10 Jun 2024

Cold and snowmaking needed for ski season weekend openings

8:56 pm on 10 June 2024

By Debbie Jamieson' of Stuff

Staff arrive for the 2024 season at the Remarkables ski area last week. Now they need snow.

Staff arrive for the 2024 season at the Remarkables ski area last week. Now they need snow. Photo: Supplied / Stuff

Scheduled southern ski area season openings this week are looking uncertain due to rain and warm temperatures.

Mt Hutt, near Christchurch, is to be the first ski area to open on Friday but manager James McKenzie said heavy rain on the weekend melted large patches of existing snow.

"It was pouring down in Methven. The natural snow has taken a real hiding," he said.

He anticipated cold temperatures this week would allow more snowmaking before warm weather again on Thursday.

They would likely make a decision on the Friday opening then, he said.

"We've still got some really good whiteness out there and you could probably ski it, but we don't want to go out with a half-arsed product," he said.

At Queenstown's Remarkables ski area, new manager Steve Hall said that despite the current lack of snow on the ground, he was optimistic about opening on Saturday.

Staff arrived last week and were looking forward to sharing the new $23 million Shadow Basin chairlift, which was faster, would carry more people, and terminate higher on the mountain than the previous chairlift, he said

There were also 16 new snow guns, "which is really a big deal", new runs and easier access to the popular chutes from Shadow Basin, he said.

"The top terminal is in an incredibly dramatic position. It's really stunning and very impressive."

The Remarkables and Mt Hutt ski areas were criticised last year for long queues and car parking concerns and both made changes this year.

At Mt Hutt, subsidies were available for some bus services from Christchurch, as well as park and ride buses from Rolleston and the bottom of the access road.

Priority would be given to full cars on busy days at both ski areas.

A skiier carves up the slopes at Cardrona Alpine Resort.

A skier carves up the slopes at Cardrona Alpine Resort. Photo: RNZ / Tess Brunton

General manager of experiences at Cardrona and Treble Cone Laura Hedley said snow conditions were "a bit lean" on Monday but with colder weather coming, she was still hoping for a Saturday opening.

It had been an unseasonably warm start of June after a very cold May, she said.

The ski area had refurbished its rental department and there were upgraded snow making facilities at Cardrona and Treble Cone.

Cardrona would be hosting World Cup competitions during the Winter Games this year, the first time since 2019.

At Coronet Peak ski area manager Nigel Kerr said he anticipated a limited opening on Saturday, with probably only the beginners' carpets and perhaps the Meadow chairlift operating.

A drop in temperature late on Monday should bring natural snow and allow snowmaking, while stormy weather was forecast early next week.

"That will allow us to open more as weather and temperatures allow.

"The weather is a real mess from Friday onwards. It's changing every day," he said.

Snow dances were always encouraged, he said.

"For our mental health, they are great. For attracting snow, they're no use whatsoever."

New developments at the ski area included some upgrades in rentals, lockers, snow guns and car parks, as well as a large brass bell for skiers and snowboarders to stop and ring on the Big Easy run.

"It makes a great sound," he said.

- This story was first published by Stuff

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