Summer ski plans possible

Summer skiing at Coronet Peak could become a reality.

NZSki has applied to install a "snow factory'' which makes ice and shreds it into snow regardless of the outdoor air temperature.

Chief executive Paul Anderson said if NZSki installed the equipment, it would give the Queenstown skifield the option of making snow in summer to be used for sledding or, potentially, for ski lessons.

While it had no immediate plans to add the equipment - it was looking 30 to 40 years into the future - NZSki had included it in an application for a concession from the Department of Conservation.

"We're trying to include in there anything that we might do in the future and, certainly, if a `snow factory' gave us the opportunity to open earlier and close a bit later then that might be a direction we'd go.''

Coronet is already home to 214 snow guns, able to blanket the main trails in 72 hours, provided the temperature was below 0degC.

The "snow factory'' was not designed to replace that system, but to boost it.

Once the snow was made it was blown "a couple of hundred metres'' from a pipe, Mr Anderson said.

"So you can make piles of snow ... and then you get a groomer to push it out, so you can make snow over quite a wide range.''

The company has also applied to the department to use the new eight-seater gondola cabins between December 1 and March 31, as well as its existing six-seater chairlifts, to transport foot passengers and other users up the mountain.

Mr Anderson said NZSki had bought 12 cabins. One had been shipped to Queenstown and would go on display.

Long-term, the cabins would be attached to the Coronet Express line during the ski season as well.

"For us, our focus is making sure we meet the highest standards for health and safety and for foot passengers that means putting them in a gondola cabin.''

In 2013, NZSki banned foot passengers from using its chairlifts after an Auckland couple jumped from one in August 2012.

The woman sustained a pilon fracture of her ankle, with breaks of the left tibia and fibula around the ankle joint.

Her partner needed surgery to repair his ruptured rotator cuff and even 16 months later was still unable to work.

In December 2013 NZSki admitted a breach of the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 and was fined $27,000 and ordered to pay the couple a total of $47,500.

Submissions on NZSki's application close with Doc on August 30. If a hearing is required that will likely be on September 12 or 13.


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