News Archive Mt Hutt Methven

Mt Hutt is almost ready to open for 2011

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Mt Hutt snow-lovers only have a month to wait to make the first runs of the season, with the Mount Hutt skifield scheduled to open on June 11.

NZSki general manager sales and marketing, Craig Douglas, said everything was running according to schedule.

"All of the guys have been pretty busy. They got an early start on things this season, so everything's coming together as planned.

"They have had a couple of challenging days up there, with the snowfalls; but it has not delayed them at all."

Now it was now just a matter of recruiting and training staff, and "tidying up and making sure it's all working for when it snows".

Mr Douglas said NZSki was confident it could open on the set dates because of its experience, history and investment in snow-making equipment.

"History suggests that we will get the temperatures, but if we don't get the snow, it's less of a challenge, with our snow-makers."

Despite controversy over the prices for this year's early-bird passes, Mr Douglas said NZSki was "really happy" with sales.

NZSki said last month that there had been a change in the mix of season passes sold this year, but the balance of sales were in line with expectations, and "similar to last year; a result that bodes well for the winter tourism industry".

Mr Douglas this week said it was difficult to say exactly how sales of main season passes were looking, but the indications were positive.

"As most of those are purchased on the day, it's a small base to measure off, but we are ahead of where we were last year."

Methven and Mt Hutt is "open for business"

A CONSORTIUM of tourism operators and airlines is working hard to ensure this year's ski season does not suffer unduly from the Christchurch earthquake and to tell the world – and especially Australia – that Methven and Mt Hutt is "open for business".

Bookings for the season stopped almost totally in the 10 days after the earthquake, said NZSki chief executive James Coddington, but has crept back after a concerted advertising campaign in Australia.

Last week, Statistics New Zealand announced international arrivals fell by 27,710 (down 11.4%) in March 2011, compared to the same month in 2010.

Arrivals from Australia, a key market for New Zealand's winter ski season, were down 11.3%.

Coddington, whose NZSki operates the Coronet Peak, Mt Hutt and Remarkables skifields, said there are a number of external factors that could damage the season, including a strong Australian dollar which could lead some to take the opportunity to travel to destinations such as the US.

"We're competing against other locations, not other snow products," he said.

However, the cross rate with the New Zealand dollar is also very strong and Mt Hutt is a very competitive market, offering accommodation and activities for everyone from backpackers to elite helicopter skiers.

The area offers all-round appeal, as those not interested in skiing can enjoy spas and wine tours.

NZSki bought the three skifields, very run down, from Air New Zealand in 2002 and over 10 years has invested $100m, said sales and marketing manager Craig Douglas. One major investment was in snowmaking machinery which can transform slopes without snow into skiable areas in just three days and which guarantee a full and extended season of 135 days, up from 70 to 80 days.

Base buildings have also been redeveloped, world-leading smart pass technology introduced and fast lifts installed, which mean skiers get the maximum number of runs a day.

NZSki has also invested in buses to overcome parking constraints on the mountain, Douglas said. Over the past three years, business has grown 62%.

One clear upside this year is the Rugby World Cup. While not hosting any games, Methven Mt Hutt will provide leisure activities for teams including England and Ireland. There will be games in the South Island and many who go to those will also be attracted to New Zealand's best ski area.

Christchurch airport is open for business and ready to welcome visitors.

Last week the government launched the latest campaign to bring visitors, the Great Kiwi Invite, encouraging Kiwis to invite friends and family to visit.

The Great Kiwi Invite will run for four weeks, pushing Kiwis to use a website to send personalised email invitations and go into a draw for one of 15 trips for two with Air New Zealand.