A decision to alter the dates of the 2017 Audi quattro Winter Games NZ to run from August 25-September 10, two weeks later than previous events, has been strongly endorsed by Southern Lakes ski areas and the tourism and accommodation sectors.
CEO Arthur Klap said the push for the later timeframe into September came largely from Tourism New Zealand, NZSki, Cardrona Alpine Resort, Destination Queenstown and Lake Wanaka Tourism.
“We followed this up with wide consultation with other groups including accommodation providers, airlines and snow sports teams and there was an overwhelming tick for staging the Games at the start of the shoulder season. Obviously at that time Queenstown and Wanaka are less busy and the level of support from everyone involved can be that much greater.”
Destination Queenstown CEO Graham Budd said scheduling Winter Games NZ in late winter and early spring was more closely aligned with the promotional group’s objective to profile September as an excellent time to visit the region for a spring skiing and holiday experience.
“We think that the international reputation and profile of the Games can go a long way to helping share this message to potential visitors, both snow enthusiasts and first timers alike.”
Klap said initially there was a concern as to whether the snow conditions would be suitable for alpine events in September.
“However, after studying snow data collected over many years it was clear that races have been successfully run in September at Coronet Peak and NZSki saw no problem with the date change.”
NZSki CEO Paul Anderson said it would be much easier in 2017 for staff at Coronet Peak, which will host at least four giant slalom and slalom races during the Games, to focus on the event.
“The mountain will not be so busy and we see no risk with the snow conditions by changing the timing. Our experience is that the two weeks from August 25-September 10 are still good for ski racing and we can continue to assist in providing top class events.”
Similarly Cardrona Alpine Resort’s owner Real Journeys welcomes the later timing for the Games.
CEO Richard Lauder said “snow conditions remain great at Cardrona in September and are particularly good for freeskiers and snowboarders. The tourism market in the area weakens slightly at that time so a change of dates will provide more accommodation and entertainment options for the influx of visitors for the Games”.
The feedback from international snow sports teams was “universally positive,” according to Audi quattro Winter Games NZ Sports Manager Iona Bentley.
“In fact, the US Men’s Alpine team indicated they would rearrange their training schedules to fit the new dates enabling their team to compete in the Games. Similarly Guenther Birgmann of the Treble Cone Ski Academy, whose skiers make up a large part of the international field, welcomed the date change because it meant the Games competition would be at the end of the Academy’s training period and much less disruptive for athletes.”
In previous years Winter Games NZ alpine events have been staged only at Coronet Peak but Klap said the new dates meant Treble Cone could potentially become involved either in 2017, or in the future, if the green light is given for the event to become an annual one.
“In particular Treble Cone could host the alpine Super G or the IPC alpine ski racing. However, holding alpine races at Treble Cone would be subject to significant development work on the mountain and we are currently preparing a case to put to the ski area management. But it is a distinct possibility.”
With the change in dates the board of Winter Games NZ has also agreed to the introduction of a 17-day programme in 2017, historically run over ten days.
“This will certainly give us more flexibility in scheduling the events,” said Klap, “and allows for contingencies such as weather postponements. The spreading of the programme will also meet the demands of media making it easier for news outlets to cover all the different events around the Southern Lakes.”