Snowfall welcome around skifields

Daniel (left) and Luke Harragon, brothers from Newcastle, Australia, enjoy the snowfall at Cardrona Alpine Resort yesterday. Photo by Cadrona.
Daniel (left) and Luke Harragon, brothers from Newcastle, Australia, enjoy the snowfall at Cardrona Alpine Resort yesterday. Photo by Cadrona.
There was cause for celebration at Southern Lakes skifields yesterday as the first of this week's forecast snow began blanketing the district's mountain ranges in time for next week's school holidays.

An estimated 10cm of snow had accumulated at Cardrona Alpine Resort by mid-afternoon, topping up the 5cm which fell on Sunday night and delighting skiers, snowboarders and staff.

''This is the start [of the expected snow this week], so it's good news. Really good news,'' Cardrona general manager Bridget Legnavsky said.

Yesterday's snowfall was also welcomed at Treble Cone, after recent rain and warm conditions meant the Wanaka skifield's scheduled opening day last week was postponed indefinitely.

Sales and marketing manager Nick Noble said Treble Cone was still ''a few days away'' from being ready, but this week's weather conditions should make all the difference.

''We're hoping it will continue snowing a bit throughout the week and it also looks like it's going to be a freezing cold week, which will mean the snowmakers can work around the clock.''

About 4cm of ''heavy, wet snow'' fell steadily from late yesterday morning at Snow Farm, on the Pisa Range, where only 1km of trails has been open since the cross-country ski area started its season on Saturday, operations manager Andy Pohl said.

''Fingers crossed it keeps going through the night and into tomorrow ... hopefully by Wednesday, we're starting to get most of the trail system open ... in time for the school holidays.''

There were ''big smiles'' on the faces of staff at the Remarkables ski area yesterday, where several centimetres of snow had fallen by late afternoon, manager Ross Lawrence said.

''We've got guys out on groomers just moving stuff around and trying to make it happen as soon as we can, so all this is really positive.''

The Remarkables was scheduled to open on June 21 and a revised opening date has not been confirmed.

The arrival of more snow at Coronet Peak was ''perfect timing'', ski area manager Ross Copland said.

''The Australian school holidays kick off today [Monday]. We couldn't really ask for better timing.''

The extra snow coverage expected this week would allow more jumps and features to be built in the field's terrain park and all off-piste terrain to be opened up for the New Zealand school holidays next week.

Temperatures would be conducive to some ''really good'' snowmaking, too, with -4degC expected at Coronet Peak overnight and -7degC tonight, Mr Copland said.

MetService has predicted a polar blast will hit Otago tomorrow, bringing hail showers and sending temperatures tumbling.

The air from the cold southerly would come straight from the Antarctic ice shelf and bring snow to low levels over the South Island, MetService meteorologist Peter Little said.

Dunedin's hill suburbs could be affected, as well as many of the region's higher roads.

''Coastal places in the South Island can expect showers laced with hail and a day-time temperature of just 6degC to 8degC on Wednesday,'' Mr Little said.

Similar temperatures were expected on Thursday, with overnight lows below 0degC inland and down to 0degC along the coast.

A showery southwesterly flow was set to persist later this week, although a weak ridge should bring a clearance of showers over much of the South Island's east coast on Friday.

lucy.ibbotson@odt.co.nz