Ski season may be affected by recent disasters

NZSKI says it would be "naive" to think recent natural disasters in New Zealand, Australia and Japan would not have an impact on the 2011 season, but it was "too early to tell" if the impact would be negative.

Annually, about 80,000 Australians came to New Zealand to ski or snowboard, staying an average of three to 10 nights.

Some also came for the season and worked in local industries.

NZSki chief executive James Coddington told the Otago Daily Times yesterday the greatest impact on the New Zealand snow season would be the fallout from Australian events - which have included floods, fire and a cyclone.

"There is some internal upheaval which they have had to deal with in their own country ... we are over there [marketing and] talking to the communities ... there are other things outside our control right now.

"They're talking about a flood tax and [we're not sure] whether that's going to come in and have an impact on every Australian.

"From a negative stand-point, the floods and the tragedies which Australians have had to endure [have had] devastating consequences, including loss of life."

However, there were also plenty of positive signs which would hopefully "outweigh" the negative, he said.

Included in those were the favourable exchange rate; an increase from 21 to 32 direct international flights to Queenstown per week for this winter compared with 2010, and continued investment in snowmaking facilities at all of NZSki's mountains - Coronet Peak, the Remarkables and Mt Hutt.

"The continued investment in snowmaking capacity means more assurance ... that there's going to be snow on the ground when they want to come.

"It's also increased the length of our season - 10 years ago it was 80 days [long]; now it's 135 days a season.

"That ... has certainly got to give you some confidence that we'll have a longer season."

Another positive this year was a change in timing of school holidays, due to the 2011 Rugby World Cup, Mr Coddington said.

This year the Australian school holidays would occur two weeks before New Zealand's, meaning four weeks of school holidays in total, a traditionally busy time for skifields.

"That, we think, is a great positive."

Coronet Peak is scheduled to open on June 4, the first skifield in the southern hemisphere to open, followed by Mt Hutt on June 11 and the Remarkables on June 18.

The season is scheduled to end for Coronet Peak on October 9 and for the Remarkables and Mt Hutt on October 16.

Two Wanaka ski resorts have announced a joint adult season pass.

It is the first time the independently-owned Treble Cone and the Snow Park resorts have collaborated to offer a product.

It is called the Park 'n Powder pass.

Snow Park operations manager Sam Lee said the mountains had different weather patterns and the pass would give more flexibility.

The resorts have upgrade options for those who have already purchased early-bird passes.


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