Queenstown skifield bosses admit they’ve considered limiting usage of cheap season passes but won’t make changes – for now.
Strong rumours have been circulating that NZSki – the operator of popular fields Coronet Peak and The Remarkables – has controversial plans to restrict or even axe season passes altogether.
Those rumours – denied by NZSki bosses – were fuelled two weeks ago at a Queenstown rugby scholarships auction when a 2011 pass was put up for sale.
Queenstowner Tim Bryant, who successfully bid $1000, says NZSki director Mike Davies told him he’d bought the final pass.
“They actually said it in the auction that it was the last one ever. That’s why I started bidding,” Bryant says.
NZSki chief executive James Coddington – who attended the auction – says he thinks Davies’ comment was a joke.
“There were a few jibes that night, I think it was just another one.”
Davies laughs it off: “I was just trying to get the price up.”
Major NZSki shareholder and local business magnate John Davies – Mike’s father – tells nervous locals: “Do not panic.
“Everybody’s making a lot of hype. I get people asking me every second day what we’re doing.
“In the years to come, I think there will be some changes, but what they’re likely to be or how we effect them, I haven’t got a clue.”
Since 2001, NZSki has sold early-bird passes for unlimited skiing/boarding – this season’s cost $799.
This season, NZSki has been able to track the number of days and runs its passholders do, thanks to an electronic Mypass card.
Coddington suggests this technology has set people’s tongues wagging.
“People have been making their own assumptions on whether we want to cap the passes, whether we want to sell it to a different level,” Coddington says.
“We’ve had a rigorous debate as a company, internally and externally, whether we wanted to cap the passes.
And we have decided for this next year we’re not going to.
“The pricing of it and the timing of when [people] can purchase it, that’s what we’ll be looking at and that’s what we’ll deliver, post-Christmas.”
Two weeks ago, the Mypass card showed pass-holders had skied/boarded an average 16 days this season, Coddington says.
A “significant” number had gone up the slopes for 30 days or more.
NZSki is keen to reduce the “confusing” number of different mountain products it offers, Coddington says.
John Davies says it’s important to retain “competitive prices” for locals and visitors.
“We’re not going to out-price ourselves or bugger up anything as a business.”
Davies concedes the ‘early-bird’ pass was designed for locals but is often snapped up by out-of-towners: “That’s one of the factors we will take into consideration.”