No snow, no worries for Wakatipu visitors

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It may have been the winter of discontent for NZSki but some Queenstown businesses have benefited from lack of snow. 

NZSki boss James Coddington says he’s heard anecdotally plenty of off-mountain operators had a bumper winter as skiers and snowboarders were off the slopes looking for other things to do. 

“For the town, it was almost the perfect storm,” he says. 

“I have not talked to too many people who have had a poor winter, from activity providers, restaurant and bar owners and hoteliers. 

“Because the snow was not as good as what we’ve had in the past, it meant that Queenstown Inc could come to the fore.” 

Coddington adds: “This is why Queenstown is a world-class winter destination – if the skiing isn’t the best, they can go and do a plethora of activities elsewhere.” 

Skytrek co-owner Shai Lanuel says the paragliding and hang-gliding sector “benefited bigtime”. 

“We had a record winter. Basically, visitors are looking to do more stuff than just ski when the snow is patchy so people take advantage of being able to do other activities.” 

Local restaurateur Mark Jessop says his downtown restaurants Tatler and Prime have both done well this winter compared to last year. 

“When the mountain’s closed you do get really busy but it’s hard to put your finger on it exactly, whether we’ve got more market share or if everyone’s up.” 

Others weren’t so sure about the mild winter doing wonders for business. 

NZONE Skydive business development manager Derek Melnick says they had a better winter than last year but it still wasn’t as good as 2010. 

“It hasn’t been good for everybody in terms of Queens­town Inc but certainly for us, the weather’s been pretty phenomenal this winter and with the snow being fairly ordinary, it’s been a good combination that’s paid off favourably for us.” 

Ngai Tahu Tourism southern region general manager David Kennedy says their Shotover Jet and Dart River Jet Safaris operations had a winter of ups and downs due to heavy rain and severe frosts affecting the Shotover River. 

“I wouldn’t go so far as to say it was wonderful – I think it was a reasonable winter, all things considered.”