Queenstown snow groomer says goodbye

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Hanging up his snow-guns after 37 years in the ski industry, Queenstown’s ‘Mr Snow’ blesses the advent of snowmaking.

Garry Steedman, former technical manager and head groomer at both Coronet Peak and The Remarkables, says he’d “hate to think about the future of ski areas without snowmaking”.

“It would be hard for some ski areas to survive,” Steedman says.

Winter weather variables are “unpredictable at the moment”, Steedman says, with temperatures swinging wildly between warm and cold extremes.

Yet with snowmaking, “we can usually make a lot of snow” as soon as the temperature drops below zero.

Steedman credits Queenstown’s Sir John Davies, NZSki’s controlling shareholder, with pumping multi-millions into Coronet Peak and The Remarkables since he and other investors bought the local fields plus Canterbury’s Mount Hutt from Air New Zealand in 2002.

“[Sir John] and the board have done some bloody marvellous things,” Steedman says.

“Their investment in snowmaking has definitely future-proofed NZSki.”

Steedman entered the ski business at Turoa in 1977 then alternately worked for Mount Hutt, Austrian chairlift company Doppelmayr, and the new Remarkables field.

In 1988, Steedman became head groomer for Coronet and The Remarkables until NZSki appointed him technical manager in 2003, responsible for trailworks, snowmaking and electrical installations.

As NZSki ramped up investment in development, Steedman latterly confined his role to Coronet.

It’s never been a 40-hour-a-week job: “When it snows you’ve got to put longer hours in – and when it doesn’t snow, you’ve also got to put longer hours in.”

Steedman, 60, says an imminent back operation set him thinking about relocating to Picton and taking up a new job.

“I think I’ve probably done enough [in the ski industry] and I’ll have a bit of a change,” Steedman says.