Ski area to cut 60pc of jobs in scaledown

BEN HEATHER
Last updated 05:00 14/04/2009
Fairfax Media
CUTTING BACK: Snow Park is drastically scaling down this season, cutting 60 per cent of staff and shedding several major events.

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Snow Park is drastically scaling down this season, cutting 60 per cent of staff and shedding several major events.

General manager Sam Lee said rumours Snow Park, in the Cardrona Valley near Wanaka, would not open this season were false, but the business would be scaled back after visitor numbers dropped 30 per cent last season.

"There was some uncertainty for us about how things were going to pan out," he said.

"But with fuel prices and the dollar dropping ... we came up with a plan and everything else fell into place."

However, visitor numbers this season were expected to be similar to last year's low, possibly dropping a further 15 per cent.

"We're taking it back to 2004 or 2005."

Snow Park has lost two major events to Cardrona for the coming season, the Freeski Open and the Burton Open NZ.

But Lee said shedding the events were part of a new grassroots focus.

"It sort of grew a bit bigger than we were really. Economic times have made us take a hard look at ourselves."

Fewer staff would mean amalgamating several base services and scaling back the menu at the skifield lodge. All chairlifts and slope features would still be running, he said.

"We're looking at cutting back slightly depending on numbers. If it's busy we're just going to open up more features and if not we'll just service the demand that's there." in 2003, Snow Park has also made a couple of changes to ticketing, dropping season passes in favour of a cheaper club discount card. There will also be a dedicated club night, when members can ride free of charge.

Snow Park, which opened in 2003, is New Zealand's only dedicated freestyle terrain park. It is owned by the Lee family along with the adjacent cross-country ski area Snow Farm.

After receiving consent for a gondola from the Cardrona Valley floor to Snow Park last year, they are seeking investors to back a massive expansion in skiable terrain.

Talks with potential investors were continuing, but all the interest was coming from overseas, he said.

Sam Lee and his father and mother, John and Mary Lee, have developed a kaleidoscope of snow-based operations over the years.

The younger Lee has been in charge of building a restaurant and helped oversee the building of a 24-unit apartment complex that connects to the snow-boarding areas.

The family has run cross-country courses for both ski-skating and classic runs.

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