Long-running Queenstown ski club on financial edge

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A CLUB that’s taught generations of Queenstowners to ski is struggling for survival in the face of falling income and rising costs. 

The Wakatipu Ski Club, founded in 1949 and based at Queenstown’s Coronet Peak ski area, called an emergency meeting last Saturday to discuss what its president calls a “very worrying financial situation”. 

In an email to members, Richard Hutchens says if the club can’t generate more income and members, “we are faced with the unpalatable reality that the Wakatipu Ski Club may have to cease operating”. 

Times had changed dramatically from 10 years ago when skiers were knocking on the door to join, he says.
In those days, the club hut was the closest dropoff to the ski lifts and was more comfortable than NZSki’s Coronet Peak base building. 

The replacement building had removed those advantages, and NZSki now also offered childcare and competitive learn-to-ski packages, Hutchens notes. 

As a result, membership had dropped but in a double whammy, the club’s other income source, its big pre-season ski sale, had also suffered. 

From making about $30,000 a year, profits had dropped to about $12,000 as online sales increased and several local ski shops now also have their own sales. 

At the same time, Hutchens says expenses have risen dramatically. 

Insurance, for example, has risen from $2000 a year in 2011 to $14,000 – “and we can’t get quotes from other insurers”. 

The club had had to contribute to a new sewage system on the mountain and as a shop window for Coronet Peak, is under pressure from NZSki to do maintenance like painting on its hut. 

Hutchens stresses the club’s not knocking NZSki. 

“We need to see how we can work in with NZSki to make sure that we are helping them and they can help us where it’s mutually beneficial. 

“Obviously, the more members we have, the more the mountain benefits, because everyone who belongs to the club is skiing on Coronet Peak.” 

Hutchens says 20 to 25 people attended last Saturday’s meeting. 

“We’re going to the wider membership of the club with a survey to make sure that we understand what the members want from the club, what they were wanting when they joined and if they’ve left the club, why. 

“We’re optimistic we’ll pull through, absolutely. 

“You’ve got people who remember that club as a very, very big part of the community.” 

Hutchens says there’s a will by the club’s 200-odd active members to get stuck in to help out. 

The club will also tap community trusts for funding, he adds.