Owners of The Remarkables skifield are laying long-life
cast-iron piping throughout the trails in what they call a
vote of confidence in the future of the ski business.
While global warming scenarios forecast more temperate
weather in the deep south, NZSki is investing heavily in its
fields, confident it will not be badly affected by long-term
The company is spending $45 million upgrading facilities and
infrastructure at the field near Queenstown and instead of
using traditional steel pipe that lasts about 25 years to
hook up its snow-making machines peppered around the
Remarkables ski area, it is investing in ductile iron, which
lasts 50 years or more.
‘‘We're confident at those altitudes we're going to get snow
that is going to last in the long term,” said Paul Anderson,
chief executive of NZSki, which also owns nearby Coronet Peak
and Mt Hutt in Canterbury.
The company's general manager of sales and marketing, Craig
Douglas, said ski operators were prepared for changed weather
patterns and snow-making machines needed only cold
‘‘The little bit of work that's been done on it by the
academics has suggested that we're not going to be
significantly temperature-affected by global warming in our
particular locations,” he said.
In the shorter term, the company relied on five-day
‘‘We don't have long-term trend forecasting, We have to deal
with a tremendous amount of variation which is far more
important than any long-term trend.”
This means spending millions of dollars peppering snow-makers
and installing water and air pipes around the fields. The
machines work at temperatures around -2C and ensure the main
trails are kept open.
On Coronet Peak there are 200 of them.
‘‘Our business is about snow and the big issue is about
reliability - to be able to go to the market and be able to
say this will happen,” Douglas said.
Coronet Peak and Mt Hutt are scheduled to open on June 7 and
The Remarkables a fortnight later to coincide with the
Queenstown Winter Festival.
NZSki is owned by Trojan Holdings, whose owner is South
Island tourism pioneer and investor Sir John Davies, a former
mayor of Queenstown.
Anderson said the business had elements of risk around it,
but was making good returns.
‘‘It's heavily capital intensive so you do have to have
ambition and guts.”
He said NZSki had about 35 per cent of the market and its
fields had just on 500,000 visits a year.
This winter was shaping up strongly from Australia, whose
skiers are the biggest spenders and make up about half the
number who hit the slopes at the Queenstown fields.
Airlines this winter will have 50 direct transtasman flights
- up 10 a week on last year.
Douglas said that while Australia was not in the best
economic shape domestically, as a market of origin, it was
lining up positively.
‘‘The value for money that was offered by the North American
market and the Euro [zone] has largely been diminished by
currency movements there. People were doing a lot more
long-haul but now maybe they'll travel closer to home.”
Rules restricting flights from the airport to daylight could
be relaxed as early as winter 2016 which would boost tourism
further, Douglas said.
Coronet Peak, Mt Hutt - June 7
The Remarkables - June 21
Cardrona - June 20
Treble Cone - June 26
Snow Farm - June 21
Mt Ruapehu ski areas - June 28
- Grant Bradley of the NZ Herald