Cardrona and Treble Cone GM pens open apology letter

Throughout New Zealand’s rigid lockdown, the GM of Cardrona and Treble Cone, Bridget Legnavsky, ‘humanised’ the ski resorts with weekly video updates. These video chats were transparent and open and gave loyal skiers and snowboarders ownership of ‘their’ mountain and the process to open it for 2020.

However, like most of 2020 for everyone, the ski season for both resorts has not gone completely to plan. While the mountains across the country were able to open for unlimited skiing and snowboarding at Level 1 without limitations, they had still planned for a 50% drop in patronage due to closed borders.

The recent school holidays in New Zealand proved them otherwise. Those same closed borders meant kiwis could not leave their own country to holiday at places like the Gold Coast and so they headed south.

The result? Traffic jams, clogged car parks and understaffed operations.

By all accounts it wasn’t pretty if you were a skier or boarder trying to ski or board in Otago last week.

Now Legnavsky has written an open apology letter, accepting blame fair on the chin.

We have just experienced the most incredible couple of weeks here at Cardrona and Treble Cone. We have been overwhelmed with the support, encouragement and appreciation we have received from all of you, and we just want to thank you so much.

As many of you know, this winter we forecasted a 50% decline in our business due to closed borders and the impact of Covid-19 – we based our staffing levels on this forecast. This decline did not eventuate, and instead our July school holiday numbers were very close to those of 2019.

After a slow start to the season, we experienced our first day peak day on Friday the 10th. After several stormy days and fresh snow, Kiwis flocked to the mountain for the first bluebird day. Skier numbers on Friday were still significantly less than peak days in 2019, but we had a record number of cars on the mountain.

We were overwhelmed at the amount of traffic, did not have enough staff to manage parking and guests parked themselves as best as they could. This caused bottlenecks on the road and made it difficult for the shuttles to move and for our guests to get to the mountain.

From Friday onwards we pulled in all available staff into traffic management but there were still teething issues as we learned to deal with the volume of cars.

Monday the 13th was another fine weather day, and the numbers of skiers was even higher. On Monday we attempted to slow down the traffic at the Pine Trees order to manage carpark capacity, but this ended up causing a jam on the main highway. We quickly learnt that we had to keep the traffic flowing no matter what and developed strategies to manage the intense flow, from very early in the morning for about an hour and a half. This morning “pulse”, where everyone decided to come at the same time, first impacted the road, then Guest Services before hitting Rentals and F&B. We moved all available staff to these pinch points and we are incredibly proud of how flexible our team were and how hard they worked.

Throughout the week our guests arrived earlier and earlier each day. We responded by bringing our staff on earlier and earlier and pushing out communications via every channel we could think of including the website Snow Report, Facebook [pages and groups], Twitter, Instagram stories and the radio. Over the week we brought on more resource, redesigned much of what we do, and we hope you could see the flows improve.

However, we are the first to admit our guest experience has not been what we aspire to deliver. We didn’t get our forecast right. We had far more people than we expected and planned for. For this, we want to apologise wholeheartedly.

We have also had a few questions about why the Valley View chairlift is not running. Valley View required significant maintenance over summer that represented at least 5 weeks of work. This work was scheduled for the same time as New Zealand went into the Level 4 lockdown. When we came out of lockdown, the team needed to prioritise which lifts received maintenance and the decision was made to focus on the 3 upper mountain lifts; McDougall’s, Whitestar and Captain’s. There was not enough time or resource to fix Valley View and it is currently inoperable. We apologise for this as well – you can rest assured that the Valley View lift and parking option will be back for Winter 2021.

Based on the insights that we have received over the last week we’re confident that numbers will remain steady for the entire season, and we’re thrilled to see the support for both Cardrona and Treble Cone. The season is just going to keep getting better and better, with great snow already and much more in the forecast.

Most of all, we want to thank all of you for supporting our community and our resorts. It has been amazing to see Wanaka and Queenstown pumping, and we’re beyond proud to be part of the reason you choose to visit our region. We are stoked to be working, skiing and snowboarding, and in a position to share our love of this mountain with you all.

Bridget Legnavsky and the whanau at both Cardrona and Treble Cone

It’s a case study in how to manage crisis communications with transparency, using both old school and new media to communicate in real time and has already prompted positive social media feedback from the letter already posted this morning.

Did you know we also run comms, brand and PR workshops for the tourism industry? You can check out our PitchIt2Me workshops and consulting here. 

Please help SnowsBest remain your independent source of snow news this winter with a “Covid contribution“, from as little as $1, so we can continue to deliver the news and content you value in a season when we need each other most. Contribute here.


NZ's next level cat skiing - with a side of Amisfield 3-hat dining

Rachael Oakes-Ash is the name behind @misssnowitall and the founder of A long time travel and lifestyle journalist and ski writer, she's been published in ESPN, TIME, Wallpaper*, Action Asia, Inside Sport, Australian Financial Review, Emirates Open Skies, Conde Nast Traveler and more. She was the Fairfax snow blogger from 2007 to 2017 and the Southern Hemisphere editor for OnTheSnow. Rachael is also a documentary producer, author, radio announcer and humorist.