Fiona’s very cool life

Snow queen: Fiona Boyer became NZSki's technical director in the late '90s

From racing down its slopes as a teen to innovating its customer experience, Fiona
Boyer knows Coronet Peak like the back of her hand. She talks to LUCY WORMALD about
growing up on the mountain, and what it means to her

Coronet Peak’s always been home for Queenstowner Fiona Boyer.

Despite a career as an international athlete and ski instructor, her life has been deeply intertwined with the mountain and its development into a world-class skifield.

Having first strapped on skis at the tender age of five in Europe, her family moved to Queenstown when she was 10.

‘‘Coronet Peak became my backyard and playground, and I never looked back,’’ she says.

As a youngster, she joined the Whakatipu Ski Club, before quickly moving into the race
programme, now known as the Queenstown Alpine Ski Team.

‘‘Ski racing was my sport … I just took to it like a duck to water — I loved the competitive environment, loved the camaraderie with the other athletes.’’

During high school, she was mentored by ‘‘legacy instructors of the big names’’, who came
from Europe and the United States, which she says made a ‘‘huge difference’’.

Boyer qualified for the national team when she was 16 and competed internationally before entering the FIS ski racing arena.

She continued to compete while studying PE in Dunedin, but ended her racing career when
she was 20, turning her attention to gaining ski instructors’ qualifications.

Two years later, she took a full-time job at Coronet, where she ran the kids’ ski school for a
few years, and also got involved with the New Zealand Snowsports Instructors Alliance.

‘‘By the time I was 24, I had all the international-level certifications, top qualifications, and then I became an examiner.’’

She went on to become a demonstration team member — ‘‘that’s like your top 10 instructors in New Zealand, and [I] travelled internationally going to different events to compete against other nations’’.

In the late ’90s, she stepped into the role of technical director for Coronet and The Remarks, responsible for staff training and tasked with delivering ‘‘a quality product’’ to mountain visitors.

Boyer says during those years she also spent her NZ winters as an examiner, and would head to Mammoth Mountain, in Northern California, during the Kiwi summers, working there in the same role.

In all, she did 22 back-to-back winters.

‘‘It was a very cool life … I had a full-time winter job in NZ and a full-time winter job in the
northern hemisphere — my holidays were pretty much on the plane ticket home.’’

After eight years, she became training manager at NZSki and set up a company-wide staff
training programme which won two national tourism awards.

Starting a family, she headed to the North Island for a decade to work in the wider tourism industry, before making her way back to Queenstown in 2010.

Dream job: Fiona Boyer’s now NZSky’s customer GM

‘‘The call of the mountains was too strong for me … you can take the girl out of the mountains, but you can’t take the mountains out of the girl.’’

She became head of coaching and facilitating at Queenstown Resort College (QRC), while her two kids followed in her footsteps by joining the Winter Sports Academy.

Unable to stay away from the slopes, Boyer also ran weekend women’s and adult ski racing
programmes up the mountains.

Then, at the end of ’18, she spied an NZSki job listing on Facebook for a customer and instructor general manager.

‘‘It was bringing services and snowsports together, and then also the lens of customer experience across our mountains … I remember sitting at QRC, looking at the job description going, ‘oh, my god, someone wrote this job description just for me’.’’

She threw her hat in the ring and hasn’t looked back.

‘‘I absolutely love the role … it’s never-ending challenges be cause we are on a journey  toward ‘world-class’, and we’re looking under every rock and every stone to do things better every day.’’

Her daughter has since made the national ski racing team, and while both kids have now ‘‘flown the coop’’, they remain passionate skiers, too.

‘‘One of the things that I’ve really loved about growing up at Coronet Peak is the legacy of
what this mountain is, [and that] you’re able to pass it on to the next generation.

‘‘[It’s] just that legacy of families that are able to pass on that absolute passion for this mountain, and the love of ski racing, and being able to have your life revolving around the beauty of this mountain … it’s been a really special place.’’

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