$40m upgrade of skifield proceeds

NZSki chief executive Paul Anderson (left) and Remarkables ski area manager Ross Lawrence oversee work at the skifield. Photo by Christina McDonald.
NZSki chief executive Paul Anderson (left) and Remarkables ski area manager Ross Lawrence oversee work at the skifield. Photo by Christina McDonald.
''We know we can grow the market'', NZSki's Remarkables ski area manager Ross Lawrence has asserted, as work continues on the skifield's biggest upgrade since its inception in 1985.

Stage one of the $40 million upgrade, to be completed before this year's ski season, includes a 1.2km chairlift to run from below the current base building to a high point, which gives users views of Lake Alta.

''The whole idea is it will increase patronage,'' Mr Lawrence said, adding Australia was a specific target.

''We can grow the market, especially the Australian market ... The potential is there and we know that.''

The development was on a strenuous schedule, which meant ''a full summer's work'', he said.

By May 1 all heavy machinery must be off site, as requested by the Department of Conservation, and the new Curvey Basin lift was scheduled to become operational on June 1, Mr Lawrence said.

The skifield is scheduled to open on June 26.

As part of the ''push for the family market'', the skifield's learners' area - which was at capacity - will be increased by 20% and the new trails and gradients created by contractors and serviced by the Curvey Basin lift will cater to a range of skiers and snowboarders.

The new six-seater lift will transport up to 2400 people an hour.

NZSki chief executive Paul Anderson, who joined the company in August, said NZSki wanted to be in a prime position to attract the growing number of ski tourists.

The 400m Alta chairlift, which will run alongside Curvey Basin, would be left in place for now and its use analysed, he said.

The upgrade had taken five years of concept planning, he said. Mr Lawrence said it had been ''pretty well planned ... That's why it's taken [just] two years to get consents.''

Work was being done according to ''cut and fill'' criteria so ''we don't have to bring anything in or take anything away'', he said.

About 80,00cu m of material will be moved during the work.

Also included in stage one is the addition of 150 car parks to bring the total to 660; doubling the number of snow-making guns to 100; and 300m of road alignment.

The upgrade involved ''a big spend'' and the layout would be similar to that at Coronet Peak, where customers had a ''sense of arrival'' in the building before stepping out on the snow, Mr Lawrence said.

-christina.mcdonald@odt.co.nz