It's onwards and upwards for McCrostie

Hamish McCrostie is moving on to a new career after resigning from NZSki. Photo supplied.
Hamish McCrostie is moving on to a new career after resigning from NZSki. Photo supplied.
Ask Hamish McCrostie about his 32 years with NZSki and its predecessor the Mt Cook Company and pride is a common theme.

Mr McCrostie was most recently ski area manager at Coronet Peak and will soon be selling houses in Queenstown, having resigned from NZSki in November.

He finished with the company on December 21.

Having been in the ski industry for most of his life, he said it was now time to pursue something he had had in the back of his mind - the profession of both his father and grandfather.

Mr McCrostie's time with the company began in 1980, when he became a

ski patroller, at the age of 22. He has been head of the patrol departments at both the Remarkables and Coronet Peak, ski area manager for both mountains and has contributed to national avalanche and mountain safety programmes.

While these days Coronet Peak has ''state of the art'' automatic snow-making machines and the Remarkables has approval in principle from the Department of Conservation to increase its machine numbers from 70 to up to 125, there was initial doubt around making snow.

''There was a lot of scepticism, but I believed that it could be done,'' Mr McCrostie said.

He said 1988 was a really bad snow year.

''Coronet opened 35 days [that season] but the Remarkables, being higher in elevation, had more snow.

''That was the catalyst for snow-making, that's when they [company owners] were convinced that they needed to invest in snow-making.''

During the summer of 1989-90 he was poring over 20 years of weather records and created a profile with colleague Duncan Smith which ''determined that snow-making was a very viable option at Coronet''.

''I'm very proud of our achievements ... we proved to everyoneit could be done.''

In 1990 60 hydrants and 21 snow-making guns were installed at Coronet Peak.

''Without snow-making Queenstown would struggle. The town really relies on that.''

Mr McCrostie was a key player when the Remarkables skifield opened in 1985, something he said gave him and others ''the opportunities to do new things''.

''The Remarkables had a huge amount of avalanche terrain compared to Coronet, which is fairly benign. It was quite a learning experience.

''At the time there was great debate about the building and where it was. Then in 1987 we had an avalanche.

''But at the end of the day, we did things pretty well. We changed people's view on things.''

His achievements within the company are many. He became

head patroller at the newly-opened Remarkables in 1985, then was patrol manager for Coronet Peak and the Remarkables simultaneously in 1989. He managed the Remarkables as ski area manager in 1995, then Coronet Peak from 2007.

He is proud of the Remarkables receiving a tubing park in 1995 and Coronet Peak receiving a major face-lift in 2007, saying since he has been at the helm of Coronet Peak ''it's been non-stop'', which is also a tribute to the owners' ''willingness to invest''.

''The last 10 years have been the biggest period of growth.''

Queenstown, he said, has transformed from a ''sleepy little hollow'' to a four-season enterprise, which he said could be partly attributed to the skifields.

''The development on the mountain has given people the confidence to invest, that's in the hotels, the infrastructure and the flights.''

When asked whether he would do it again, he answered with a definite yes.

''It's been fantastic.''

- christina.mcdonald@odt.co.nz