*** UPDATE – since this piece was written, Mt Hutt have confirmed they’ll open on Saturday 10 June, 24 hours later than originally planned. ***
The southern hemisphere’s 2023 ski season may kick off on Friday in New Zealand and then in Australia on Saturday (10th) with some ski areas in the South American Andes also potentially opening.
However the southern African ski area of Afriski in Lesotho, which would normally be one of the first, if not the first, to open, usually in late May or the start of June, has said it won’t operate snowmaking this year and won’t offer lift-accessed skiing, believed to be due to issues securing adequate power supplies. There has been natural snowfall there though and “snow play” is being offered.
Mt Hutt in New Zealand may therefore be the first to open. It has targeted this Friday 9th of June for opening but says the date is ‘aspirational’ rather than set in stone. New Zealand had a rather warm start to the month but then saw cold weather and snowfall on Sunday – just not as much as hoped. But snowmaking continues and the resort says it will make call on whether to open shortly.
The country’s Manganui ski area did open for three days last month after a good early snowfall (pictured below) so was the first in the southern hemisphere to open for 2023, it just hasn’t stayed open.
Australian ski areas will open this Saturday whether there’s snow or not. They traditionally open for the Queen’s, and now the King’s, birthday weekend, which includes a public holiday on the Monday (this year the 12th) in celebration of King Charles III’s birthday. There were several snowfalls here in May but the past week has been warm and most of the natural snowfall has gone. However webcams show snowmaking working again and there may be a little snow as temperatures are forecast to drop at the end of the week. So some limited snowsports may be possible.
It’s unclear if any ski areas will open in Argentina or Chile this weekend. There have been some big May snowfalls in Argentina with Chapelco and Las Lenas both reporting snow depths of over a metre (40″) already and images have appeared showing ski tourers making early season turns, but it’s not yet clear if any areas plan to turn the lifts on this Saturday.