Positive reaction to Cardrona's Treble Cone takeover offer

Treble Cone skifield. PHOTO: JACKSON LANA
Reaction to the offer by Cardrona Alpine Resort to buy Treble Cone skifield, announced earlier this week, has been overwhelmingly positive.

Lake Wanaka Tourism general manager James Helmore said he first heard about the takeover in the media, but welcomed the news, as it would fit with his organisation's current marketing focus.

"Growing the winter ski season is actually our number one strategic priority because of the higher-value visitor it attracts," Mr Helmore said.

"We have worked actively with Cardrona, TC, the Snow Farm, Soho Basin and heli-ski operators over the last few years to attract more winter visitors.

"We've had some pretty good success in the domestic and Australian market, but there is still capacity in the commercial accommodation sector and the non-commercial accommodation sector to absorb more growth," he said.

Rumours had been circulating for weeks that the Wayfare Group, which owns Real Journeys and Cardrona Alpine Resort, were seeking to make a major purchase in the Wanaka region.

On Tuesday, it was revealed Cardrona had made a conditional offer to buy Treble Cone Ski Area, subject to a due diligence process which is expected to take around three months.

If Cardrona goes ahead with the purchase, it will make an offer to Treble Cone and its shareholders which they would have to accept for the sale to proceed.

Mr Helmore admitted there was still a long way to go before the deal was finalised, but he was giving it his approval.

"If I look at how Cardrona Alpine Resort operates they have a strong focus on delivering a top quality product and they have a strong focus on delivering a really good customer experience.

"They are also backed by a really strong owner in Wayfare and Real Journeys, so they have got money to invest in what they do, and that is encouraging in my mind. It is a positive for the future of TC because TC has got huge potential," he said.

Lake Wanaka Tourism board chairman Mark Morrison agreed.

"It is an exciting time for the TC ski area.

"Those of us who have skied there for 20 years or more know the potential TC has, maybe this will be the catalyst to see its potential finally delivered."

Treble Cone is a 35-minute drive from Wanaka and marketed as the largest ski area in the South Island, famous for its long, uncrowded groomed runs.

Mr Morrison said with new management that could change.

"As much as we love the uncrowded slopes it is clearly not viable for the company."

A regular skier at Treble Cone, Mr Morrison said it would be "very interesting" to see what changes Cardrona brought in.

Snow Sports NZ have also welcomed news of the purchase.

High performance programme director Ashley Light said it was great news for all New Zealand skiers and snowboarders, including the nation's elite and developing athletes.

"Cardrona has been a long-time supporter of our Park and Pipe and Adaptive Snow Sports programmes and Treble Cone has been the home training ground for NZ freeride athletes.

"Ensuring that ski areas remain part of the industry's offering means that more people can learn to love snow sports and, in turn if they stick at it and work hard, can become the next world champion, Olympic or Paralympic medallist," she said.

Whether or not TC joins the Wayfare group of tourist companies may ultimately be decided by its shareholders.

One shareholder who did not want to be named said she was excited by the prospect of the takeover resulting in the Treble Cone Ski Area being expanded and upgraded.

However, she was concerned at lack of infrastructure in Wanaka, and said "its transport infrastructure needs to be sorted out first".

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