Blazing a trail of service


For Mary Lee, her recognition in the King’s Birthday Honours rekindled memories of decades spent developing the Cardrona Valley into the snowsports hub it is today.

"It’s brought back all the memories of the people that have helped us as well and assisted us through. Because no-one can do things by themselves."

2024 King’s Birthday Honours recipient Mary Lee, of Wanaka, said the honour had her reminiscing...
2024 King’s Birthday Honours recipient Mary Lee, of Wanaka, said the honour had her reminiscing about a life spent building Cardrona’s snowsports offerings. PHOTO: RHYVA VAN ONSELEN
Mrs Lee was appointed a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to snowsports and tourism.

Mrs Lee and her husband John Lee developed Cardrona Ski Field, Snow Park and the Snow Farm in the Cardrona area. 

From 1987 to 2008, Mrs Lee managed and developed Snow Farm, New Zealand’s only dedicated cross-country skifield, continuing now in voluntary roles. Her efforts have provided employment opportunities and attracted national and international ski tourists, with trails providing off-season business. 

Mary Lee competes in the 42km Merino Muster ski race at Snow Farm in 2022.PHOTO: THE SUN FILES
Mary Lee competes in the 42km Merino Muster ski race at Snow Farm in 2022.PHOTO: THE SUN FILES
The Lees sold Snow Farm in 2008 and formed the Pisa Alpine Charitable Trust to ensure it remains a recreational area in perpetuity. They developed the Merino Muster race at the Snow Farm in 1995, which was included in the Worldloppet international race series in 2014. 

She remains New Zealand representative for the Worldloppet Ski Federation, and director and secretary of the Merino Muster. 

Mrs Lee said she still committed "quite a few hours" to teaching cross-country skiing on a voluntary basis, and still got up to the snow at least four days per week during the ski season.

"I’ve worked with the Nordic youth a lot and that was the thing I loved the most," she said.

"I loved the pathways that gave kids so much more confidence in life."

In addition to setting up the Wānaka Nordic Ski Club’s youth development group in 1999, designed to help young people compete in overseas competitions, she also founded Snow Girls, a cross-country skiing and social network for women of all ages. 

In 2022, she was the first person to receive the NZQA Snowsports Instructor Award — Cross Country Skiing Level 4.

Mrs Lee volunteers with SeniorNet and the Cardrona Heritage Trust, and has held founding and executive roles with the New Zealand Cross Country Ski Association and Biathlon New Zealand.

Last month, Mrs Lee and her grandson Archie Lee (2) walked, biked and scooted the length of a marathon to raise money for the Heart Foundation.

The duo managed to raise over $3000 for the cause.

She said the King’s Birthday Honour was both "very humbling" and "very surprising", but that she was honoured to accept it.

"John was also awarded several years ago in 2016 and I got a lot of satisfaction out of that, but to be awarded in my own right is just wonderful."

regan.harris@alliedpress.co.nz

 

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