Dog fight

Dog derby: Dogs and their owners barrel down Coronet Peak at the 2017 Queenstown Winter Festival

Resort skifield operator NZSki is dirty at losing the long-running dog derby to rival Cardrona skifield at June’s Queenstown Winter Festival.

Boss Paul Anderson says Coronet Peak is the event’s natural home, and is not ruling out the company holding a competing dog derby itself.

“We’ll talk to some of our community about whether they’d like to see the event return to Coronet Peak – the people I’ve talked to so far say that’s where it belongs.”

The company remains frosty over festival owner Destination Queenstown’s (DQ) decision last October to sign up Cardrona’s owner, Real Journeys, as the event’s naming rights sponsor.

DQ chief executive Graham Budd is in the United States and couldn’t be reached for comment.

Moving the iconic dog and human race – which gets national media coverage year after year – to the “other side of the Crown Range” is “especially disappointing”, Anderson says.

“The event’s synonymous with Coronet Peak – in fact it was invented by a Coronet Peak rentals manager in 1975, Des Gavin.

“We’d love the opportunity to keep the event local.”

He concedes it’s natural the festival’s main sponsor would want to hold the event on its own mountain, but believes the festival should keep its “local Queenstown flavour”.

“It’s run at Coronet Peak every year but three of the last 43 years – two of those years it was held at The Remarkables [NZSki’s other Queenstown skifield] and one year it was cancelled – so it’s got a long tradition at Coronet Peak and we believe that’s the home of the dog derby.”

Festival director Rae Baker is remaining tight-lipped over the decisions and the on-going relationships between the parties.

Anderson says NZSki wasn’t offered the opportunity to bid for naming rights.

DQ told the company it was going with Real Journeys “the day before they made that public”.

Anderson says: “We’ve had various levels of sponsorship over the years, both cash and as venue sponsors, but this time they made their own decision to take it over the other side of the Crown Range and we’ve got to live with that decision.”

The Anderson’s claim NZSki wasn’t given the opportunity to bid for the naming rights.

In an emailed statement, she says the festival had no naming rights sponsor for 14 months before it signed up Real Journeys.

She won’t comment on the possibility Coronet Peak will run a rival dog derby, nor say whether any events will be held at Coronet Peak or the Remarkables.

Asked if locals might find it strange that festival events will be held outside the Wakatipu, she replied organisers are “really pleased” Cardrona will be the host mountain.

When Real Journeys signed the six-figure deal with DQ last October, it became the first Queenstown-based company to become the festival’s main sponsor.

That followed American Express pulling the pin after nine years.

This year’s festival will run from June 21 to 24 – the full programme will be announced on April 26.

Anderson says NZSki has offered to host some festival events at Coronet Peak, including the opening of its night-skiing season – as it’s done for the past few years.

Festival organisers have “yet to confirm whether that’s possible for us”, he says.

Other events held at Coronet in the past have included the Suitcase Race and Mountain Bikes on Snow.