31 Jul 2019

Year's first snow warnings: Skifields welcome 'decent' snowfall

7:29 am on 31 July 2019

Heavy snow is beginning to fall in the South Island, to the relief of skifields that say it has been a very mild winter.

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(File photo) Photo: Facebook / Queenstown Lakes District Coucnil

MetService has issued its first heavy snow warning of the season, and is predicting snow to fall down to 200m above sea level in some areas overnight.

MetService sad cold temperatures were on the cards for most of the country, with forecaster Peter Little saying the cold weather was moving up the country from the south.

"We have a cold front moves over southern New Zealand today and then moves over the remainder of the country during Wednesday, that's followed by a very very cold southerly outbreak of very cold air and that's going to bring snow down to low levels particularly in the south and east of the South Island."

Snow is expected to fall above 400m in the Kaikōura Ranges, Canterbury High Country and Central Otago.

MetService has issued road snowfall warnings to 300 metres for Haast Pass, Lindis Pass and Crown Range Road, from 2pm today through to 10pm.

Snow on Arthur's Pass and Porter's Pass began falling about 8am and was also expected to continue overnight. It was also predicted to fall on Lewis Pass tomorrow morning.

In the North Island, there were also warnings for the Desert Road and Rimutaka Hill Road.

The snow is expected to affect the South Island Alpine Passes as well as Crown Range Road and Milford Road, with drivers being urged to take care tonight.

Mr Little said it was the first snow warning of the year, and the first decent outbreak of cold so far this winter.

"It has been mild, temperatures have been running a degree or so above average and we've certainly seen very little snow, the skifields certainly have been quite bare compared to what they normally have.

Coronet Peak ski area manager Nigel Kerr said so far they had to rely largely on snow makers to operate, and they were hoping tonight's fall would amount to a better snow base.

"It's just that there's no natural snow to mix in with it ... there's years that have been worse than this if you look at our snowfall records but this is not a great year for natural snow.

"This is one of the drier of what I can recall in the last 30-odd years.

"We're certainly well behind on last year, last year was a really good year but historically we're probably sitting right under average at the moment."

Nearby Cardrona has seen similar drops in numbers. General manager Bridget Legnavksky said they had been forced to prioritise which fields to use its snowmakers on.

"June was a little flat and I think partly or mainly to do with snow and the noise around snow - the fact that it's not naturally snowing and people get really excited about natural snowfall.

"If we get this snow now that'll take us right through August."