Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Snow Farmer - John Lee of the Cardrona Valley

The Snow Farmer
John Lee of the Cardrona Valley
Sally Rae
Photographs by Stephen Jaquiery
Published by Random House NZ; July 1, 2016; RRP: $50

“John’s story is one to inspire others. It’s a story of a man with a vision, and the strength of personality and the strong relationships with others to make it happen. It’s a Kiwi story of
grit and determination of which we can all be proud.” –
Helen Clark, Former Prime Minister of New Zealand (1999-2008).

John Lee has always been a law unto himself. Entrepreneurial, inventive, determined, he
hailed from a farming background in the Cardrona Valley; the third of five boys. Schooled
in Oamaru, the young John Lee was no fan of the classroom – he was good at maths, but
struggled with words– preferring to spend his time dreaming about the day he would farm
in his beloved Cardrona Valley.

What grew from John Lee’s humble childhood dream is an extraordinary, pioneering New
Zealand enterprise. The story behind Lee’s passion and vision for turning a remote Central
Otago valley into a thriving settlement and tourist destination, is inimitably Kiwi in its audacity,scope and can-do spirit.

The Snow Farmer tells the rollicking adventure story that is John Lee’s life. A visionary
par excellence, Lee’s mantra has always been to build it first, answer questions later. Farming in the Cardrona Valley, Lee saw families moving out of the valley, threatening the viability of the school bus. His answer? An opportunity to enliven the valley by developing a commercial ski field, ignoring geography and bureaucracy to make it happen. His enthusiasm for the project and ability to inspire others, brought people and money to the table, enabling Lee to breathe new life into the valley and rescue it back from the brink.

The Cardrona Valley of today is world-class tourist destination for Olympic skiers, international and domestic adventure travellers. Having also saved the iconic Cardrona Hotel from dereliction, preserving it until a suitable purchaser could be found, he turned his energy into the Snow Farm cross-country ski area. From here, he created an opportunity
for the Pisa Range to be developed as a cold product testing ground. With his intrepid and supportive wife Mary, this entrepreneurial visionary opened his slice of the Pisa Range to international tyre and car developers with ice tracks and snow roads for development and safety testing of motor vehicles; the first of its kind in the southern hemisphere. More recently, with son Sam, they developed the world’s first dedicated terrain park resort.

John Lee was honoured this year with a CNZM (Companion of the New Zealand Order of
Merit) for his services to business and tourism. His story is one of a quiet achiever, a humble man who flies under the radar but who has brought adventure tourism to so many.

The Snow Farmer is a stand-out book about a Kiwi legend. Written by esteemed
journalist Sally Rae, the book is complemented by Stephen Jaquiery’s stunning photographs.

John and Mary Lee will be talking to Kim Hill this Saturday morning and look for an
interview with John in The Listener. Author Sally Rae is attending the launch in Cardrona
tomorrow night and The Bookman hopes to have a report on the event. 


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