Gondola service up Coronet takes first customers

Toasting their first ride in a gondola at Coronet Peak yesterday are (from right) NZSki owner Sir...
Toasting their first ride in a gondola at Coronet Peak yesterday are (from right) NZSki owner Sir John Davies; Trish, Lady Davies; former Queenstown mayor Warren Cooper and Lorraine Cooper.PHOTO: GUY WILLIAMS
Wind and rain could not stop hardy sightseers and mountain bikers from making the most of opening day for Coronet Peak’s first summer season in four years.

Eight gondola cabins have been attached to the Queenstown ski area’s Coronet Express chairlift, allowing owner NZSki to open up the mountain’s views, terrain and facilities to a broader spectrum of visitors.

Coronet Peak manager Nigel Kerr said the wheelchair-accessible gondola cabins provided "safety and comfort" while taking people of all ages and physical capabilities to an altitude, 1649m, which would normally require a few hours’ steep hiking.

From the top station, mountain bikers had access to two trails: the intermediate grade three Coronet XC, and the Coronet DH, rated an expert grade five trail.

Both linked to two Queenstown Mountain Bike Club trails, Rude Rock and Slip Saddle.

The company would start guided walks along the ridgeline, towards Mt Aurum, next Saturday, he said.

He expected sightseeing to become the dominant activity over time because of the "bloody awesome" views.

"That’s what’s going to make this a long-term business.

"Over the next three years, we want to turn it into a core Queenstown tourism activity."

The Department of Conservation has given NZSki temporary approval to use eight of its new gondola cabins this summer while it considers a 40-year concession application.

The mixed gondola-chairlift and other facilities will run daily, from 11am to 6.30pm, until the end of March.

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