All go as shops don winter garb

Browns Ski Shop staff (from left) Tom Page, Ania Butler and buyer Fizz Boyd were yesterday busy...
Browns Ski Shop staff (from left) Tom Page, Ania Butler and buyer Fizz Boyd were yesterday busy working behind covered windows to get ski equipment and clothing in place before the shop reopens tomorrow. Photo by Henrietta Kjaer.
On the surface, mid-May seems very quiet in Queenstown, but behind the scenes the resort is buzzing with activity in preparation for the influx of winter tourists and seasonal workers.

Three weeks before the first skifield opening day - June 5 at Coronet Peak, if the snow arrives or the weather stays cold enough for snow making - the first sign of the ski season approaching is the change of displays in shop windows.

Most of the shops selling outdoor equipment have already changed their window displays from bikes, hiking boots and tents to skis, snowboards and warm clothes.

R&R Sport on Shotover St had changed its format from last year by expanding into rentals, along with a new ski and snowboard workshop.

Other shops undergo a "metamorphosis", with a "summer" shop closing and a "winter" shop opening in its place.

Browns Ski Shop has been on Shotover St since 1980, and owner Kris Vermeir said up until 1997 the shop simply closed in summer, whereas now it transformed into Alpine Sports over summer.

The Browns Ski Shop rental department around the corner at Brecon St will also transform in summer, being replaced by Vertigo Bikes.

All three shops are co-owned by the same people.

"It is a major project to change the shops' fit-out two times a year.

"But it makes sense to keep the brands separate," he said.

Behind shop windows screened off by newspaper, staff are working hard on getting the shop ready for tomorrow's opening, and fitting the rental shop out to start operating on June 4, the day before Coronet Peak is due to open.

A new robot for ski tuning is also being installed in the workshop.

"We are in the middle of recruiting, but still have some vacancies, especially in the rental section.

"But we will be ready for staff training on May 24," Mr Vermeir said.

Further along Duke St at the Station Building, Snowbiz manager Euan Paterson said his rental shop already had all its seasonal staff on board.

The shop, which houses the retail shop of guided walk company Ultimate Hikes in summer, will be ready to open after June 1.

At R&R Sport, snowboard department manager Matt Taylor said some of the staff worked in the shop all year round, whereas others returned for winter positions.

"We are lucky to have a lot of returning staff, but have also employed new staff for the rental and workshop department.

"Yet, we are always on the lookout for staff with technical expert knowledge and experience."
Keep an eye on the Queenstown Times for more updates on Queenstown's preparations for the winter season.

Opening dates
Scheduled opening days for the local skifields - depending on weather and snow.

• Coronet Peak - June 5
• The Remarkables - June 19
• Treble Cone - June 24
• Cardrona - June 25
• Snow Park - June 26
• Snow Farm - Late June

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