Ski resorts in New Zealand have been caught out these last couple of weeks by unexpectedly high skier numbers, so much so that the General Manager of Cardrona and Treble Cone, Bridget Legnavsky, was forced to pen an open letter of apology.
Due to closed borders as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the ski resorts anticipated a 50% drop in visits, compared to the previous year. Based on these projections, they staffed the resorts accordingly, with 50% of the usual workforce. However, turns out that early season snow, great bluebird days, school holidays, and closed borders meaning Kiwis couldn’t holiday anywhere else, their skier numbers actually approached the same as last year. With half the staff.
I’m sure we’ve all experienced and can imagine the chaos that ensued! Fairplay to Legnavsky for holding her hands up, and admitting mistakes were made. Here’s the letter, in full:
We have just experienced the most incredible couple of weeks here at Cardrona and Treble Cone. We have been overwhelmed with the support, encouragement and appreciation we have received from all of you, and we just want to thank you so much.
As many of you know, this winter we forecasted a 50% decline in our business due to closed borders and the impact of Covid-19 – we based our staffing levels on this forecast. This decline did not eventuate, and instead our July school holiday numbers were very close to those of 2019.
After a slow start to the season, we experienced our first day peak day on Friday the 10th. After several stormy days and fresh snow, Kiwis flocked to the mountain for the first bluebird day. Skier numbers on Friday were still significantly less than peak days in 2019, but we had a record number of cars on the mountain.
We were overwhelmed at the amount of traffic, did not have enough staff to manage parking and guests parked themselves as best as they could. This caused bottlenecks on the road and made it difficult for the shuttles to move and for our guests to get to the mountain.
From Friday onwards we pulled in all available staff into traffic management but there were still teething issues as we learned to deal with the volume of cars.
Monday the 13th was another fine weather day, and the numbers of skiers was even higher. On Monday we attempted to slow down the traffic at the Pine Trees order to manage carpark capacity, but this ended up causing a jam on the main highway. We quickly learnt that we had to keep the traffic flowing no matter what and developed strategies to manage the intense flow, from very early in the morning for about an hour and a half. This morning “pulse”, where everyone decided to come at the same time, first impacted the road, then Guest Services before hitting Rentals and F&B. We moved all available staff to these pinch points and we are incredibly proud of how flexible our team were and how hard they worked.
Throughout the week our guests arrived earlier and earlier each day. We responded by bringing our staff on earlier and earlier and pushing out communications via every channel we could think of including the website Snow Report, Facebook [pages and groups], Twitter, Instagram stories and the radio. Over the week we brought on more resource, redesigned much of what we do, and we hope you could see the flows improve.
However, we are the first to admit our guest experience has not been what we aspire to deliver. We didn’t get our forecast right. We had far more people than we expected and planned for. For this, we want to apologise wholeheartedly.
We have also had a few questions about why the Valley View chairlift is not running. Valley View required significant maintenance over summer that represented at least 5 weeks of work. This work was scheduled for the same time as New Zealand went into the Level 4 lockdown. When we came out of lockdown, the team needed to prioritise which lifts received maintenance and the decision was made to focus on the 3 upper mountain lifts; McDougall’s, Whitestar and Captain’s. There was not enough time or resource to fix Valley View and it is currently inoperable. We apologise for this as well – you can rest assured that the Valley View lift and parking option will be back for Winter 2021.
Based on the insights that we have received over the last week we’re confident that numbers will remain steady for the entire season, and we’re thrilled to see the support for both Cardrona and Treble Cone. The season is just going to keep getting better and better, with great snow already and much more in the forecast.
Most of all, we want to thank all of you for supporting our community and our resorts. It has been amazing to see Wanaka and Queenstown pumping, and we’re beyond proud to be part of the reason you choose to visit our region. We are stoked to be working, skiing and snowboarding, and in a position to share our love of this mountain with you all.
Bridget Legnavsky and the whanau at both Cardrona and Treble Cone