BACK IN THE DAY WITH LAKES DISTRICT MUSEUMhttps://theflyer.co.nz/wp-content/uploads/EL2272-Coronet-Peak-skifield-c.1950-from-KNOWLES-Collection-scaled.jpg25601903The Flyer MagazineThe Flyer Magazinehttps://theflyer.co.nz/wp-content/uploads/EL2272-Coronet-Peak-skifield-c.1950-from-KNOWLES-Collection-scaled.jpg
Skiing in the Whakatipu – the early days continued…
In the early days of Coronet Peak many of the skiers were involved in the ski club scene and would stay in huts on the mountain during the ski season.
“You arrived at the huts on Friday night and everyone would arrive and shout and yell, and it was quite social. Saturday was the night… I remember taking the piano from the Southland Hut to the Otago Hut. We didn’t bother going down to Queenstown. All the action was up on the mountain in the huts”. (Ray Clarkson)
Then, as now, for true enthusiasts skiing was an obsession:
“On Mondays at work, I was always recovering from skiing. On Tuesday and Wednesday I did some work, and on Thursday and Friday I was planning for the next weekend skiing…” (Ray Clarkson)
A small eating facility, affectionately known as the Pie Palace, was constructed and an insturctor, Olaf Rodegard, was employed. The first rope tow had opened in 1947 and as demand grew a second rope tow was installed and the base facilities improved.
“You went up the rope tow in two leaps… if you fell off you had to got to the back of the queue. There were a few grim accidents, like people putting their hands throught the pulleys and terrible scalpings.” (Ray Clarkson)
An improvement in air services increased accessibility to both Australian and New Zealand skiers. The increase in numbers meant that pressure on the facilites was mounting. In 1964 a double chair lift replaced the rope tows, followed by the Rocky Gully poma in 1967, the Happy Valley poma in 1970, the treble chair in 1974 and the Rocky Gully t-bar in 1981.
New base buildings were built in 1985 but were destroyed by fire in 1986, only to be rebuilt the following year. A high speed quad chair was introduced in 1994.
As natural snow became more unreliable, snowmaking was introduced in 1990. However the lack of good snow and the congestion on Coronet Peak had led to the Mount Cook Company opening up the Remarkables skifield in the Rastus Burn basin in 1985.
The visions of the Wigley family to skiing enterprises had a major effect on making the Whakatipu a year round visitor destination.
Lakes District Museum is open every day from 10am to 4pm.