Staff at water-soaked Southern Lakes skifields were assessing
the damage yesterday after heavy rain washed away some of the
district's sparse snow cover.
Rain closed Coronet Peak in Queenstown and Wanaka's Cardrona
Alpine Resort yesterday and set back opening prospects for
Treble Cone, Snow Farm and the Remarkables ski areas.
However, a northwesterly change could bring snow to the
mountains today and tomorrow.
Coronet Peak ski area manager Ross Copland said yesterday's
closure was the result of rain on Tuesday night and yesterday
morning that had ''saturated'' its snow base.
The trails had to be left undisturbed so the rain could drain
out, but groomers were expected back on the slopes last night
to prepare for reopening today, Mr Copland said.
The ski area's last substantial snowfall was 4cm on June 9,
but snow was forecast down to 1200m today and 1000m tomorrow,
and he expected snow-making to resume after being on hold for
Fresh snow would set up the ski area for its first weekend of
night skiing, which started tomorrow at 4pm.
The rain was ''not all that unseasonable'', he said.
''We are just at the crossover point where it's getting
Rain has also affected the Queenstown Winter Festival - among
other ways - slowing 16 ''queens'' running in high heels in
yesterday's drag race.
The race at Earnslaw Park changed from going hard and fast on
grass, to being judged on overall performance on a plastic
With four days remaining in the festival, director Lisa
Buckingham said staff were assessing events daily, including
Coronet Peak's Mountain Mayhem, planned for Saturday and the
Slopestyle Invitational, to have been held at the Remarkables
''We are planning for everything to go ahead, but obviously,
we're reliant on the weather gods,'' she said.
Remarkables ski area manager Ross Lawrence said the field had
lost about 5cm from its trails.
Outlying areas that previously had a dusting of snow were now
''pretty bare'', Mr Lawrence said.
''You can get rain any time, and this time around, because
we're still waiting for snow, it's had quite an impact.''
After a summer of major development including a new
six-seater chairlift, new trails and the sealing of 4km of
access road, it was a case of ''waiting for Mother Nature to
help us along''.
''Realistically, we need a good 30cm of snow to blanket the
Ski area staff were remaining positive.
''They are all keen and motivated, and we are looking after
them with activities.''
In Wanaka, Treble Cone's planned opening today has been
delayed ''for a couple of days'' as a result of the rainfall,
the skifield's marketing and sales manager Nick Noble said.
''The lower Home Basin got knocked around a bit.''
A revised opening date was not yet confirmed and would depend
on how much snow fell in the next few days.
''There's a fair bit of snow in the forecast for the coming
week so, hopefully, it's not too far away.''
A decision will be made today on whether Snow Farm will be
able to open on Saturday, based on what the weather produced
A lack of snow delayed the cross-country skifield's original
opening date of June 21 and the situation was looking
uncertain for the weekend, too, newly appointed operations
manager Andy Pohl said.
''The rain has certainly done some damage that's for sure ...
''We were hoping that this was going to come through as snow
but it's come through as rain so it's certainly softened up
Staff at Cardrona Alpine Resort - which opened as scheduled
last Friday with limited facilities but closed yesterday -
would not know the full extent of the rain's impact until
this morning, sales and marketing manager Nadia Ellis said.
''We will give the snow pack a chance to drain ... and then
at that point we'll be able to assess what the damage is.
''At the moment, we're just taking it day by day because the
forecast seems to be changing quite rapidly.''
MetService meteorologist Rob Kerr said about 11mm of rain
fell in the Queenstown area yesterday morning. The warm
northerly air flow that had brought the rain would be
replaced by a cold front with not a lot of moisture, Mr Kerr
However, snow-making was a possibility, with the freezing
level expected to fall to 1200m by the end of the week, he