Where have you been? - Queenstown snowmaker on business trip

By Peter Malcouronne

Peter Malcouronne meets the arrivals at Auckland Airport

36-year-old Paul Lambert arriving back at Auckland International Airport after spending time working in China and Korea. Photo / NZ Herald
36-year-old Paul Lambert arriving back at Auckland International Airport after spending time working in China and Korea. Photo / NZ Herald

Scratch a New Zealander, they say, and you'll find a (self-appointed) tourism board ambassador beneath. For ours is a nation of a million Murrays - and Paul Lambert, 36, certainly does his bit.

The Queenstown snowmaker - more on this later - has just got back from a three-week business trip to the East. Most nights Paul was away there'd be a formal dinner where he expertly steered the conversation back to the majesty of the Motherland.

"Many of our clients have been to New Zealand," he says. "They know about the ski industry here: they know we've got some pretty good mountains and good snow."

Pleasingly, the Koreans and Japanese show - or at least feign - an interest in the national game.

"They understand the All Blacks are the biggest team in world rugby and that they're a big part of our lives. I always explain the team's importance in bringing together our different cultures.

The different races - Maori, Samoan, Tongan, Fijian ... European. They like that."

With the audience in his thrall, Paul then unleashes a Potted History of Aotearoa.

"I try to explain about the Treaty and how it's important to us. We didn't just - well, we Europeans actually couldn't - dominate the natives. This was obviously good for them, and ultimately better for us. Better for New Zealand. They find that very interesting."

Evangelising done, it's down to business. Paul works for the Italian company TechnoAlpin, arguably the world's leading snowmakers. With 1000 installations in 41 countries, Paul's responsible for their machines in Australasia and Asia.

Now, I didn't touch snow until I was 13 and I still think it's magical. Which makes Paul a magician. I ask: how do you make snow?

"It's a mixture of air and water at a really high pressure," he explains. "Once the temperature drops below minus two, the machines start up. They blow the water up in the air and it freezes into tiny snow crystals."

The colder it gets, the more snow is born. In a good night with little wind, a machine can lay down 30cm. For Paul's biggest customer, the 210-machined Coronet Peak, that extends the season from 30 days to more than 100. "It's super-important for Queenstown," he says. Helps it look like a picture.

Which just happens to be another of Paul's sidelines. An enthusiastic snapper, he frames his best shots and gifts them to his overseas clients. He really ought be on a retainer from Tourism New Zealand.

- NZ Herald

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