park a "four-season resort".

- mark.price@odt.co.nz