Snow Farm founders John and Mary Lee and Queenstown Lakes
Mayor Vanessa van Uden (centre) celebrate the handover of
the cross-country ski area (behind them) to the community
at a ceremony on the Pisa Range yesterday. Photo by Lucy
New Zealand's only dedicated cross-country ski area was
officially handed over to the community at a small but
significant ceremony high on the Pisa Range near Wanaka
The deed of settlement for the Snow Farm land, situated above
the Cardrona Valley, was presented to Queenstown Lakes Mayor
Vanessa van Uden, fulfilling a long-held vision of the
skifield's former owners John and Mary Lee to place the
skifield in community ownership.
After what Mr Lee described as a "seven-year gestation
period", the land was vested in the Queenstown Lakes District
Council to be held in perpetuity as a recreational reserve
and leased to the Pisa Alpine Charitable Trust, which bought
the skifield business and took over its management this year.
The Lees applied for a recreation permit for the Pisa Range
in 1984, before opening Snow Farm in 1990. They also
developed the Snow Park skifield and the Southern Hemisphere
Proving Ground on Waiorau Station, and the Cardrona skifield
across the valley on Mt Cardrona Station.
Mrs Lee, who was manager of the Snow Farm for 22 years,
yesterday said preserving the ski area for public use was
"our dream, but we couldn't have reached the reality today
without the trust members sharing the passion".
The Lees were hailed as great visionaries for what they had
"John Lee has the most amazing, huge, selective blind spot,"
friend Denis Pezaro said in a special tribute.
"He's congenitally unable to understand two concepts: one is
'can't', the other is 'don't'."
Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean congratulated the Lees on causing "a
bit of a sea change" in Parliament.
"We can see that there is mixed use for the high country ...
you can have environmental values and you can make a buck out
of it along the way," Ms Dean said.
Ms van Uden read a message from former prime minister Helen
Clark, a long-time user of and advocate for Snow Farm.
"I'm delighted that a way has been found to maintain this
wonderful area for recreational purposes for generations to
come," Miss Clark, a keen cross-country skier and alpine
QLDC community general manager Paul Wilson said the Snow Farm
purchase also resolved any risk to the future of the winter
sports - including next year's Winter Games - which used the
Funding for the land purchase was achieved with cornerstone
funding from the QLDC, matching support from the Central
Lakes Trust, and major contributions from the New Zealand
Lotteries Grants Board Community Facilities Fund and the
Community Trust of Otago.
"The Lee family have also assisted with the finance for the
purchase of the business assets on generous terms," Mr Wilson