BACK IN THE DAY WITH LAKES DISTRICT MUSEUM

BACK IN THE DAY WITH LAKES DISTRICT MUSEUM

BACK IN THE DAY WITH LAKES DISTRICT MUSEUM 1960 1468 The Flyer Magazine

Skiing in the Whakatipu – the early days…

The development of the ski industry in the Whakatipu is one of the great tourism success stories. From simple beginnings, it has developed into a multi-million dollar industry and established the region as a winter resort.

The Mount Cook Company was the pioneer of the industry. The company’s founder, Rodolph Wigley, had tried skiing at the Hermitage and on Ball Glacier, but when that failed he turned his focus to Queenstown.

One of Rodolph’s sons, Sandy, became the Mount Cook Company manager in Queenstown in 1938 and was struck by the lack of business during the winter. He investigated two potential skiing sites: the Crown Range, and Skippers Saddle on the way to Coronet Peak. After observing a winter season it was clear that snow lasted longer on the Skippers Saddle. A hut was moved there and the company began to actively promote skiing. Skiers would drive up the Coronet Peak Road to the saddle and then ski down Dan O’Connells Track to the main road. There, they would be picked up by car and taken back to the saddle. The more skilled and adventurous skiers could climb to the top of Coronet Peak and ski from the top to the bottom.

Word about Coronet Peak began to spread and the company realised that more resources and infrastructure were needed. William Hamilton, the inventor of the jet boat, was commissioned to build a rope tow and the local council was asked to improve road access.

The rope tow was built. It climbed just over 100 vertical metres and was powered by a Bedford truck engine and could lift 450-500 skiers per hour. It cost £1000 to install. The rope tow opened in June, 1947, and keen skiers flocked to Coronet Peak. The tow was the first truly successful one in the country.

On display in the Lakes District Museum gallery this month:
Winter Exhibition – A collection of works from 22 local artists.

Lakes District Museum is open every day from 10am to 4pm.

Lakes District Museum Logo

Hamilton rope tow-opening day, Coronet Peak, 1947.

Skiing at Skippers Saddle, Coronet Peak, 1946.

Newspaper Article on the opening of Skippers Saddle.

Photos – Lakes District Museum.