Ski history in a box

'Priceless': Kris Vermeir with some of the historic collection of Wakatipu Ski Club items

A ski shop owner’s been given a “priceless” collection of relics chronicling the history of commercial skiing in the Wakatipu Basin.

Kris Vermeir, co-owner of Browns Ski Shop and treasurer of the Wakatipu Ski Club, was left the large box of items by a mystery woman towards the end of the winter season.

Books containing minutes from the ski club’s committee meetings as it was starting out in 1939 chart the club’s mission to build a hut at Coronet Peak, which became a reality 10 years later.

Vermeir says the books include interesting ideas about how to get the people of Queenstown “behind this new thing called skiing”, before there were any commercial ski resorts in New Zealand.

The box of relics contains old film reels documenting the opening of Coronet Peak’s first chairlift, photographs of coaches, members and supporters, and minutes from 1939 until the late 1980s.

Before the first rope ski tow was installed at Coronet in 1947, making it NZ’s first commercial skifield, locals used to ski on the high country farm after trekking up the mountain.

The books contain information about plans to open Coronet, which Vermeir says show key figures behind the skifield were also club members.

After the opening of Cardrona Alpine Resort in 1977, followed by The Remarkables skifield in 1985, the Basin’s ski scene was booming.

“It’s quite funny when you read in the minutes about the discussions people had about how to make skiing popular, how the airport might cope and how tourism would affect Queenstown,” Vermeir says.

“This discussion was going on 70-80 years ago, so it’s very interesting to read people’s thoughts of the day.

“It’s important that people know the local history … and all the things that have happened before to get us to where we are today.”

Some of the big names and club members featured in the collection include Bruce Grant, a former Queenstown skier who competed in the 1984 Winter Olympics at Sarajevo and later died while descending K2 in Pakistan in 1995.

Vermeir says it’s great to see former Browns skiers in the photos, as well as youngsters who went on to represent their country.

He now plans to get the film reels digitised and send the collection to Arrowtown’s Lakes District Museum to be curated.