Remarkably nice day on skifield

It was all smiles and cloudless blue skies up the Remarkables this morning as crowds flocked to the slopes.

The turnout was modest, attracting almost a thousand skiiers and snowboarders, but some said the mountain was not as busy as previous open days.

"Any day you're open is a good day in the season," said NZ Ski chief executive Paul Anderson.

"[There was] a lot of energy in the crowd ... it's just great to see," he said.

Remarkable ski area manager Ross Lawrence gave a tour of the skifield to the Prime Minister.PHOTO...
Remarkable ski area manager Ross Lawrence gave a tour of the skifield to the Prime Minister.PHOTO: CASS MARRETT

After the champagne was popped, and cheers erupted, the early risers clambered onto chairlifts.

Among the first in the chair, wearing the coveted 'first chair' t-shirts were Queenstown Primary school pupils Aaron Quinn and Zac Mcaullife, who said it was "sick as" to be spending the day on the skis.

Mr Mcauliffe said he'd been skiing "since before I could walk" and had arrived around 8am in hopes of being first on the lift.

Also in the line up, was Nolani Ritchie, who had also nabbed first chair on Coronet Peak two days prior.

Miss Ritchie said she arrived at the skifield at 1pm the prior afternoon and camped out to secure her spot at the front of the crowd.

"I did a few hours on Coro Peak skiing and then we came here.

"It was very freezing at night but it was great to be first chair, it was my dream," Miss Ritchie said.

Her dad, Terry Ritchie, said he was glad to brave the cold if it made his daughter happy.

Three out of four lifts were spinning and despite some wind, conditions made for some "beautiful skiing".

"The snow at this time, it is dry, crunchy ... [and] cold temps hold that snow in very good condition," Remarkables ski area manager Ross Lawrence said.
Veteran skiier Natalie Urbani said "it was a perfect bluebird day for it".

She got the record last year for "verticals".

"Every time you go to the gate you get so many metres for each chairlift," Ms Urbani said.

"I did 1.1million last year, I got 87 days."

Ms Urbani, who has been skiing for 30 years, said she'll "hopefully" beat that record this year, assuming there were no more three-week lockdowns.

Numbers remained steady through the day and excitement levels did not wane, especially with the arrival of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Tourism Minister Stuart Nash.

Following a tour of the ski field and a ride up the Curvey Basin chairlift, the Prime Minister and Tourism Minister addressed media.

Remarkable ski area manager Ross Lawrence pops the opening day bubbles .PHOTO: CASS MARRETT
Remarkable ski area manager Ross Lawrence pops the opening day bubbles .PHOTO: CASS MARRETT
Ardern said there was a lot of enthusiasm from both Kiwis and travellers and that the key message was "we're open".

"I had a few 'g'days' as I came down on the chairlifts indicating that ... we will be seeing Australians come into the season, they make up 70 percent of our international tourists who come in to experience New Zealand ski fields.

"They know they get a high quality experience and in close proximity ... so the message today is 'we're open'," Ms Ardern said.

Ms Ardern acknowledged the key issue for Queenstown at present was its chronic staffing shortages, but hoped staffing numbers would rebuild alongside flight schedules.

"The capacity for people to move around the world, not just into New Zealand is more restricted than it's been before ... that naturally will slow a bit of movement globally," she said.

"We want to make sure that when [tourists] come to New Zealand, they do have a high quality experience, in fact, that's been the reason that we've been focused in working with the tourism industry to make sure that that is what we're rebuilding here," Ms Ardern said.

To help address staffing shortage Ms Ardern alluded to several changes that had occurred since her last visit to Queenstown including fully opening working holiday visas and work with Immigration New Zealand and Tourism New Zealand on promotional activity.

"You also will have seen our announcements around immigration settings going forward, we've acknowledged that hospitality do have some real need.
"We've given a longer lead time for some of the changes we'll see in that area to allow those who do have those shortages, to be able to source the skills that they need as well," Ms Ardern said.

Mr Lawrence said his hopes for the rest of the season at the Remarkables were "that the snow keeps coming -- at night -- and by day, they're blue sky days and we have a great winter".





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