Green light for Queenstown skifield expansion

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A multi-million dollar plan to dramatically expand The Remark­ables ski area in the Wakatipu has been given the green light. 

Snow giant NZSki has been granted permission to install a new chairlift that will open up 18 hectares of terrain, to increase the lease area by 2.57ha and, most importantly, draw an extra 310,000 cubic metres of water from Lake Alta for vital snow-making. The Department of Conservation and the Otago Conservation Board have just approved the consents after a four-year planning and research process. 

NZSki chief executive James Coddington says the company is thrilled to be given the go-ahead. 

“It’s a very important milestone. What we have now future-proofs The Remarkables and allows us to make decisions for the future improvements.” 

The mega-development includes a 1.3km-long, six-seater Curvy Basin chairlift from the bottom of the two existing car parks at 1600m to almost the top of the mountain at 1900m. 

This will increase the total skiable area by 15 per cent. 

There’ll be the ability for 18 extra snow guns on the upper trail alone.

The consent also means NZSki can improve its water pumping infrastructure and take up to 400,000cu m of water from Lake Alta – up from its previous 90,000cu m max­-imum. That allows for up to 36ha of mountain trails to be covered in 30cm of snow, on full production. 

The Remarkables ski area manager Ross Lawrence says the amount of water take is now on par with what sister field Coronet Peak can access. 

“That amount of water is what we need to be able to snow-make in all areas. It’s something that’s going to see us into the future,” he says. 

With the extension of the lease by 2.57ha, the access road can also be realigned, car park numbers can increase by 750 to 1025 and the learners’ area is to grow by 1500sq m. 

However, snow lovers won’t get to see any major changes this season because all capital expenditure for 2013 was decided last October, long before consents were approved, Coddington says. 

“It’s not for this season because we didn’t know the consents were going to come through in February. Even if we did we still couldn’t have put in a chairlift before opening in two months’ time – it’s not realistic.” NZSki announced its intentions to build stage-one of its development – the chairlift – in July last year, but all conservation consents were required for letting the company’s big plans come to fruition. 

It’ll be a project undertaken over several years, as commercial circumstances allow. 

No one opposed the proposal during the public submission period, Coddington says. 

“It’s the first time in our history that that’s happened. 

“We take that as a vote of confidence.” 

The company must closely monitor its water intake and already undertakes an extensive land regeneration programme. 

Meanwhile, NZSki has been busy improving The Remarkables’ existing trail network for this season. 

The Calypso trail off the Shadow Basin chair has been widened from what was an access track for groomers to a 12-metre wide trail for all abilities. 

NZSki marketing manager Craig Douglas says the work has required several rock retaining walls to be built and 10,000cu m of material has had to be moved. 

“This is like digging 22 swimming pools the size of our local pool at Alpine Aqualand,” Douglas says.