Queenstown ski industry hopeful for good season despite drop in bookings this year

The ski industry in Queenstown says bookings are down this year as the economic conditions remove ski holidays from people's calendars.

But NZ Ski is hoping that will change when the snow comes, particularly with a new $23 million chairlift that's just been installed at The Remarkables.

Staff at The Remarkables did a snow dance on Friday, hoping to bring some more white gold with all their moves - and it worked!

"Absolutely stoked to see this snow falling, nice big fat flakes, it's exactly what we want," said Paul Anderson from NZ Ski.

What they also want is people, as the economic crunch bites, with softness in the bookings so far this season.

"People are less likely to pre-commit because everyone's paying a wee bit more on their mortgages at the moment, so not as much spare money to spend upfront," Anderson told Newshub.

Which, right now, is their biggest challenge.

"The more immediate concern for us is probably filling up those bookings for the season, and working with people like the airlines to make sure ski holidays and winter holidays are still uppermost in people's minds," he said.

Parts of the Northern Hemisphere had a terrible season in their winter just gone, and there's a lot of talk about climate change badly impacting the snowsport industry.

But that hasn't stopped NZ Ski and the Remarkables from installing a brand-new multi-million-dollar chairlift.

A new $23m chairlift has just been installed at the Remarkables.
A new $23m chairlift has just been installed at the Remarkables. Photo credit: Newshub.

And still with climate change in mind. 

"When we do an investment like this, we'll put snowmaking in at the same time, and this chairlift is a $23 million investment and a decent chunk of that is 18 new snow guns up here," said Anderson.

NZ Ski's Louise McQuillan has overseen months of difficult installation, including heavy-lift Black Hawk helicopters dropping in the chairlift's towers.

It opens up new terrain for the punters at Remarkables.

"This is my very first ride on this brand new lift, so it's pretty exciting," McQuillan told Newshub.

Mt Hutt tried to open on Friday, but the rain came which melted some snow and forced them to close.

They're calling it 'Clopen Day' - open but closed.

"The snow-making guns are ready to fire up as soon as it gets cold, so we're optimistic about the prospects of this winter, but of course Mother Nature always has the final say," said James MacKenzie, ski area manager for NZ Ski.

Meanwhile, Whakapapa plans to open at the end of the month.

So it's rain, rain go away - and snow please come - so tourists stay.