Skiing and socialising as Coronet opens

About 150 people were lined up ready and waiting for the chairlifts to be turned on at Coronet Peak for the first time this winter on Saturday morning.  Photo: Tracey Roxburgh
About 150 people were lined up ready and waiting for the chairlifts to be turned on at Coronet Peak for the first time this winter on Saturday morning. Photo: Tracey Roxburgh
Digs Hargreaves (69), of Queenstown, after his one and only run at Coronet Peak on Saturday. Mr Hargreaves has not missed an opening day at Coronet in 45 years.
Digs Hargreaves (69), of Queenstown, after his one and only run at Coronet Peak on Saturday. Mr Hargreaves has not missed an opening day at Coronet in 45 years.
About 150 people were lined up ready and waiting for the chairlifts to be turned on at Coronet Peak for the first time this winter on Saturday morning.
About 150 people were lined up ready and waiting for the chairlifts to be turned on at Coronet Peak for the first time this winter on Saturday morning.

The opening of Coronet Peak on Saturday morning was the culmination of a ''zero to hero week''.

About 150 people were at the ski area by 9am, ready for the chairlifts to crank into action, signalling the beginning of the 2017 winter season on the mountain.

First on the chairlift were Queenstown's Kurt Wilson and Jonathan May, Amie Mattee, from the United Kingdom, and Eli Lynch, from Australia - the latter only arriving on the mountain at 7am.

A group of Australian schoolchildren arrived at 7.15am, eager to be among the first on Coronet this winter.

By noon, about 1000 people had joined in the action.

Coronet Peak ski area manager Nigel Kerr said he was ''just happy to be open''.

''It was a zero-to-hero week. On Monday we had heavy, heavy rain and almost no snow, just tussock.''

But a perfectly timed snowfall on Tuesday, combined with a temperature drop, enabled the ski area to fire up the snow-making machines, resulting in the Magic Carpet lifts, Meadows Express and Coronet Express chairlift opening on Saturday.

Before the mountain opened, Mr Kerr told eager skiers and boarders - primarily season pass holders - to take care on the ''eggshell'' snow. He believed the better skiing was off-piste.

Among those first up the hill was 69-year-old Digs Hargreaves, who has not missed an opening day at Coronet Peak for 45 years.

He came with the intention of doing a single run. Afterwards, he declared it ''bloody great''.

''Opening days have been similar to this most years: limited skiing and a lot of people, but great fun. It's more of a social occasion than a skiing occasion.''

The final Southern Lakes skifield to open will be Treble Cone, on Thursday.

tracey.roxburgh@odt.co.nz

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