Skiers pleased to leave after long night

By Jarrod Booker

Trapped skiers settle in for an uncomfortable night's sleep in the Mt Lyford lodge. Photo / Supplied
Trapped skiers settle in for an uncomfortable night's sleep in the Mt Lyford lodge. Photo / Supplied

Weary skiers have described a long, cold, uncomfortable night crammed together in a ski lodge after heavy snowfall forced the closure of the road down a Canterbury mountain.

About 250 skiers had to squeeze into the Mt Lyford lodge on Tuesday night as strong winds whipped up the snow and made travel unsafe.

They were relieved to make their way down the mountain in their cars yesterday afternoon after snow-grooming vehicles managed to clear snow and ice from the access road.

Blenheim woman Di Smit was at the skifield with her husband, cousin and four children aged 6 to 12 for a three-day skiing trip, and they had to hunker down in a small part of an area she estimates was "about the size of two and a half [school] classrooms".

"I don't think - by the wildest stretch of the imagination - you could say it was a comfortable night," Mrs Smit told the Herald.

"Most of the adults didn't sleep at all. In our little group we had children under the table, we had a child on the table, we had children on our laps.

Just all over the show. We were sitting straight up and right next to the door, so it was freezing cold."

Going to the toilet in the snow in the middle of the night "wasn't a pleasant experience".

Despite the ordeal, Mrs Smit praised the skifield's "brilliant staff".

"They spread out everything they had. They gave us the ski hire jackets ... and made us as warm as possible. There were a few mattresses - not in our area though. People were very tolerant - no one was being stupid or selfish or anything like that."

The food supplied was "fantastic" with people being fed "flat out" with what was in the lodge cafeteria including hot chips and sandwiches. In the morning freshly cooked muffins were given to the children before a large food drop came.

Skifield owner Doug Simpson said not everyone was happy but, being in the mountains, a situation like that was "the nature of the beast". Closing the road on Tuesday was the only safe option.

Mr Simpson said there were concerns about how fast people would "burn through" the limited amount of food in the cafeteria. A diesel generator that supplied heating was shut down for six hours during the night to conserve energy in case of a longer stay and "people got a bit cold".

Once allowed out yesterday, some hardy skiers went back on to the skifield. All of those trapped were given a free ski pass.

Mrs Smit said she would happily return to her family's "favourite skifield" - hopefully later this season.

But last night she and her family were just looking forward to a good night's sleep.

- NZ Herald

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