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Slippery slope to the right

November 22 2021 by Paul Taylor

Slippery slope to the right

I’m trying to figure out what to think about the proposed new ski tunnel at The Remarks skifield providing access to the Doolans.

When I heard NZSki boss Paul Anderson announce the plans for the 300m-ish tunnel, which will just about triple the size of skiable terrain up there by opening up another valley, my first reaction was: “That’s awesome”.

The announcement was made up at Coronet Peak on Thursday, in the same café where I’ve spent much of the pre-lockdown winter camped out while kids, aged five and eight, learned to ski with NZSki’s Little Rippers programme. I alternated between doing a few runs, drinking coffee and tapping out a few stories, and chatting to others in the parent clan. Idyllic. We hit The Remarks a good few times post lockdown, enjoying the new runs down from Sugar Bowl chairlift. So, on hearing the tunnel plans, I imagined the fun of going through, into new terrain, more space, more interest, more joy.

But a quick look at the social media comments and I feel like I have all the critical faculties of someone who’d have stood on a street corner in Paris in 1940 as the tanks rolled in and said ‘ooh, haven’t they got nice uniforms’.

Most objections have centred around the Doolans itself, and the need to leave it as a pristine backcountry area, filled with rare plants, streams and wildlife, providing major access to hunting, hiking, ski touring, ice climbing etc. Others include the possible hike in season pass prices, carparking, worker accommodation, and “WTF”, why expand a “dying industry into another conservation area” with climate change underway.

Now I know ‘I’m trying to figure out what to think’ isn’t the most colours-to-the-mast opinion piece. But, I haven’t made up my mind. I have a few genuine questions of my own, from both sides of the debate. Feel free to answer in the comments when this goes online.

Isn’t there a beep-load of backcountry in the Southern Alps? Enough to spare one (more) valley for thousands more to enjoy than currently do? Do we have to stop having any fun and doing any business to stop global warming? Wait, am I becoming right wing now I’m middle aged? Am I the National Party? Am I Groundswell? Should I have been enjoying runs down Sugar Bowl when it required the relocation of snow tussocks? What about my kids on the learner slopes built over wetlands? Do we still want growth? Shouldn’t the Remarkables be a National Park?

People will have different opinions on all of this, no doubt. There was, however, one comment made which I think we can all agree on. As Lindsay Bellamy said: “This will be a shit fight...”

Paul Taylor
Queestown Media Group

- Paul Taylor