Ski season shaping up better for North Island than South

By Siobhan Leathley

The 2012 ski season is going well in the North Island, but not so good in the South. Photo / Sarah Ivey
The 2012 ski season is going well in the North Island, but not so good in the South. Photo / Sarah Ivey

The 2012 ski season is shaping-up to be more successful in the North than the South Island.

Canterbury's Mt Hutt ski field James McKenzie said numbers vary from day-to-day.

However, with good weather he expects to see 2500 people hitting the slopes on weekends and 1500 during weekdays.

"Skiers expect a certain level of snow when they visit. When the weather is stable, visiting numbers are strong."

McKenzie said business is good at the moment, but it is still recovering from the February 2011 earthquake.

"Business levels fell by 20 per cent overnight."

Travel and tourism was severely affected by this. McKenzie said it was difficult for skiers to find accommodation; tourists, Australians, were scared to stay in the area.

To combat this, the closest ski town, Methven, was offering deals, including children eating for free at restaurants, to entice skiers to stay there.

"People find it easier to find accommodation in Queenstown, so unless we offer something unique they will travel there to ski."

However, Queenstown may be less prosperous than McKenzie believes.

Queenstown's Ski Express reservations manager Paula Squire-Thomas said there are roughly 300-700 visitors each week.

Poor snowfall means the company has to rely on a snow-machine to cover the mountain base.

"We've had beautiful weather, but fewer natural snow falls."

Mt Ruapehu Alpine Lifts general manager David Mazey said there were 7500-8000 visitors to the Whakapapa and Turoa ski fields last weekend.

There has been good snow cover, but Alpine had to use the snow machine to cover the mountain base slopes, designed for beginner and intermediate skiers.

The Mount Tongariro eruption did little to deter skiers. Mazey said Tongariro is 20-25kms away from the mountain, which is too far away to worry about.

The recession had not deterred skiers.

"Whether people decide to come or not is driven by weather and snow conditions. The number we've seen on the ski fields today is what we expected."

However, people are pinching their pennies on retail items, gloves, glasses and ski clothes.

Spending had been steady on bars, food and accommodation.

- NZ Herald

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