Prepare for the snowball effect

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Record numbers of Australian skiers and boarders to Queenstown this winter should snowball next year.

That’s the bullish view of NZSki boss James Coddington, who thinks word-of-mouth endorsements from this year’s happy Aussies will fill even more planeloads from there next winter.

In mid-August he stated NZSki’s three fields were 40 per cent up on the record 2006 season – due to huge Aussie numbers at Queenstown’s flagship Coronet Peak.

Coddington’s coy about putting a percentage increase on the entire season, except for confirming that Coronet – which closed on Monday – had a record-breaker while The Remarkables, which closes on Sunday, was also “not far off” its best year yet.

However, he points to figures showing Australians visiting New Zealand for ski holidays from June-August were 33 per cent up over last year.

Australians comprise 55 per cent of customers across the two Queenstown fields.

With extra numbers partly fuelled by the recession, Coddington says there was also a far more coordinated Australian campaign by Kiwi skifields compared with earlier “dysfunctional” efforts.

Australia was targeted because fewer of their skiers/boarders had holidayed in the northern hemisphere this year – they also enjoyed a strong exchange rate in NZ, cheap airfares, and the fact NZSki held its prices, unlike Australian ski areas.

“People from Australia were blown away by the product, service and the town, they’ll tell their friends and families and we’ll continue to grow the Australian market.”

For the first time, NZSki also hosted Australian skifield bosses coming over to find out why their compatriots were flocking here in droves.

Queenstown also benefited from “a vast increase” out of Auckland, spurred by low airfares introduced by budget airline Jetstar.