It’s early days yet: snow industry


Queenstown’s ski gear retail and hire operators are taking a glass half full approach to the ski season’s disrupted start.

But they’ll be concerned if unseasonably warm temperatures extend through to the start of the New Zealand school holidays next weekend.

Coronet Peak ski area closed for skiing last Thursday after nearly a week of warm rain wiped out its snow base.

Outside Sports owner John Knight says he’s noticed a dip in the retail side of his business, as Coronet Peak tends to be popular with older locals who splash out on new gear.

But it’s “early days”, and he’s experienced similarly slow starts to the season in the past 20 years.

In 2011, snow did not arrive until July, but it ended up being a “reasonable” season.

School holidays have begun in Victoria and Queensland and will start in New South Wales tomorrow, but it’s lucky the domestic school holidays don’t begin for another week, Knight says.

Snowrentals managing director Stefan Crawford says there’s been no impact on trading so far because The Remarkables and Cardrona ski areas are still operating.

“People have already booked their holidays and they’re still coming.”

Small Planets Sports owner Darryl Tatom says trading’s dipped about 30 per cent on last year during the recent week of warm rain, but he’s unconcerned.

He praises NZSki for the way it’s coping with high visitor numbers at the Remarkables.

“Everybody’s working a bit harder to accommodate the multitudes of people coming into town.”

NZSki boss Paul Anderson says Coronet Peak needs about 72 hours of continuous snowmaking at very cold temperatures to reopen.

It has made snow for the past three nights and throughout yesterday, but the air has been too warm to make enough.

The weather forecast is looking promising for snow from the middle of next week, Anderson says.

“We’re doing everything we can to get open for the New Zealand school holidays.”

The company will continue sharing work hours between its staff, but is operating day by day.

“It’s only been a week. That’s not unusual in the ski industry – you’d expect to be prepared for that. But obviously, if it went on for much longer, then we’d start to get worried.”

The company’s other Queenstown ski area, The Remarkables, is busy.

Its higher altitude means it can make snow for longer than Coronet Peak, allowing it to retain good coverage.

Coronet Peak remains opened for sightseers, and Anderson has been surprised by the popularity of snow tubing on two lanes accessed by the Greengates chairlift.

Otago Daily Times