Ski club battles to survive


A ski club whose membership has spanned generations of Queenstowners continues to fight for its future.

Wakatipu Ski Club’s annual snowsports sale fundraiser is this weekend.

Over the last few years, the club has been in such dire financial straits members considered selling off its Coronet Peak hut.

But Browns Ski Shop co-owner Kris Vermeir stepped in and agreed to underwrite the club and handle admin.

Vermeir, now club treasurer, says: “I committed to that for the next couple of years so we’re not making any hasty decisions.

“Once the hut is sold, we’ll never get it back.”

The hut has provided a warm mountain base since 1979, although the club dates back to 1949.

It’s produced a large number of New Zealand ski team members and coaches, and also the odd Olympic skier.

But membership has plummeted in the last decade as NZSki has improved its base building and offered lessons.

Costs have also risen, particularly building insurance for the hut which skyrocketed from $3000 to $12,000 after the Christchurch earthquake.

“The perception’s maybe been the club facilities were no longer relevant,” Vermeir says.

“But the hut is a great place families can make their own.

“That’s the main thing, it’s a community, especially if you’re a new family in town getting into skiing.”

Vermeir says there’s a play area, full kitchen and always a fire going.

“Last year a bunch of the mums would go there and one would look after the kids while the others skied, then they’d swap.”

The lesson programme, now run by NZSki, includes a school holiday programme and Six Sunday programme.

“All my kids went through that, starting age four.

“It’s a great way to learn. They’re all in classes together, with friends and meeting new kids, all different levels and progressing through the years.”

Family membership is $240, or $150 for one adult and one child.

The club raised about $13,000 through its ski, snowboard and ski gear sale last year but hopes to go better this year.

“We’re still in financial strife and this is our biggest fundraiser.”

Vermeir says there’ll be a membership drive at the sale. He hopes families who in recent years have been attracted to The Remarkables by cheaper season passes will return now there’s one season pass for both mountains.

Wakatipu Ski Club sale this Sunday, Queenstown Events Centre, 1.30-3.30pm, $2 entry fee. Drop off items between 9am-11am, $2 per item plus commission of 15 per cent plus GST.