Avalanche destroys building at Mt Hutt

An avalanche has wiped out a building at the Mt Hutt Ski Area.

It crashed into the ski area's snowmaking building about 4pm on Thursday and took out a race-timing hut, driving it into the middle of the Broadway ski run.

With the ski area shut due to heavy snow falling, and trapped staff hunkering down in the day lodge, the avalanche was neither seen nor heard.

It was not noticed until the ski area's manager of operations James Urquhart was viewing webcam images and saw a shape lurking on the Broadway ski run.

Manager James McKenzie said the webcam had been closer to the avalanche than the ski area's base lodge, where staff were staying.

"He (Mr Urquhart) called up patrol and said 'Do you think that's the race hut or what?', then I looked, and that's what it was," Mr McKenzie said.

An inspection of the mountain showed a destructive avalanche trail. The snow slide had also crashed into the snowmaking building, located at the ski area's top car park, about 15 metres above the base area.

Mr McKenzie said the ski patrol building just below the snowmaking building had been evacuated the day before due to the risk of avalanches.

Due to wind accompanying the snow, only marginal avalanche control could be undertaken.

The snowmaking building was damaged but an early inspection showed snowmaking equipment and compressors may not have been affected.

- By Susan Sandys of the Ashburton Guardian

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