Chairlift project opens up Shadow Basin

3 minutes read
Posted 10 June, 2024
Screenshot 2024 06 10 115010

The Shadow Basin chairlift base building, pictured during snowfall in early May. Photo: NZSki

The Remarks' new Shadow Basin chairlift is almost ready to roll.

The $23 million six-seater Doppelmayr chairlift has been installed at the NZSki Queenstown skifield in an epic project over the summer months.

The new lift will ferry 2400 passengers per hour up to a new top station at a higher elevation, with the journey taking under four minutes. From there, skiers and snowboarders will be able to access 47ha of intermediate and advanced terrain, including new trails and the Alta Chutes.

Project manager Louise McQuillan, the company's General Manager Technical Operations, says planning began back in 2018 and work on site in September with the decommissioning of the slow, 33-year-old four-seater chairlift.

"We shut down the old Shadow two weeks early to give us a bit of head start," McQuillan says, "because we knew we were on a pretty tight programme to get everything completed and ready for the start of this winter."

NZSki General Manager Technical Operations Louise McQuillan

After cutting the haul rope, the next job was to remove the small hill at the bottom station. The new lift is accessible from right outside the base building, without the need to climb stairs.

"It was actually a lot of fill material from when they built the original chairlift in the 80s, so we've spread that on our carparks."

Construction of the base building and the first tower sites began in late November, while the NZSki team and Base Contractors began work to build a new road to the top station.

"It was pretty challenging terrain. The goal was to have access to that new top station for Doppelmayr by 20 January. We poured the top station concrete in early February, using two helicopters, the Trojan IDF helicopter and Heliworks. That was the first major milestone."

Doppelmayr then began work on the 11 towers, commissioning Kahu NZ to bring in its massive Black Hawk UH60 helicopter. The crews flew in the new towers and took out the old towers in the same operation, although a couple which were filled with concrete still need to be removed.

"We also had a spider excavator for the tricky spots. It has articulated legs and wheels instead of tracks, to be able to access into that terrain and minimise the footprint as it goes in and out. People were quite excited about the spider."

Both the top station and the bottom station, including a parking building for the chairs, were assembled like a Meccano set, using cranes, before the 'rope splicing' began in early April. The 47 chairs were then attached to the hanger arms and grips and loaded in May.

"This week they're numbering the chairs. They wait until they've done all the testing. We did loading testing and certification this week, which is pretty big on the timeline. We're just waiting on the final piece of paperwork from SGS, the independent verification company. They also certify all our lifts on a annual basis, checking we've done all the necessary maintenance over summer."

All in, about 100 people have worked on the project over the summer, including the NZSki team, Doppelmayr, Naylor Love and contractors.

There have been challenges, including the unseasonal snow and high winds, but it has come together.

"For me, over the last month where we've seen the chairs go on the line, the team smiling and everything working out, and you see the finished product, that's been a highlight.

"And standing at the top station, when we first had road access there, was a pretty incredible moment. Looking out and seeing the view, and all this terrain below you, and how exciting it will be for skiers and boarders.

"It's just going such a great addition to The Remarkables."

This will be the fifth major chairlift project NZSki has completed in the past 10 years, including Curvey Basin chairlift and Sugar Bowl chairlift at The Remarks, Coronet Express at Queenstown's Coronet Peak, and the Nor'west Express at Mt Hutt in Canterbury.

It brings the total investment in The Remarks by the company to $90 million in that time.


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