New Zealanders Brook Miller and Brittany Hart relax after arriving in Queenstown yesterday from Melbourne, where they have been living for the past 18 months. The couple said the resort's downtown area was quieter than they had expected. Photo by Guy Williams.
Winter has delivered a mixed bag for Queenstown and Wanaka
skifields, ranging from rain-saturated snow and consecutive
closed days, to capacity crowds and the best season on
With New Zealand and Australian school holidays condensed
into three weeks this year compared with five last year, a
patch of poor weather last week has had a proportionately
greater impact on skifield visitors.
However, falling temperatures, non-stop snow-making and
capacity crowds in the past week have the skifields declaring
the school holidays a success.
Treble Cone marketing manager Nick Noble said the skifield
was back on track this week after closing for three days from
last Saturday because of poor weather and rain-affected snow.
The mountain had received 10-15cm of new snow since then and
consistently low temperatures had allowed ''non-stop''
snow-making for the past four days.
''Obviously being closed for any days during the school
holidays hurts a bit, but since we've reopened, the numbers
have been really good and we've had lots of families up here
which has really helped,'' Mr Noble said.
Numbers at cross-country ski area Snow Farm, on the Pisa
Range, were slightly up on previous school holiday periods,
ski operations manager Andy Pohl said.
''Partially I think because the alpine fields have been so
busy so we're getting a bit of run-off from that.''
Cardrona Alpine Resort, which closed its gates after reaching
capacity on Monday, was experiencing its ''best year on
record'', but numbers would ''soften'' from next week as
families returned to school and work, sales and marketing
manager Nadia Ellis said.
''Our numbers are tracking really really well. We're well
ahead of last year.''
The unprecedented Cardrona holiday crowds came despite a
difficult start to the season, in which some warm and wet
spells affected snow conditions, Ms Ellis said.
The Remarkables ski area manager Ross Lawrence said it had
been ''catching up fast'' since opening on July 3, 12 days
later than scheduled, and school holiday patronage was up on
''If we didn't get that, we would have been surprised, what
with all the development we did over the summer.''
The skifield experienced a ''bit of a learning curve'' on
July 6 when it closed its access road after its top car parks
became full, and then charged people $10 for a bus up the
It had underestimated the crowd that day, but better car park
management meant it would be a ''one-off'', Mr Lawrence said.
Coronet Peak ski area manager Ross Copland said the school
holidays had started with ''a bit of a hiss and roar'', with
fine weather and good crowds, followed by a patch of warm,
wet weather in the second week.
''But in this final week, we are back to big days and good
conditions with the area's busiest day in two years on
He estimated school holiday numbers overall had been about
Destination Queenstown chief executive Graham Budd said
families had been the dominant visitor groups in the past two
to three weeks, which meant ski areas had been busy and
accommodation full, but the resort's bar scene might have
been quieter than usual.
He expected visitor numbers to remain steady for the rest of
the month and into August because young professionals tended
to schedule visits after the school holidays.