Decision to seal skifield access road

The winding 13km alpine road to the Remarkables skifield is to be sealed - starting with the bottom 4km, which will be ready for this ski season.

Snow enthusiasts already have a new chairlift to look forward to for the field's June 21 opening and NZSki chief executive Paul Anderson said the company's board had decided ''now is the time to make the investment to improve access to the ski area''.

The remainder of the road would be sealed ''over the next two or three years'' but ultimately it would be the customers who decided the timetable.

''Really, it will depend on how we go the next few years. Our guests will tell us. If we've got a lot of people going up, then we'll get that road sealed a lot quicker.''

Mr Anderson, who joined the company in the role last August, said the sealing ''really cements the position of Coronet Peak and the Remarkables as the two most convenient and easiest-to-get-to ski areas from Queenstown''.

Work sealing the road will start by the end of this month and will be done to the 4km mark, just past Windy Point, in time for the 2014 season.

The work is part of a $45 million redevelopment of the ski area, and the biggest since the skifield's inception in 1985.

Ready for this season will be the new six-seater, 1.2km Curvey Basin chairlift, a 20% expansion of the learners' area, 1.6km of new trails, double the number of snowguns to 100 and 150 extra car parks.

Mr Anderson expects the developments ''will attract far more skiers and snowboarders to the mountain this season''.

Next summer, a new base building will be completed.

He said the base terminal foundation for the new chairlift had been poured and contractors had started to make access tracks to where the towers would be. By May 1, all heavy machinery must be off site, as requested by the Department of Conservation.

The road has proved challenging for drivers. Last ski season, a 38-year-old Queenstown man plunged between 150m and 200m off the Remarkables access road, receiving whiplash. Then a family of four from Hong Kong escaped serious injury when their van rolled 40m off the road.