Kurt Bayer is a Herald reporter based in Christchurch

Winter storm: Heavy dumps for skifields

Lift operators work hard to de-ice chairlifts at the Coronet Peak Skifield today. Photo / Facebook
Lift operators work hard to de-ice chairlifts at the Coronet Peak Skifield today. Photo / Facebook

Skiers are rubbing their gloves together after this week's polar blast dumped record early season snow - but many will be struggling to get to their favourites slopes tomorrow.

Heavy snow dumps have fallen on most New Zealand ski fields this week.

The popular Canterbury ski field Mt Hutt has had 1.5m in the last 48 hours, with a base now deeper than 2m.

Bosses are expecting another 40cm to 60cm more overnight - making it a record best start to the ski season ever.

The new season opens in The Remarkables in Queenstown tomorrow, buoyed by the 1.5m which has fallen in recent days.

"People are just going to be yahooing all over the mountain," said ski area manager Ross Lawrence.

Ski bunnies from Australia are flocking to the adventure capital to make the most of it.

"It's the best start for many years", said James Coddington, chief executive of NZ Ski, which runs Mt Hutt, The Remarkables, and Coronet Peak.

He said the last few days had been great news for skiers and boarders.

"It's all great news for New Zealand tourism. Australians are booking in their droves," he said.

While travellers have suffered delays flying into Queenstown, Mr Coddington said they'd happily wait a while to be able to finally get to the snow.

"It's not so bad when they'll get to enjoy the best skiing they'll ever see."

Fields have been gifted 40cm to 1.5m of fluffy new snow in the last two days, including 40cm at Mt Ruapehu - both the Whakapapa and Turoa ski areas.

The snow base there is now at 1m more than this time last year representing the most snow Mt Ruapehu has had in years for the start of a season, which opens next Saturday.

Steve McGill, Whakapapa ski area manager, said there was so much snow on the mountain that many staff were being asked to stay at home today.

"This snow could not have come at a better time - it's awesome," he said.

Skiers today enjoyed a 15cm base at Manganui Ski Area, on Mt Taranaki, and 1.5m at the small Mt Lyford ski basin in the Kaikoura Ranges was given a 1.5m boost ahead of next weekend's season opening.

More than 1300 snow bunnies enjoyed opened opening day at Mt Hutt last weekend, and it's been snowing ever since.

Teams with heavy machinery have been working round the clock to clear the roads, but it's been snowing heavily today, and staggeringly deep 8m drifts are lining the road within 200m of the carpark.

Skiers and snowboarders may be struggling to make it to the ski-fields, with many flights being cancelled or delayed, especially in and out of South Island airports.

Several flights in and out of places like Queenstown, Dunedin, Christchurch and Wellington were affected today (Friday).

Many alpine roads are also dicey, with many either closed completely, or drivers warned to take extra car and to fit chains on their tyres.

Mr Coddington said that while it was doubtful Mt Hutt would be open tomorrow, he said it would be worth the wait.

"It just adds to the anticipation and excitement, waiting to play in it all."


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