NZSki’s pass pitch: Same cost, double the days

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NZSki’s boss insists the controversial price of its locals’ pass for Queenstown fields is the best the company can do. 

Speaking at a Chamber of Commerce function last night (Monday), an under-fire NZSki chief executive James Coddington says the last time passes were $889 was 1998 – when the season was just 72 days long. Now the season is almost twice that length at 135 days. 

NZSki has hiked its passes for 2011 by $90 to $889 and Coddington – who had earlier noted locals would be “pleasantly surprised” by locals’ only season pass prices – maintains that it’s “very good value”. 

Coddington adds the 135-day season length up Coronet is now about a third longer than any other field in the region.

“Our ongoing investment has done one thing if nothing else – we consistently open on time in the first week of June. That’s what $35 million of investment does.” 

Back in 2007, NZSki – then Southern Alpine Recreation – announced via Mountain Scene a $20 million investment in 138 extra snow guns for Coronet Peak taking the total to 193 to “future-proof” the mountain. Since then the company has invested in further snowmaking capacity, a redeveloped base building and trail improvements. 

Coddington blamed increasing costs of fuel, ACC levies, insurance and higher electricity costs and consumption by the guns for the pass rises. 

“We’re a business and want to survive for future generations. We invest in the future – what do you think would happen if we hadn’t invested four years ago during the recession?

“Where would we be if we hadn’t and still had a 72-day season? I would be very nervous.”

Asked by a member of the audience about NZSki ditching industry rates for passes last year, Coddington replied: “We wanted to get locals the very best price [for locals’ passes] which we have done.”

He added that whether the $889 price was appreciated or agreed with was up to individuals – “but it’s the best price”. 

NZSki marketing boss Craig Douglas, just back from a business trip to Australia, also spoke at the industry update saying part of the perception across the ditch is the Christchurch earthquake has wiped out a much larger part of the country than it actually has.
 
“Part of our response is about educating the Australian marketplace that the rest of the country is not affected.” 

NZSki is working closely with marketing body Destination Queenstown, Tourism New Zealand and other agencies to get the message across. 

Auckland is another heavy focus for NZSki ahead of this season and he also only sees “upsides” from the 80,000 plus visitors expected to come to New Zealand for the Rugby World Cup starting in September. 

“There’ll be a lot of visitors who in between matches will be short of something to do. We think there’s an upside to that.” 

Douglas is also confident the lower Kiwi dollar will help attract visitors to New Zealand during winter. 

Destination Queenstown marketing boss Graham Budd told the audience the entire tourism industry is working to rebuild confidence in New Zealand and Queenstown since the earthquake. 

A Tourism New Zealand TV ad campaign featuring Queenstown and winter will return to Australian screens in April and May. 

In other on-mountain updates, Coronet Peak ski area manager Hamish McCrostie noted a faster system for customers hiring rentals, a new trail from the top of the Meadows Express chair down to the lower Big Easy and five new snow guns at $75,000 a pop. 

The Remarkables ski area boss Ross Lawrence says he’s got ongoing earthworks improving runs and terrain at three chairlifts whilst safety barriers lining the exposed road up to the ski area have been significantly extended.