Snow falls and makes spirits rise

Skiers at Cardrona Ski Area  fit chains to their vehicles for the journey down the mountain as a...
Skiers at Cardrona Ski Area fit chains to their vehicles for the journey down the mountain as a light snow shower swirls through the main car park yesterday afternoon. Photo by Mark Price.
Southern skifields received a much-needed dusting of snow yesterday.

"It's snowing very heavily and that's fun and exciting," NZski chief executive James Coddington said at Coronet Peak.

"I can see it accumulating ... and it's all turning white."

Snow down to at least 700m was expected today and without a doubt "the [snow]guns will be operating tonight".

The Remarkables operations manager Ed Bazett reported yesterday afternoon the field had received 5-10cm of snow since 6am yesterday and fingers were crossed for more.

Although undeniably better than last season, when snow did not arrive until late in the season, Mr Bazett admitted this year had still been low on snow.

"We will still need a lot more, but it will boost the trails."

A week ago, it was reported some Australian skiers were cancelling their New Zealand ski trips because they had heard the snow was disappearing fast.

Although Queenstown weather forecaster David Crow predicted the current snowfall would be short-lived - it is likely to end by noon today - severe frosts were expected from tomorrow.

This would allow fields to have their snowguns working at night until at least Friday.

"I'm not predicting a great dump, just gentle snow which will probably clear up tomorrow morning," Mr Crow said yesterday.

"But there will be a few centimetres on all fields."

And the good news on the snow front also spilled over to the Wanaka side of the mountains, with both Treble Cone and Cardrona reporting falls through much of yesterday.

Cardrona marketing manager Nadia Ellis said there was a dusting on Sunday night followed by a day of fine, dry, light snow falling, which built up to 3cm-5cm by mid-afternoon yesterday.

At Treble Cone, 10cm-15cm had fallen on the top of the mountain and across the Saddle Basin by mid-afternoon.

The storm has added to the options available for the World Heli Challenge, due to begin this week. Event founder Australian Tony Harrington, said about 35 competitors would be registering today and preparing for the first events, which would start once the weather improved.

He had already identified half a dozen areas in the Southern Alps where the event could be run.

"There was already plenty enough of a snow base to hold the competition before this snowfall and anything on top is just going to be a bonus."

In North Otago, Waitaki Civil Defence was on standby last night after heavy rain warnings.

Farmers were advised to shift stock away from low-lying areas near rivers and streams.

The worst of the rain was expected in eastern parts of North and East Otago from Kurow to the coast and along the foothills of the Kakanui Mountains. Initially, up to 160mm was predicted, but this warning was downgraded last night to between 80mm and 100mm between 9pm yesterday and 3pm today. .

About 4.30pm, between 1.5mm to 7.5mm had been recorded in rain gauges from Oamaru to The Dasher on the Kakanui Mountains and Mt Cook. At that stage, rivers had shown little change.

Snowfalls of 20cm-40cm were predicted down to 900m on the mountains from later today.


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