Skifields race to finish upgrades before season

Two ''big ticket'' items of skifield equipment being trucked to Treble Cone, near Wanaka, are the latest sign the ski season is not far off.

The $450,000 PistenBully 400 grooming machines are expected to be in action preparing ski trails well before the skifield's opening day on June 26.

Marketing and sales manager Nick Noble said yesterday the machines would mean more terrain could be groomed more often.

The other big project at the skifield over the summer has been the creation of a 400m extension to the ''high street'' intermediate trail to make it easier for skiers to get from the saddle to the main basin.

''A lot of the best intermediate skiing is out in the saddle,'' Mr Noble said.

''The hardest bit was coming back to the main basin.''

Mr Noble said applications for jobs on the mountain were now ''mostly closed'' and interviews were under way.

''There's been an absolutely huge response.''

At the peak of the season, in the July school holidays, Treble Cone employs about 180 people.

The field has had two snowfalls so far this year, including a ''particularly big'' fall two weeks ago.

At the Southern Hemisphere Proving Grounds on the Pisa Range, a new 450m ice-driving ''lane'' complete with snow-making equipment has just been completed and will open at the end of June.

The facility will cater for members of the public wanting to drive an Audi Quattro on groomed ice and snow.

Manager Steve Gould said yesterday the facility would be the only ice-driving experience available in the southern hemisphere.

At NZSki's Remarkables ski area, major developments are on track to be completed in the next six weeks.

Manager Ross Lawrence said yesterday cable was being run out for the new six-seat detachable chairlift, the central feature of the field's $45 million development.

The chairlift should be commissioned at the end of this month, increasing the terrain available at the field by 20%.

The number of snow-making guns at Remarkables has been doubled to 81 and the system has been automated.

Half of the 4km of sealing work planned for the bottom of the access road has been completed, leaving 9km of gravel.

And work is well advanced on adding about 150 car parks at the base building, lifting the field's parking capacity to about 750 vehicles.

Work had been affected by recent snowfalls and rain but Mr Lawrence said while the work programme had been ''tight from start to finish'' and was not quite finished yet, he was quite happy with progress and the field would open on June 21.

At Cardrona Ski Resort, the main project has been development of an ''intermediate jump line'' in the terrain park.

Field manager Gary Husband said he expected it to provide ''some pretty good entertainment'' for mid-level terrain park users.

Several small adjustments to trails had been made over the summer and more wind- and snow-fencing added.

This season, which begins on June 20, will be the first for Cardrona since the field was bought by Queenstown-based Real Journeys.

Mr Husband said it would be ''business as usual'' and the new owners were ''proving great to work with''.

mark.price@odt.co.nz