New Zealand: frustrating as all hell
If you ever needed a torchlight shone on the best and worst thing about skiing or snowboarding in New Zealand, mark September 8 down as Exhibit A.
Almost two feet of fresh snow. Superb mountains. A picture perfect place to base yourself in like Queenstown.
And the resort that is supposed to take you to heaven?
That’s right. The place that was blessed with the most white stuff (55cm) on this amazing spring day – The Remarkables – was shut.
Here was the resort’s key Facebook post:
The usual banter followed about ski patrol and employees getting first tracks etc etc – but I totally accept that it would have been impossible to get that road open in the circumstances.
But the bigger picture is this: Why the hell don’t we have a major commercial resort in the south island of New Zealand with a gondola from the base and half a dozen or more lifts servicing skiers and snowboarders. And some extensive on-snow accommodation while we’re at it?
I love New Zealand and would need a few more hands and other appendages to count the number of times I have been there – and had a great time.
Ironically enough I really also enjoy the club field experience and the back to basics approach of the smaller resorts. But in a reasonably-sized, snow-loving, island-full-of-mountains first world country – don’t we deserve a little bit more?
They have the towns. They have the scenery. They have the mountains. They have the off-snow experiences. They have the hospitality. But surely even a granola munching, nut-cracker loving, free-heelin’ hippie could see some kind of benefits in having a substantial commercial ski resort as part of the package in New Zealand? It’s something that would complete the puzzle.
While a funky drive up a slightly sketchy mountain pass doesn’t particularly bother me, I know plenty of other people who are concerned by it. And, even in good weather, the fact that they have to drive up the hill every day anyway irks them enough.
Sure – I wasn’t there today and perhaps in the conditions a gondola may not have been operational anyway. But having experienced the frustrations of having to wait out road clearing in Mt Hutt before as powder turned to breakable crust – I reckon there’d be many instances where it would help.
The frustrating thing is that this has certainly been discussed for a long, long time across the Tasman.
Treble Cone had the feelers out for a gondola more than a decade ago. In 2008 they even got consent for it. By 2010 it was shelved due to “a change in economic circumstances”.
As I have written about previously, Porters near Christchurch has some ball-tearing plans on the drawing board which include terrain expansion in the Crystal Valley, a gondola and a village with accommodation. Will that get up? Who knows.
What I do know is this: people love options. And how good would New Zealand be with a world-class resort? Sure, not Whistler-sized but something with the scope and facilities that would have it clearly marked down as the premier snow destination in the southern hemisphere.
It’s those in the middle ground – those with a bit of money who may be semi-regulars, that drive the ski and snowboard economy. These people demand a bit more than is currently on offer across the ditch. And can you blame them?
Over to you Kiwis.