The stats are in, and New Zealand’s best ski resort since 2015 – Mt Hutt in Canterbury – closed the 2018 season with the best visitor numbers since the mountain opened in 1973!
The surge of visitors has been attributed to service and operations rather than snow, with the leanest snowfall in 20 years.
Mt Hutt Ski Area Manager James McKenzie says sharp season pass pricing, upgraded snowmaking and fun new alternatives to skiing such as the highest hot tub in the country, sightseeing and Yooners [ski with a seat] have all attracted record guest numbers and added to the “kiwi-as” vibe at the mountain.
“The results are quite an achievement given the lack of natural snow this season,” he says.
“With just 170cm of snow falling from the time we opened through to closing weekend the 2018 winter season turned out to be the second leanest in 20 years, yet the numbers don’t reflect that.
“June visitation was up 60% and July to October numbers were up 30% - partly buoyed by great weekend weather,” says James.
“Significant investment in snowmaking last summer was uncannily timely and amazingly effective. Following our pump station upgrade were able to double our output which meant all lifts were running from opening day to the end of the season for the first time ever.”
James says the shorter wait times for coffees, food and shuttles were also appreciated by guests.
“We were able to shift guests from the lower car parks up to the ski area far more efficiently this season so wait times were very rarely more than 10-15 minutes.
“It was also very pleasing to receive so much positive feedback about our revamped cafes and restaurants that can accommodate extra staff and service lines thereby reducing wait time for food and hot drinks.
This year Mt Hutt reintroduced scenic rides, a hit with guests, says James.
“Scenic rides on our Summit 6 chairlift went down a treat with both skiing and non-skiing guests alike. Literally anyone can now rock up to Hutt and have a go on the snow.
“Our Snowpalooza event and Yooner skis (a ski with a seat) drew plenty of Cantabrians to the snow as well.
“To sum it all up we’ve had an absolutely stellar season. Yet, despite the increased business levels, the ski area never reached capacity. We’re a big mountain!”
Off the back of this “incredibly successful season”, Mt Hutt is announcing big plans for 2019.
The ski field is to extend the trail network and increase the snowmaking system for 2019.
James explains the new developments:
“We will be building a new family fun trail down from the top of the Quad chair. This winding beginner/intermediate trail will access what is currently under-utilised terrain and offer a mix of fun snow features including rollers, banked turns and a tunnel. It will also be serviced by a new, fully-automated line of snowmaking guns.
“We also plan to add a new advanced trail out left of the reservoir and move the start of “Race Hill” up to the start of the Mid Towers traverse to extend the length of steep groomed terrain on that side of the basin.
“We are also excited to be welcoming a state-of-the-art snow groomer into our fleet next winter with Tier 5 engine technology and real-time snow-depth monitoring software.
“Tier 5 engines have been developed in Europe to meet their more stringent emissions regulations and whilst there is a premium to include this in the spec, we see it as an important step towards reducing our impact on the unique alpine environment in which we operate,” says James.
Pricing remains an attractive proposition, says James.
“We’re not only fiercely loved by Cantabrians for our laid back Southern hospitality, but the pricing remains attractive. With kids 10 and under free, and an Earlybird price freeze of $349 until 31st Jan for a season pass, Mt Hutt pass is hugely popular. Its winter entertainment sorted!”
Mt Hutt Season passes are now on sale, with adult season pass prices frozen at $349 until 31st Jan, which can be paid in 6 easy instalments.
Kids 10 and under can still ski for free and the student season pass has been reduced by $50 to just $299.