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‘Safety first’ at Mt Hutt with ongoing avalanche control work

June 24, 2013 Ski No Comments Email Email

A busy weekend at Canterbury’s Mt Hutt ski area has seen patrollers working all daylight hours available to make the mountain safe following unprecedented snowfalls.

The storm that ravaged the South Island this week dropped nearly 3m of snow on the ski area and since early this morning (Sunday June 23) a team of eight patrollers have been identifying potential avalanche danger areas and ‘bombing’ them from the safety of a helicopter.

Controlled avalanches have been released around the ski area and along the access road.

In doing so, just after 11am this morning a controlled avalanche over the bluff area below the Mt Hutt base building caused extensive damage to the bottom station of the Triple Chair and a snowmaking pump house.

The full extent of the damage is not yet known and will not be determined until it is safe to put people on the ground in that area.

Mt Hutt Ski Area Manager James McKenzie said the force of the avalanche and the distance it traveled reinforced the ski area’s “safety first” message.

“With this volume of snow sitting in recognized avalanche-prone areas, letting explosives off in a controlled environment from a helicopter is the only way to manage this hazard safely.

“We’ve received an unprecedented amount of snow in a very short period of time so while we appreciate that everyone is champing at the bit to get up here to enjoy the conditions, we will only open when it is safe to open the access road and all areas within the ski area boundary are ready to operate.”

Mr McKenzie said it was estimated that this morning’s avalanche traveled around 700 vertical meters, and was around 200m wide at its widest point. It would have traveled at speeds of up to 70kmh and left a 2m high crown wall at the top.

NZSki CEO James Coddington acknowledged the hard work mountain staff were putting in to manage any hazards. He stressed that mountain staff were under no pressure to open the mountain before it was safe, as the company valued the safety of its guests and employees above all else.

Further updates on Mt Hutt will be available from early tomorrow (Monday June 24) on its full snow report at www.nzski.com

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