A high-tech snow factory could extend the ski season but summer skiing at Coronet Peak? That might be a step too far, says chief executive of NZSki Paul Anderson.
NZSki has applied to the Department of Conservation to be allowed to install a “snow factory” at some point in future.
The snow factory is new kit developed in Italy that costs between $1 million and $2m. It works by taking in water and chilling it to produce ice. It’s then shredded and blown through a tube, he said.
“You create large piles then groom it to create a piste. Then the ice can be tilled to make it fluffier and lighter,” Anderson said.
The machine was unlikely to be seen on the mountain any time soon because it had a lead time of around a year to manufacture and had not even been ordered, he said.
Under the Conservation Act, NZSki was required to apply for a concession for all activities it had on the mountain and because the concessions were long-term it had “scratched its head” on the extent of the activities it might offer in the future.
The technology would enable operators to produce snow at any temperature, whereas traditional snow machines could only operate under 0C.
“If we had a machine at Coronet Peak we could guarantee opening at Queen’s Birthday Weekend, which could be a great game-changer both for us at Coronet Peak and for Queenstown.
“That’s why we’ve put the snow factory in there,” Anderson said.
The Whakapapa ski field at Mount Ruapehu already had one and used it to get Happy Valley operating in early season, Anderson said.
In the event of a future purchase the snow factory wouldn’t be used to cover an entire mountain but was more likely to be used to cover a learner’s slope or guarantee early skiing.
It was “entirely possible” to produce a sledding or learners’ slope in summer but there were no immediate plans to do so, he said.
NZSki first needed to determine if there was demand. It was launching a new range of summer activities at Coronet Peak, including mountain biking.
“We’ll read the tea leaves and see what customers are saying and if we think that it is worth trying we’ll look at getting a snow factory,” Anderson said.