Long-awaited expansion plan finally in place

Almost a metre of snow has allowed the Cardrona Alpine Resort to open for an early weekend. PHOTO...
Cardrona Alpine Resort. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Expanding the Cardrona Alpine Resort across the adjacent 500ha Soho Ski Area has been talked about for almost as long as the resort has been in business.

That's 38 years.

And finally it has happened.

Yesterday, Cardrona resort owner Real Journeys announced it was partnering with Soho Ski Area owner John Darby to more than double the resort's ski area.

Resort founders Mary and John Lee could not be happier the skifield they started in 1980 was now strong enough to be able to afford the new development.

"We always looked at going down there one day; it was always an option," Mrs Lee said.

"You need the income to develop it."

However, skiers and snowboarders will need to wait a couple of years before launching themselves off in the Soho direction - unless they want a long walk out.

The Soho ski area has no lifts, and while there is resource consent for one in the Soho Basin, Real Journeys chief executive Richard Lauder said yesterday it would be at least a couple of years before it was installed.

The company was working through a five-year plan to upgrade its resort facilities, such as car parking and ticketing.

"We've got a couple of years to go to complete our master plan to set us up for a first step into the back of the mountain [Soho].

"Then, depending on market conditions, only at that stage will we start looking at the Soho terrain."

Mr Lauder said there were "a lot of issues" to be resolved.

"If we have 1500 skiers in the Soho Basin, we have to have all safety systems in place to enable us to get them out if there are any issues.

"It's not just a matter of throwing a chair in and thinking that's the end of it."

As for the impact on the ski industry of turning Cardrona into the country's biggest skifield, Mr Lauder believed there would be no negative effects for competing skifields, such as NZSki's Coronet Peak, Remarkables and Mt Hutt fields, or for Treble Cone.

"Any investment in ski infrastructure in Queenstown-Wanaka is of benefit to all of us, and it continues to cement our position as the premiere southern hemisphere ski destination.

"NZSki have put a lot of money into their fields in the last few years.

"I think that's been a benefit to all of us."

NZSki chief executive Paul Anderson said yesterday: "When you look at how 70 years of development at Coronet Peak and The Remarkables has contributed to Queenstown, it's clear that ongoing capital investment in our ski fields is critical for the prosperity of our communities.

"This will add to the regional and international appeal of the Queenstown Lakes region and that's good for all local businesses."

The Soho ski area is Crown land and the lease is held by Mutt Lange. Mr Darby has the right to use the land for a skifield, and he operates a snow cat ski business there.

The Soho Basin takes up about a third of the Soho ski area, and is steeper than Cardrona's Captain's Basin by a couple of degrees.

A Wanaka ski industry source who preferred not to be named, doubted the expanded Cardrona resort would lead to a revival of the plan for a gondola from Arrowtown to the resort.

"That's a huge thing. Never say never, but I don't know if it's realistic."

Add a Comment