Snow Park ready for June opening

Robin Sadowski-SynnottIt will be business as usual over winter at the Snow Park, which is scheduled to open on June 11 "with the co-operation of Mother Nature", Snow Park Holdings Ltd director Robin Sadowski-Synnott said yesterday.

Co-director and Snow Park founder Sam Lee (31) resigned on Wednesday citing a difference in values and a deterioration in his relationship with Mrs Sadowski-Synnott and her husband Sean Synnott, a 50% shareholder.

The couple invested in the Snow Park last year and took on roles in hospitality, finance and strategic direction while Mr Lee remained as operations manager.

Mrs Sadowski-Synnott said she preferred not to comment on Mr Lee's departure, saying she wanted to be optimistic and focus on the season ahead.

"It is important from my perspective that it is business as usual. We have a fantastic team in place and they are all very excited about the upcoming season.

"From our perspective, we have always acted in the best interests of the Snow Park. It is very close and dear to our hearts, as well as to our family.

We have always had the primary focus of making the Snow Park the best it can possibly be.

"We also recognise the importance of the Snow Park in the overall industry, and in terms of our loyal of customers and potential new customers and the overall community," Mrs Sadowski-Synnott said.

She said the couple had invested a lot in the Snow Park and were excited about some "significant hires" in recent weeks, including that of terrain park designer John Melville.

Other key staff appointments would be announced next week, including that of a snow sports director.

Meanwhile, Mr Lee's resignation has been greeted with regret within the snow sports industry.

Wanaka freeski coach Pete Legnavsky said the Snow Park was Mr Lee's "baby".

"For Sam to be throwing in the towel, it must be massive," he said.

"He's the man. He put Wanaka on the pipe and park map of the world. Cardrona had half-pipes for a long time before, but it was the Snow Park that did this thing - was first in the world to create a park-only skifield. He put the focus on the area hugely with marketing and branding. It is a pity that he, as a creator of a great thing, is stepping down for whatever reason," Mr Legnavsky said.

Olympic snowboarder Juliane Bray said yesterday the Lee family's contribution to the snow sports industry had been "massive" and she was grateful for that.

"The Snow Park always supported me as an individual athlete." The development of the Snow Park was an interesting story, with the Lee family picking up on the efforts of FreeRide NZ team snowboarders Josh and John Mezger and getting involved with the fast-paced development of freestyle snow sports around the world, she said.

Mr Lee had developed a relationship with highly regarded US terrain park shaper Frank Wells, which in turn encouraged international snowboarders to visit New Zealand and further boosted freestyle sports, Ms Bray said.

Sam Lee's father, Cardrona skifield entrepreneur John Lee (75), says he supports his son, but has declined further comment.

"It is between Sam and the Synnotts," John Lee said on Thursday.

marjorie.cook@odt.co.nz