A new ski area “undiscovered for 85 years” has opened near Queenstown offering skiers and boarders an exclusive playground.
Soho Basin is nestled beside Cardrona and is run by operations manager Mark Dewsbery and experienced ski area manager Hamish McCrostie, who ran The Remarkables and Coronet Peak for years.
The company is owned by developer John Darby.
Billed as “undiscovered,” Soho offers people the chance to experience terrain as if it was the pioneering days of skiing in New Zealand back in the 1930s.
The basin has been used by back country skiers for years.
McCrostie said Soho had attracted steady interest, especially from Queenstowners and charter groups, since opening in July.
Ultimately the field would be developed as a fully operational commercial venture but, for now, the soft approach was about introducing people to the terrain, he said.
The field was really three linked basins, Little Willow, Big Willow and Soho.
“That gives us 500 metres of vertical. The two basins, Little Willow and Big Willow, they’re really warm up runs with steep sides for those that want it. Then you progress to Soho basin. In between times you stop for lunch.
“The top of the basin is quite a special place. From the top of Mt Cardrona you have options left and right.
“The terrain is magical.
“Ultimately it will be developed further into a ski area. That’s the plan. But the timeframe is unknown.”
Private charters are also available by arrangement for up to 24 people. Bookings and logistics are run by McCrostie, Dewsbery, two drivers and three patrollers.
Ski touring has been catered for with a registration process for people accessing the back country across Soho, which is part of Glencoe Station.
“Our objective is to give people a bloody good time so they go away talking about the snow, the terrain. We’ve had a lot of local groups, there’s quite a lot of interest locally.”
The 264ha field sits in high alpine basins at the head of Soho creek. Terrain starts at 1425 metres above sea level and continues up to Mt Cardrona at 1925m, offering 500 metres of vertical drop.
The basin is predominantly south-facing and holds the snow well for long periods.
There is no chairlift – yet – so instead guests jump in a heated cab on the back of a snow cat groomer.
Pricing, as you might expect for an exclusive Queenstown ski area, is more than your average day pass.
An introductory half day with four runs costs $295 per person while a full day costs $580. Private charters are also available for a maximum of 24 people.
The land is Crown-owned. Music producer Mutt Lange holds the pastoral lease through his company Soho Properties, which in turn bought the pastoral lease from leaseholder Glencoe Station, owned by Darby.
Darby was involved in setting up The Remarkables in the 1980s and kept the rights to ski field development at Soho.