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Encouraging early snow for ski areas in New Zealand’s South Island
With the countdown on for the opening of the 2014 snow season, New Zealand’s South Island ski areas have enjoyed significant and consistent early snowfalls over recent weeks.
Queenstown’s The Remarkables ski area and Mt Hutt in Canterbury have been receiving regular snowfalls since March, some up to half a metre deep in places. It has snowed at Mt Hutt almost every two weeks since the start of April, including a large 50 cm dump at the beginning of May.
As temperatures continue to drop and snowmaking teams are on board and ready to work their magic, ski area managers are “quietly optimistic” about the start of the season from 7th June onwards.
Coronet Peak and Mt Hutt are both scheduled to open on 7th June, while The Remarkables has 21st June in its sights.
Mt Hutt Ski Area Manager James McKenzie explained “we’re sitting on a really solid base of 15 to 20 cm of snow right now, with snow all the way to the bottom of the recently-reinstated Triple chairlift below the base building.
“As well as the dump that we had at the beginning of May, which meant we had to use snowmobiles on the access road even to get to the base building, we’ve had regular top-ups which means we’ve still got some deep pockets of snow at higher elevations.
“We’re on track to begin building on this great base (from 19th May onwards) subject to temperatures being low enough, and it’s fair to say that compared to previous years the snow’s arrived quite early.
“The last time it came early was back in 2009 when we had about a metre of snow that enabled us to open early, so the amount we have on the ground now gives us increased confidence that we’ll be good to go come opening day on 7th June.
“We’re even looking to bring our Triple chair lift operators on for opening day as we’d love to open the season with all lifts operational.”
The snow story is similar in Queenstown, where Coronet Peak has been receiving regular dustings, and ski area workers and contractors at The Remarkables installing the new Curvey Basin chairlift had to contend with 50 cm snowdrifts on the road on 4th March, a 20 cm snowfall on 27th April and another 20 cm on 8th May.
Remarkables Ski Area Manager Ross Lawrence added “we’re on a pretty tight schedule to get the new lift up and running, and complete all work on the new learners area, trails and car parks before we open on 21st June.
“Luckily a bit of snow doesn’t faze either our mountain staff or the specialist team from Leitner Poma who are installing the new lift, and reminds us why we’re all here.
It’s great to see this early snow, it reinforces that winter is what we’re all about. The developments over the last six months are still on track to have everything ready for our first eager skiers and snowboarders who’ll be itching to get up here and check out the new runs and terrain.”
The new six-seater, 1.2 kilometre Curvey Basin chair will access 10.1 hectares of formed trails and together with increased off-piste opportunities will increase the ski area’s capacity by 20%.
For Australian snow lovers looking to cross the Tasman for their ski holiday the news is good. Improved air connectivity is set to make Queenstown ski areas more accessible than ever this year – the number of trans-Tasman flights is up 25% on last winter, from an average of 40 a week last year to 50 this year.
Even with that increase, Christchurch Airport, an easy 90-minute scenic drive to Mt Hutt, still caters for more flights from Australia than any other airport in the South Island.
Click here to see NZSki’s video of the early snow at Mt Hutt.
20th April 2014 - Queenstown ski area chairlift an ‘engineering feat’
18th February 2014 - Climate change to impact ski resorts
16th February 2014 - Work to start on sealing The Remarkables ski area access road
4th September 2013 - Tourism must pay its dues to the environment
29th September 2009 - Aussie Skiers Boost New Zealand Tourism
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