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Early snow ‘bodes well’ for ski areas in New Zealand’s South Island

May 19, 2014 Ski No Comments Email Email

Early snow has not hampered work on the new Curvey Basin chairlift at The Remarkables ski area, Queenstown, New Zealand_mediaSignificant and consistent early snowfalls over the past few weeks ‘bode well’ for New Zealand’s South Island ski areas, with the countdown on to season opening in just three weeks’ time.

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’s snowed at Mt Hutt almost every two weeks since the start of April, including a large 50cm 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 June 7 onwards.

Coronet Peak and Mt Hutt are both scheduled to open on June 7, while The Remarkables has June 21 in its sights.

Early snowfalls have transformed New Zealand’s Mt Hutt ski area into a winter wonderland_media“We’re sitting on a really solid base of 15 to 20cm of snow right now, with snow all the way to the bottom of the recently-reinstated Triple chairlift below the base building,” said Mt Hutt ski area manager James McKenzie.

“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 early next week (May 19 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 June 7.

“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.”

New Zealand - Mt Hutt snow gun at the ready looking down towards the base building with the Canterbury Plains in the background_mediaThe 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 50cm snowdrifts on the road on March 4, a 20cm snowfall on April 27 and another 20cm on May 8.

“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 June 21,” said The Remarkables ski area manager Ross Lawrence.

“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 early May snow at The Remarkables looking down the valley_mediaThe new six-seater, 1.2km 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.

To see the early snow at Mt Hutt watch NZSki’s video on YouTube

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