Sky high: An artist's impression of the new top station at The Remarkables PICTURE: DOPPELMAYR

NZSki has announced a cool $35 million spending spree on its Queenstown skifields, including a new Coronet Peak chondola.

The boost takes the company’s total investment in Coronet and The Remarkables to nearly $100 million since 2014.

As well as the chondola, which’ll feature a mix of chairs and gondola cabins to replace the Coronet Express, NZSki’s also adding a second six-seater express chairlift from the base of The Remarks and expanding into summer activities at Coronet.

NZSki boss Paul Anderson calls the investment “massive”.

It follows outcry over the granting of consent to extend the learners’ slope at The Remarks, which opponents claimed would destroy a protected wetland.

Anderson admits the negative attention’s been frustrating.

“That publicity really hurt us, because we are deadly serious about the work we do on our mountains.”

He’s hoping the investment, coupled with walking the talk on conservation efforts, will turn the tide of public opinion.

The major upgrades come off the back of a bumper ski season, with operations about 20 per cent up, Anderson says.

“We’ve had an absolute record winter at Coronet Peak and The Remarkables, and these developments along with our future plans for growth are absolutely key to the future here in Queenstown.”

In winter, the new Italian-designed Telemix chondola at Coronet will operate predom-inantly as an express chairlift, while in summer the chairs will be dedicated to mountain bikers and gondola cabins will be incor-porated for sightseers.

The Telemix is designed for a capacity of up to 3000 people per hour.

New ride: An artist’s impression of the chondola lift
PICTURE: Leitner

Anderson tells Mountain Scene that NZSki plans to open the Coronet Peak base building restaurant in summer, from 2019/20, and also offer guided walks, along with mountain biking and sightseeing.

The sheer number of people wanting to head up in summer’s been the driving force, Anderson says.

“We’ll have 200-300 up there a day, and at the moment there’s nothing for them to do.”

Top view: A viewing platform planned for Coronet Peak

Over at The Remarks, the Sugar Bowl Basin’s set to be redeveloped.

That incorporates a new high-speed six-seater chairlift starting from the base area and opening 2.5km of trails that were previously harder to access, including the terrain park, and also off-piste, Anderson says. There’ll be 36 new snow guns.

“Following this major upgrade, we will look to replace the Shadow Basin chairlift with a new high-speed lift which will position us for further expansion,” Anderson says.

“We’ve always been open about the need to expand the ski area into the Doolans [over the saddle] and we will continue to talk with the Department of Conservation about how we can make this terrain available to our guests in the future.”

Following the wetlands furore, Anderson says they’re committed to growing the developments sustainably.

“Both projects will minimise effects on the surrounding environment. Just one example is the harvesting and replanting of any vegetation including wetland plants in the area of disturbance.”

The wetland saga’s rankled the company in recent months.

Forest & Bird complained after Otago Regional Council granted land use consent in March for the learners’ project, which required earthworks in an area including 100 square metres of wetland, protected in the regional council’s water plan.

During such work the company removed vegetation from the wetlands before the work and returned it afterwards, Anderson says.

“Every single piece of investment or expansion we do comes with a really careful examination of its effects.”