Travel And Tour World – Mt. Hutt has been awarded as New Zealand’s Best Ski Resort 2018 for the fourth consecutive year by World Ski Awards. What makes Mt. Hutt stay ahead of the curve?
James Urquhart: Mt Hutt is New Zealand’s big friendly mountain with solid snow fall and high altitude delivering a long, white season. A big drawcard – and a key reason we continue to get voted NZ’s best – is our Kiwi hospitality. Our guests, many of whom have been coming here for years and years, feel like part of the family.
Travel And Tour World: What aspects help Mt. Hutt beat competition?
James Urquhart: Attitude and altitude!! Aside from our friendly, welcoming attitude, we are a high, big mountain. The altitude of 2086 m. with a 683 m. vertical drop makes it the South Island’s highest chair lift, attracting plenty of snow, some of the country’s most spectacular views, and offering leg-burning runs.
Another feature our guests love is the spa located at the top of Summit Six where you can literally soak up the views.
In terms of terrain, we are talking 365 hectares of wide groomed slopes, all-lift access for all abilities, top to bottom terrain parks with world class jumps, and some of the best off-piste skiing around.
As a member of The Methven Kids4Free Deal, children 10 and under get a lift pass free of charge during the season, which also makes us a great family choice. Many comparable commercial ski fields charge when children turn 6, so this is a major drawcard.
Travel And Tour World: How many guests have visited Mt. Hutt last year and how many are being expected this year (across all age groups)?
James Urquhart: We don’t release this data as it’s commercially sensitive, but year on year we have seen an increase in our visitors due to our season pass pricing strategy. We believe everyone should be able to afford to experience our mountains and over the past 3 years we have reduced our season passes so more people can visit.
Last season, we also incentivised spring pass sales by offering rewards for days skiing, including coffees, burgers and for those skiing 12 days or more during Spring, a private lesson on us!
Travel And Tour World – Which are the top countries from where visitors come to Mt.Hutt?
James Urquhart: We have guests from all over the world and locally in New Zealand. The majority of our guests are from Christchurch, which is about an hour and a half drive away. They have a feeling of ownership which is awesome as this keeps the vibe and the culture alive on our ski area.
A large contingent is from Australia, in particular from centres on the Eastern Seaboard, due to the frequency of flights, and short air travel time.
Travel And Tour World – What are the future plans (growth objectives) in order to attract more guests and to increase guest experience at Mt. Hutt?
James Urquhart: This summer we again will be spending in excess of U.S. dollars 2.5 million on projects around our ski area:
One major project for this summer will be the introduction and completion of a new fun zone area from the top of Quad down to the base area. We will be adding my trails/snowmaking and fun activities including a covered tunnel to ski under or over. This new fun zone will see an added extension of our parks for all abilities to enjoy.
We have purchased the latest groomer money can buy which will add value to our slope preparation.
The rest of the investment will go to roads and transport, such as new road barriers; increasing our ski rentals to keep up with the latest innovations in performance and safety, and to our café with new state-of-the-art cleaning equipment that will turn over crockery and cutlery at a rapid speed for improved, quicker food and beverage service.
Travel And Tour World – Guests are increasingly becoming environment conscious. Kindly elucidate on the sustainability practices of Mt. Hutt?
James Urquhart: Mt Hutt, as a member of NZSki, has partnered with the Kea Conservation Trust to enhance the environment to entice more kea to nest in the alpine environment. Kea are a native alpine parrot that nest on the ground, vulnerable to predators.
Over summer, we do a lot of planting and revegetation work to keep the environment as it should be, but the focus now is to keep predators such as rats and stoats out with trapping. By doing this, we are not only bringing back the keas, but creating a sanctuary-like space that allows all native animals thrive within the trapped zone.
When it comes to equipment, our new tier 5 engine rating groomer will be the highly efficient and cut emissions by 90% NOX (nitrogen oxides).
Travel And Tour World – Tourism is not an isolated island. Has there been any tie-up with travel agents, tour operators and so on?
We continue to work with all our partners which include our international ski wholesalers who package up our products. Our relationships with Tourism NZ, Christchurch NZ and Christchurch Airport are vital to continue to put Canterbury in the minds of all guests who are thinking about a ski holiday in New Zealand.