Tours unable to continue

Snowmobile tours on the Pisa Range, near Wanaka, will not be available this winter. Photo supplied.
Snowmobile tours on the Pisa Range, near Wanaka, will not be available this winter. Photo supplied.
New Zealand's only snowmobile touring operation has been shut down.

OverSnow Tours Ltd, owned by Barbara and Kerry Poots, of Wanaka, has been running snowmobile tours each winter since 2010 from its base at the Snow Farm on the Pisa Range above the Cardrona Valley.

However, Mrs Poots told the Otago Daily Times this week she had been told by Snow Farm's owner, the Pisa Alpine Charitable Trust, the tours could not continue.

She said it was a ''real shame'' because the tours were increasingly popular and the business was expanding.

''It was another way of enjoying the snow environment without having to be committed to riding lifts.''

The trust took over the Snow Farm business from the Lee family in 2012 and creates groomed cross-country skiing trails on reserve land leased from the Queenstown Lakes District Council.

Mrs Poots said Mary Lee - operator of the Snow Farm for 20 years and now a trustee - had encouraged and supported them while they set up the snowmobile touring business.

''Mary played a strategic role in developing our first tours on Snow Farm trails.''

OverSnow had been a sponsor of the Merino Muster at the Snow Farm over the past three years.

''We had a very healthy working relationship with all other operators at Snow Farm,'' Mrs Poots said.

However, the change of ownership had introduced a culture of favouring non-motorised activities such as snowshoeing and Nordic cross-country skiing, she said.

She considered that was ''absolutely understandable''.

''We have absolutely huge respect for the other activities.''

Despite negotiations over ways the snowmobile operation could carry on, the company had not been able to come to a satisfactory agreement, and the touring side of the business had been closed down.

The company would continue to use its 12 snowmobiles for its other winter transport work - particularly in the film industry.

Mr and Mrs Poots had considered conducting tours in other places on the Pisa Range but had concerns about the safety of unskilled snowmobile drivers using ungroomed terrain.

''The Snow Farm offered a very easy, safe, viable environment,'' Mrs Poots said.

Trust member Peter Soundy told the ODT this week the land used by the Snow Farm was now council reserve and the terms of the lease agreement precluded motorised activities.

''We're not happy about Barbara not being able to operate, but it's a question of compatible activities and compatibility with the reserve status of the land.''

mark.price@odt.co.nz