Skifields loving wintry weather

Winter has arrived - and staff at NZSki in Queenstown couldn't be happier about it.

In the 48 hours to noon yesterday Coronet Peak had received 20cm of snow - 15cm of that falling overnight on Monday - and it didn't let up.

By 3pm yesterday, Coronet was reporting a base of about 26cm - bolstered by the ski area's snow guns running at maximum capacity ahead of its scheduled opening on Saturday June 8.

Coronet Peak ski area manager Ross Copland said staff were in their element.

"We've all been really stoked with the two really good falls we've had already this month, so the snow over the past two days, covering the mountain from top to bottom, really is the icing on the cake.

"Officially it's still autumn, but I think everyone would agree that winter's definitely arrived with a vengeance," Mr Copland said.

At the Remarkables more than 30cm of new snow was reported, while about 30cm was also reported at Ohau, and between 10cm and 15cm reported at the Awakino skifield, near Kurow.

Cardrona Alpine Resort sales and marketing manager Nadia Ellis said the skifield had received 25cm of new snow in the 24 hours to yesterday afternoon, with snow drifts of more than a metre deep in some areas.

"It's really exciting for us and encouraging that we have got this much snow in May,'' Ms Ellis said.

Treble Cone sales and marketing co-ordinator Michael Steven said the skifield was also boasting metre-deep snow drifts yesterday and had recorded between 30cm and 40cm of new snow since Saturday.

Treble Cone is scheduled to open on June 27, while Cardrona is scheduled to open on June 21.

While school children in the Wakatipu made the most of their first snow day of 2013, the "white gold" was not welcome in all quarters.

An estimated 1300 Air New Zealand and Jetstar passengers were affected by cancelled flights at Queenstown Airport with Air NZ adding an additional Boeing 737 service between Christchurch and Queenstown added to yesterday afternoon's schedule to provide extra capacity and Jetstar offering alternative flight options or refunds.

Motorists were also affected, with McLean Rd in Northern Southland closed after trees weighted down by snow fell on the road.

Southland District Council communications and governance manager Louise Pagan said in a statement contractors clearing the trees were pulled out for safety reasons after more trees started falling.

Connectabus also suspended its services yesterday morning resuming them at 1pm, while the QLDC's recycling and rubbish collection in the Wakatipu was suspended yesterday.

Roads around the resort managed by the QLDC remained open, however, the Crown Range was closed to towing vehicles and motorists were advised to fit chains and "extreme care" was required for motorists travelling through the Kawarau Gorge.

QLDC transport manager Denis Mander said said reports from contractors were motorists were generally driving to the conditions, with only minor incidents reported on the district's roads.

"The feeling I've got from talking to my team is they've been pretty happy with the way things have been going."

Sergeant Craig Dinnissen, of Balclutha, warned motorists to exercise "extreme caution" this morning as melted snow may form large patches of black ice.

Twilight hours and around dawn were particularly dangerous times for motorists travelling on slippery roads.

By late last evening Gore police had reported no crashes, although several vehicles had slid off roads around Gore, many near Tapanui.

A Balclutha District Court defended hearing scheduled to have been held in Gore yesterday was cancelled because some witnesses were snowed in.

Central Otago police were "full of praise" for the majority of motorists, however, they had spoken to some motorists driving without headlights on or too fast for the conditions.

Waitaki Civil Defence emergency services manager Chris Raine said some Palmerston schools had been closed because teachers were unable to get through from Dunedin.

- Otago Daily Times

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