Eveline Harvey is nzherald.co.nz's travel editor.

Snow dump kicks off South Island ski season

Mt Hutt skifield, with the snow-dusted Canterbury Plains in the distance. Photo / Supplied
Mt Hutt skifield, with the snow-dusted Canterbury Plains in the distance. Photo / Supplied

The cold snap that brought snow to much of the South Island this week has also laid the base for a positive start to this year's ski season.

Two southern skifields - Queenstown's Coronet Peak and Canterbury's Mt Hutt - will open tomorrow.

"Queenstown looks picture perfect with fresh snow on the mountains and there's a real buzz around town now as everybody gears up for winter," said Destination Queenstown CEO Graham Budd.

The Otago region's other commercial skifields are scheduled to open between June 15 and June 28.

Mr Budd said airlines were increasing the number of domestic and transtasman flights into Queenstown from the final week of June, making the city an attractive short-haul winter holiday destination for New Zealanders and Australians alike.

Mt Hutt Ski Area Manager James McKenzie said the forecast for tomorrow's opening was fine and sunny with light winds.

An average snow base of 65cm across the entire mountain meant it should be an "outstanding day" to kick off the 2012 season, he said.

"We'll be opening with the Summit Six Chair, Exhibition Quad and of course our beginners Magic Carpet area.

"We're currently assessing Towers Triple Chair but are suggesting that only advanced to intermediate skiers head over there, as it is not currently groomed," McKenzie said.

Visitors taking advantage of the season opening at Mt Hutt were likely to require chains on 2WD vehicles from either the information booth at the bottom of the ski area access road, or from Canterbury View just after the 5km mark, McKenzie said.

"People heading to the mountain tomorrow should check the snow report to make sure they're well prepared and always carry snow chain equipment as conditions can change very quickly up here."

Further information: See nzski.com or queenstownnz.co.nz.

Projected winter 2012 commercial skifield opening dates:

June 9
Coronet Peak, Queenstown
Mt Hutt, Methven

June 15
Snow Park NZ, Queenstown

June 16
The Remarkables, Queenstown
Turoa, Mt Ruapehu

June 20
Snow Farm, Wanaka

June 22
Cardrona, Wanaka
Mt Lyford, North Canterbury
Porters, Springfield

June 23
Ohau, Twizel
Roundhill, Tekapo
Whakapapa, Mt Ruapehu

June 28

Treble Cone, Wanaka

June 29

Mt Dobson, Fairlie

* Dates sourced from snow.co.nz.

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