Steep learning curve: NZSki boss Paul Anderson, pictured at The Remarkables last year, had no ski industry experience when he became the big cheese eight years ago

Most skifield bosses work their way up the slope. NZSki boss Paul Anderson, however, took a more circuitous route to becoming one of Queenstown’s biggest, if most seasonal, employers, as he tells PHILIP CHANDLER during an unforced interruption to the season caused by Covid

When his wife spotted a job ad for NZSki CEO, Paul Anderson recalls saying, ‘‘I wouldn’t have a hope, I’ve never worked in tourism, never worked in the ski industry’’.

But as much as he was surprised to land the job eight years ago, Anderson, now 50, had already proven he had the mettle through handling other big jobs where he’d been tested.

Plus, he’d always loved skiing, Being the youngest of eight kids, many ‘‘pretty liberal’’,
Christchurch-raised Anderson says ‘‘it makes you grow up pretty fast and become  independent pretty quickly’’.

In the first school holidays after his dad died, when he was only nine, his mum sent him to stay with a friend in the North Island, where he learnt to ski at Whakapapa.

‘‘I went up there for the next three years till I was old enough to go on ski weeks at the Canterbury club fields, and I just loved it.’’

After accountancy training and a first-class masters in commerce, he worked as a Treasury analyst in Wellington.

‘‘It was pretty exciting as a 21-, 22-year-old, sitting in [Finance Minister] Bill Birch’s office, giving him briefings.’’

After about four years he left for London, and after a ‘‘boring’’ banking job, worked with a Kiwi colleague on implementing an FX dealing system for the NatWest GFM bank, in the course of which he travelled to Tokyo and New York City.

After more travel with his now-wife Keiran Bleach — they met during school days — he worked for Telecom in Wellington, when it was getting into data-based services.

He was promoted into running performance management reporting, and sat in with CEO
Theresa Gattung each month when she reviewed each division.

‘‘I got exposed to some pretty high-level execs.’’

After performing about three finance roles for Telecom and Gen-i, Anderson decided to move into more operational roles — ‘‘I kind of aspired to more general management’’.

His next role, back in Christchurch, was managing retail data provisioning for Telecom.

‘‘It was great going into a role you knew absolutely nothing about, you had to put full reliance in your team and just support them to do a great job.’’

His next and last pre-NZSki role was as Christchurch City Council’s corporate services GM — a big role encompassing finance, property, procurement and IT.

‘‘That role was fascinating and gave me a real respect for the complexities of local government.’’

Again it required a lot of ‘‘scrambling up the learning curve’’.

After the city’s devastating earthquakes, he was involved in the recovery phase, devising a
financial strategy and negotiating a cost-sharing agreement with the Crown.

‘‘Some really good people from the public service came to Christchurch and helped out, but there were some who overestimated their abilities.’’

After five-and-a-half years, Anderson says he wasn’t after a new job, ‘‘but Keiran was  talking to me a lot about the impact of the stress, and ‘can you really keep doing this?’, because it was pretty horrible at times’’.

After applying for the NZSki job, he recalls the job interview with owner Sir John Davies, as he told his wife, ‘‘was kind of like having a conversation with your old man about life and business philosophies and how you treat people and so on’’.

Though thrilled to be hired, he says he was ‘‘pretty nervous’’ over his lack of experience.

However, he’s gone on to thoroughly enjoy the role, particularly overseeing huge projects at Queenstown’s Coronet Peak and The Remarkables skifields, and Canterbury’s Mt Hutt.

But there’ve also been challenges, such as having to close Coronet after one school  holidays due to lack of snow.

Then there’s the longer-term challenge of climate change, he says, which is why further development will be focused on The Remarks, due to its higher elevation.

As a side hustle, he also chaired the board of Christchurch Adventure Park following the
Port Hills fires.

Anderson nowadays also sits on the board of Davies’ Trojan Holdings, and enjoys overseeing other businesses.

‘‘It’s fantastic having a share holder who’s really committed to spending a lot on the product.’’

As to his management style, he says ‘‘I try to be as approachable as I possibly can, try and [have] a really open mind to all situations, and probably one of my weaknesses can also be a strength — I look at everything through rose-tinted glasses’’.