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The opening of borders is a boon for New Zealand and Queenstown ski areas

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Quarantine-free arrivals from Australia have improved the outlook for New Zealand’s ski industry. Photo / Supplied, NZ SKI

Ski operators are delighted with the news of the opening of the borders after a difficult period for snow tourism.

The reopening of the border is a silver lining for the blizzard of bad news that has hit New Zealand ski resorts for the past two years.

Today’s border opening announcement is ready in time for Australians to start planning ski holidays. As the Prime Minister said, it would be “a boon for Queenstown” and other areas that rely on seasonal visitors.

With two seasons that have seen Australian holidaymakers mostly shut out, the ski industry has welcomed the news as a potential boost for the region.

“Australia accounts for around 40% of visits to Queenstown during the ski season,” said NZ Ski managing director Paul Anderson.

Although buoyed by strong domestic support, the region’s winter hospitality and tourism has always relied on inbound travellers.

“The big change is the removal of the self-isolation component, which makes it more realistic to travel for a ski holiday,” he said.

New Zealand’s South Island resorts are already attracting interest from across Tasmania and beyond. Leading indicators showed that Australians are ready to return.

Australian arrivals will be a winter boon for Queenstown.  Photo/Queenstown
Australian arrivals will be a winter boon for Queenstown. Photo/Queenstown

Accommodation in the Queenstown area had many inquiries from across the divide and was just waiting for that final confirmation. Bachcare says it saw demand increase by 330% after it announced in February that it would reopen to international travellers.

Cardrona, one of the first tracks to open, sent the message that they will be ready and open to Australians at the end of June.

Ski area experience general manager Laura Hedley says she knows many loyal Aussie skiers will be eager to return after two abortive seasons.

Cardona Alpine Resort will be one of the first resorts to welcome Australian skiers.  Photo / Provided
Cardona Alpine Resort will be one of the first resorts to welcome Australian skiers. Photo / Provided

The Transtasman bubble, which had been a big hope for ski operators in the winter of 2021, was not delivered, followed by New Zealand’s August lockdown which closed most of the country’s ski slopes.

“We had a few parties in Australia which coincided with a poor start to our snow last year, but the bubble burst quite quickly in the season,” she said.

New Zealand skiing is already being promoted in Australia and it is hoped this will bring both skiers and seasonal workers to the snow fields.

“We’re in the process of recruiting right now,” Hedley said.

“We used to rely heavily on a working holiday visa pool, so the announcement will hopefully help us.”

Ski resorts will be ready for opening dates

NZ Ski operations in Queenstown and Mt Hutt have had some issues with seasonal staff.

Paul Anderson described the job market as “tough”, especially for ski instructors and other specific skills.

“We’ve spent a lot of time training New Zealand-based crews, and we’re hoping to see some of them come back,” he said.

“We are hiring a lot of specialist snow sports staff in Canada, the US and the UK and with the recent changes we will be able to see them too – which is great news.”

The Cardronas and Treble Cone say they have been extremely grateful for the support from New Zealanders who have helped them through two difficult seasons.

“After the first year, we were relieved to see that the skiing was strong no matter what.”

“We have invested in our snow machines and our snowmaking capabilities so we can open when we say we are open.”

The opening dates for the Cardrona ski areas are from June 11 and Treble Cone from June 25.

The NZ Ski slopes are set to restart on June 18 at the Remarkables and June 17 at Coronet Peak in Queenstown.

Mt Hutt would be open in Canterbury from June 10.


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