New Zealand’s level one – ski resorts will now return to normal

SnowsBest speaks with NZ Ski CEO Paul Anderson about the "new normal" season announced today as well as the delay to the Remarkables Sugar Bowl chairlift.

The Remarkables

New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, announced today that the country would be moving to Alert Level 1 from midnight tonight.

This means life will return as close to normal as possible during the global Covid-19 pandemic. Social distancing measures and mass gathering restrictions will no longer apply. Crowds are allowed at sporting matches and community sport can return.

However the borders remain strictly controlled with 14 day quarantine still required and only New Zealanders, permanent residents and their families can enter unless special exemption is granted.  Contact tracing will also remain, so expect to sign in to venues. 

This is all great news for the nation’s ski resorts who have spent the last couple of months campaigning the government to be able to open at Level 2 with special gathering protocols. 
 
Cardrona and Treble Cone had announced they were hoping to open both resorts for the season and, dependent on demand, keep them both running. 
 
NZ Ski had also announced paired down operating of their three resorts, Mt Hutt, Coronet Peak and The Remarkables. Coronet was to open seven days a week, The Remarkables only for seven days a week during school holidays and then every weekend and Mt Hutt to open five out of every seven days. 
 
Now it’s on like donkey kong. Resort hospitality outlets will be able to operate as per normal with no restrictions on gatherings.
 
However as a large proportion of the South Island’s ski resort patronage comes from Australia, the ski industry in Queenstown and Wanaka still expect to run at half the numbers as normal. So there may still be some operational changes. 
 

“The big difference is no social distancing, no physical distancing requirements, so all our transport and lifts can operate to capacity” explained a jubilant Paul Anderson, CEO of NZ Ski to SnowsBest today after the announcement.

“Most important is hospitality, skiing is all about being social and people can now come up and enjoy a glass of wine.”

“We’ll just be running as we normally run, we will have less staff, because we expect reduced visitation so we haven’t employed as many staff as we normally do. Food and beverage offerings will be paired down and we will only operate Rocky Gully if there’s a demand and Heidi’s we will hopefully operate on some days.”

The locals who consider Coronet Peak their own ski club will be happy. But it’s not all great news for The Remarkables with the new Sugar Bowl Chairlift originally delayed by the four week lockdown.

It was then hoped it would be finished in time for the July 4 start to the season, however the Doppelmayr splicer for the chairlift rope cable has not been able to enter the country. Splicing is a specialised technique to create an endless rope and can only be done highly skilled Doppelmayr representatives.

“We’re still trying to get splicer here, we have exemption but we can’t get a flight” explains Anderson.

“It took a good month to get government approval but now we are trying to get a flight for him. We actually had a ticket but he wasn’t allowed to board in Zurich as he had to change planes in Hong Kong and go to a different airline, even though it was ticketed and in transit, but he was not allowed.”

The splicer required must be able to work with a 43m rope diameter and there are, according to Anderson, few in the world who can work with this. It will take a day’s work for the Doppelmayr splicer to get the chairlift running, but he won’t arrive and get through two weeks quarantine in time for the season. 

“The new chairlift won’t be ready for day one” says Anderson. “But it will be as soon as we can get the Doppelmayr guy here. For now we won’t be able to ski or board in the Sugar side until the chairlift is operating.”

As for that Trans Tasman Bubble, Anderson is still hoping it happens mid winter, if not before. NZ Ski will be opening The Remarkables for seven days a week during the late September early October school holidays with high hopes Australians will be making the trip across the ditch by then.


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Rachael Oakes-Ash is the name behind @misssnowitall and the founder of SnowsBest.com. 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.