Beyond full steam and still stepping up at Coronet Peak and The Remarkables

Published 26 October 2022
After 14 years at Coronet Peak and The Remarkables, what keeps Jim Hemingway coming back to work is a team where everybody gets stuck in, and where staff get to follow their passion.

Jim (pictured above on the left, with Te Mahi Ako's Steve Richens) is head of the rentals department, and has been in charge since 2009. Originally he managed Coronet Peak only, but in 2020 this became a dual role covering The Remarkables as well. This means he gets to oversee all the staff working in the rentals and workshop teams across both mountains.

Like many snowsport expats, Jim’s connection to New Zealand started when he came down to do a southern hemisphere ski season and never left. That was 20 years ago.

“I did an adventure tourism management degree in the UK, and got qualified as a ski technician; that was my passion,” Jim explains. “I’m very tech-y when it comes to the construction of skis and boards, and get a real buzz of out of that.”

He worked in a couple of different ski workshops when he got to New Zealand, training as a bootfitter as well, and even doing a stint as a quad bike tour guide, before joining Coronet Peak.

Jim says 2022 has been “beyond full steam” – the busiest season on record, with a huge influx of visitors from Australia and elsewhere.

When you talk to Jim it’s clear that he’s not just passionate about skis, but about people.

About 90% of incoming staff each year are brand new, he says, and go through four days of intensive training with Jim and his team leaders. They are also enrolled in the Te Mahi Ako Alpine Resort Operations qualification, and if they’re able to complete quickly, his floor crew can to go on to do the Rental Services Level 3 programme.

“And because I also manage the ski tuning workshop, generally I will put all of my ski techs through the Level 4 Equipment Technician qualification. I have a head ski technician, and we sit down each year to work out a plan to get everybody through their qualifications,” Jim says.

He is a registered Te Mahi Ako assessor, which means he can support staff directly as they progress through their learning. And he has instituted a ‘one team, two mountains’ policy, where all crew members have time on both ski areas.

“It gives them a bit of variety in their work week, and broader experience. Coronet Peak is tussock-based and The Remarkables is more scree-based; that creates different challenges [for tuning and repairing skis and boards].”

Jim says what he’s most proud of is that, for such a big organisation, NZ Ski still has an ethos where everyone supports one another. And he really means everyone.

“Our chief executive will come and help fit skis and boards when we are busy. Same with the ski area managers, and the HR and marketing staff; when it’s busy we all chip in and help.”

In fact, while Jim himself was out on the roads fitting chains during the school holidays, he was hit by a reversing car, and was out of action with an injury at the busiest time of year.

Luckily he recovered well, but he notes that his team leaders were more than capable of stepping up in his absence. Seeing people grow and develop, and take on new challenges; these are the big rewards, according to Jim.

“I always encourage staff if they are interested in other areas of the mountain, and I can help facilitate introductions to those other departments. For instance, I had an intern who became my head ski tech, did that for seven years, and now has gone on to become a very successful ski patroller.

“I’ve had other staff that wanted to do the [Te Mahi Ako] ski instructor qualification, so we made the time for them to do that.”

His current head technician was working on the roads three seasons ago, he adds.

“She showed an interest in being a ski technician, so we trained her up in her own time, and this year she is now my head ski tech managing both workshops,” Jim says. “I’m always looking at succession planning, and future proofing – to make sure that if I’m not here, or I get run over, the place doesn’t fall apart without me.”