NZSki is targeting novice skiers/boarders by doubling chairlift and terrain capacity at its premier skifield.
It’s installing a $5 million beginner-friendly four-seater chairlift at Queenstown’s Coronet Peak to replace the old Meadows two-seat chair.
Earthworks are also underway up Coronet to add a new trail and double the “Big Easy” novice area – it’ll be serviced by the new chairlift which is to be called Meadows Express.
“Facilities for learners were really the last key areas we needed to work on to bring Coronet Peak up to true world-class standard,” Coronet Peak boss Hamish McCrostie says.
“The new [detachable] chairlift will be safe and easy for children to ride without accompanying adults.”
Several features make it the only lift of its type installed in the southern hemisphere, he says.
Skiers/boarders jump on a moving escalator to reach the load point. A safety bar then automatically drops over them as they take off and lifts again at the top terminal. Finally, a “kid stop” device prevents nippers slipping under the bar.
The only other lift with similar bells and whistles is in Austria.
NZSki boss James Coddington says the chairlift’s capacity will grow to a maximum 2000 skiers/riders per hour, shortening peak-season queues. The old two-seater handled an average of 900 to 1000.
Marketing boss David Ovendale says the latest expansion is driven by the snow industry’s concern that not enough learner skiers/riders are being “bitten by the bug”.
The chairlift is also configured to take six-seater chairs if needed in future.
American company Leitner-Poma this week started foundation work for seven new lift towers.
Tower and chairlift installation starts late next month for completion by May 1 – the new season starts June 5.
It’s expected the now-removed fixed-grip chairlift – dating back to 1964 – will re-emerge on NZSki’s Mt Hutt field in Canterbury.
NZSki spent $30m-plus rebuilding its Coronet Peak base building and massively expanding its snowmaking capacity two years ago.