Dismal start for New Zealand

24th June 2011, by Chris Gill

Snow dances needed. Only a dusting at Mt Hutt

Snow dances needed. Only a dusting at Mt Hutt

The southern hemisphere season is off to a slow start, with resorts in New Zealand having experienced an unseasonably warm few weeks. Resorts have postponed opening days until sufficient snowfall arrives or low temperatures permit more snowmaking.

The picture above looks wintry in Mount Hutt, but only a few centimetres of snow has fallen in the last couple of days. Much more is needed before they can open any terrain. The scene is similar around the country, to the extent that resort staff have been accepting food parcels to help them out. No snow means little or no pay – so the food parcels have provided daily meals.

Treble Cone was supposed to open this week, but the snow depth is reported as zero. Coronet Peak, The Remarkables and Snow Park have all postponed opening dates too. Three events at the big Winter Festival in Queenstown have been cancelled, and Mt Ruapehu’s opening day is now hoped to be Saturday 2 July. There has been some fresh snow on the north island, so they are hopeful that colder weather is on its way. The forecast generally predicts light snow showers for the south island over the weekend too.

With peak holidays in New Zealand starting from mid-July, they are keeping fingers crossed that winter arrives very swiftly – or it could be very costly to the ski industry economy. Local reports say it’s the latest start for 50 years or more. Of course, a poor start does not mean a poor season as a whole.

Chilean resorts are waiting too. They do have snow, with Portillo reporting 70cm base and Valle Nevado 55cm. But more is needed to kick-start the season properly.

There is better news in Australia, where most resorts are now open and with fresh snow. Up to 50cm has fallen this week. This has improved snow bases and enabled snowmaking to top up the open runs. Perisher and Thredbo have some of the best conditions.

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