New Zealand’s 2022 season was due to start last Friday at Mt Hutt but that has been delayed due to a huge storm hitting the area over the weekend.
There also hadn’t been a lot of natural snowfall or cold weather for snowmaking until the storm began last Tuesday.
But now, with up to 1.2m (four feet) of snow lying and three metre (10 feet) drifts left by the storm, resort managers and marketing staff are describing conditions as “epic” and “Perhaps the greatest opening conditions ever”.
Cardrona, scheduled to open on Saturday, did so as the storm was still building, with just beginner terrain. It was forced to close again Sunday as the storm intensified.
Cardrona said then it hoped to re-open Tuesday but announced on Monday the storm was so intense it couldn’t get crews in to start clearing snow from lifts and roads.
Now the storm has finally cleared leaving New Zealand’s ski areas buried and racing to open, or re-open. Several report the storm has left more than a metre (40”) of snow lying. Drifts are much deeper.
Mt Hutt (pictured below) staff reported drifts up to three metres (20 feet) deep blocking access to buildings. They are now aiming to start the season on Friday, a week later than originally planned.
Cardrona’s revised re-opening date is currently Thursday, with limited terrain open.
Coronet Peak, which had been due to open next weekend, says it will now open early this Thursday. It reports that avalanches had blocked its access road and that it has about 120cm (four feet) of snow to dig out at its base. The Remarkables (pictured top on Sunday) is due to open on Saturday (June 18).
Ski areas are all warning of exceptionally high avalanche danger off terrain that has been declared open and safe by ski patrol.
New Zealand’s season did actually begin more than a week ago when the Happy Valley snow fun and beginner area at Whakapapa ski area on Mt Ruapehu in the country’s North Island opened thanks to an all-weather snowmaking system. The area got less snowfall than the South Island, although still with 45cm (18″) reported and is due to open as scheduled next month.
The season for most ski areas on the North Island tends to begin and end a few weeks after that of the South Island with Mt Ruapehu’s Turoa and Whakapapa ski areas often among the last open in the country and the southern hemisphere, in late October or early November. This year though there’s an added concern of a higher than usual volcanic activity alert for Mt Ruapehu.
New Zealand hopes to have international skiers back this winter for the first time since 2019 (other than a brief period when Aussies could get in last winter) with a progressive re-opening of borders underway.
The country was the only one to operate fairly normally for much of the 2020 and 2021 season after closing its borders to prevent the coronavirus getting in. Locals were able to ski without masks, distancing or limited on numbers for most of the past two seasons.