In 1947 Coronet Peak in Queenstown opened with just a rope tow pulling keen skiers up a mountain, the first commercial ski field to open in New Zealand.
Seventy years have passed and the ski field is now running eight lifts, welcomes thousands of guests on a fine weather day, has the largest snow-making system in the Southern Hemisphere, boasts the longest day on the snow with first tracks through to night ski, and has come to be loved as one of the best ski experiences New Zealand has to offer.
To celebrate this milestone, they’re holding their biggest night ski yet this Friday the 28th.
Top NZ DJs including King Kapisi and Che Fu will be entertaining guests through the afternoon and evening, and guests will be able to try a Coronet Peak Pale Ale, a beer crafted by Emersons Brewery in honour of the milestone.
The award-winning Coronet Peak Pale Ale will be officially launched at World Bar in Queenstown after night skiing.
Ski Area Manager Nigel Kerr says the night ski event is perfect for the occasion.
“We were first to launch night skiing in New Zealand so it was fitting to celebrate our 70th with a night ski party.
“But it’s not only night skiing, this is an opportunity to celebrate where we’re at and the contribution we’ve made to New Zealand snow sports and to Queenstown.”
One local that has seen a lot of change is Derek Brown, a 56-year old who has been skiing at Coronet Peak since 1963 from the tender age of two while on holidays at the family crib.
Derek’s father Doug made his first skis.
“He must’ve steamed them in a bath or something,” says Derek.
That eager attitude saw the Brown family eventually settle in Queenstown in 1972, and pioneer the fledgling ski scene in Queenstown, including starting Brown’s Ski Shop on Shotover Street.
Both Father and son were also presidents of the Wakatipu ski club through the years.
“When we first started skiing there were only a few families that skied,” says Derek.
“But then during the school holidays you would have very long lift lines, sometimes waiting up to an hour. And you’d get cold too, but that was just how it was. The season was really short – four weeks if you were lucky – so you just did it.”
He says the big change in skiing was when snowmaking was installed at Coronet Peak in 1992.
“It just opened up the season. It was great. And not to mention good for the resort too.”
Derek still gets up Coronet Peak as often as he can, spending a lot of time at Heidi’s Hut, the warm and inviting restaurant at the base of the Rocky Gully T-bar that serves Italian fare.
As to why he loves Coronet, Derek says it’s great terrain, easy to get to and the lifts are good.
“It’s just right.”