Welcome snowfall makes mark

Queenstown awoke to this spectacular pristine landscape yesterday morning, pictured  from the...
Queenstown awoke to this spectacular pristine landscape yesterday morning, pictured from the Skyline Gondola complex. Snow fell down to lake level, thrilling winter sports fans but upsetting the plans of many airline passengers. Photo by Joe Dodgshun.
Queenstown's first major snowfall for the winter left the district a white canvas yesterday, with snow down to lake level, more than 1000 airline passengers affected - and winter sports enthusiasts thrilled.

More snow is forecast for this week. Residents of Queenstown's hill suburbs, Arrowtown and Arthur's Point woke to at least 15cm of snow yesterday and 5cm was deposited on downtown streets.

However, the weather caused havoc at Queenstown Airport over the weekend, with many flights unable to make it in and out of the resort. Air New Zealand alone had to divert or cancel 10 domestic and transtasman flights - affecting about 1000 people who had flights transferred, or in some cases, were bused to Queenstown.

A spokeswoman for Qantas said two incoming and two outgoing services - affecting over 300 people - were cancelled.

Official figures for cancelled Jetstar and Pacific Blue Flights could not be obtained yesterday.

Part of State Highway 94 between Te Anau and Milford Sound was closed by snow yesterday and further north the Lindis Pass, Arthur's Pass, Haast Pass and Porters Pass were last night closed to towing vehicles and motorists without chains.

The only Queenstown skifield to open yesterday, Coronet Peak enjoyed sunny conditions for the best part of the day, before snow fell the afternoon.

By last night, Coronet Peak had gained 25cm to 30cm of new snow, and sister NZSki field the Remarkables, closed by bad weather yesterday , got 45cm over the weekend.

NZSki chief executive James Coddington said Coronet Peak's new snow meant the mountain was now fully operational, with the opening of the Greengates chairlift and Rocky Gully terrain.

Remarkables Ski Area manager Ross Lawrence said that with the snowfall they would " definitely be able to open up a few more trails tomorrow [Monday]".

Veteran Queenstown weather forecaster David Crow predicted snow showers for Queenstown early today then more snow showers tomorrow. "A quite active cold front is going to pass through on Wednesday, continuing until Thursday," Mr Crow said. "Friday is not going to be a hell of a lot better."

Police reported relatively few major traffic incidents caused by the snow.

The worst occurred at 10.15am yesterday when the driver of a car containing two Taiwanese tourists lost control on State Highway 6 along the Nevis Bluff and the car rolled down a bank. The passenger was taken to the Lakes District Hospital for a check-up.

Sergeant Linda Stevens of Queenstown said the driver and sole occupant of a vehicle heading up the Moonlight Track about 5pm yesterday slid down a 2m bank when she reversed to allow another vehicle heading down the track more room. The woman was unhurt.


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