'Snowmaking has been our saviour': NZSki exec

A big dumping of snow would be more than welcome, but visitor numbers at Queenstown's ski areas are holding their own, NZSki chief executive Paul Anderson says.

While patronage at Coronet Peak was down on last year's exceptional winter, it had been "extremely busy'' at The Remarkables, with some record days.

That meant the numbers for the season so far were about on par with the company's usual expectations, Mr Anderson said.

At Coronet Peak, man-made snow had got it through the Australian and New Zealand school holiday period, which ends on Sunday.

"Snowmaking has been our saviour this year. 

"We've got all the main trails covered, and when we get these nice cold nights, we get this crisp, cold snow being made.

"The product is still excellent, even though we've only had about 25cm of natural snow to date.''

Martin Stokes on the slopes at Coronet Peak on Wednesday. Photo: NZSki
Martin Stokes on the slopes at Coronet Peak earlier this month. Photo: NZSki

An exceptionally dry June had been a "double-edged sword'' for the mountain.

"With dryness we don't get precipitation, but we do get good snowmaking conditions.

"We'd love to have a couple of great big storms come through to cover all the off-piste.''

The Remarkables has been less reliant on snowmaking, with 80cm of natural snow to date.

With the busy school holiday period about to end, some natural snow would help attract independent travellers as well as locals.

"It is totally about perceptions, and when you get the dump of snow and the shots of people spraying powder around, that brings the punters out.

"If we had another metre of snow out there on the trails, it would be epic and everyone would be skiing off-piste.

"What we've got at the moment is exceptional skiing on-piste, which is where 80-90% of our market ski.''

NZSki was getting "mixed signals'' from its key skier market across the Tasman, he said.

The Australian economy was a "bit soft''.

Its skifields had received good early snow, seen it washed away by rain, then received another good dump.

"Our wholesale bookings are really strong - they're up year-on-year - but possibly the free independent travellers are down.''

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