Snow dusts peaks as resort gears up for ski season

Snow on the Remarkables yesterday. PHOTO: PAUL TAYLOR
Snow on the Remarkables yesterday. PHOTO: PAUL TAYLOR
Queenstown awoke to white-tipped mountains yesterday morning as the resort gears up for the 2019 ski season.

The Remarkables mountain range and skifield were dusted with about 5cm of May snow, and were gleaming in the sun after the dark skies of the day before cleared.

Over the Wakatipu Basin at Coronet Peak, the resort's other skifield operated by NZSki, about 2cm of snow fell, while Wayfare's Cardrona Alpine Resort over the Crown Range towards Wanaka has had 5cm in recent days.

Coronet Peak has replaced its main chairlift, Coronet Express, this summer.

Installation of the new six-seater, which follows the line of the original, has been a major project, with up to 70 workers on site each day.

NZSki's Coronet Peak ski area manager Nigel Kerr said: "We're still in the midst of major construction with the new Coronet Express.

"It's been fairly intense.

"But the positive of that is we're running on schedule. We're really looking forward to opening with it on June 15. That's a pretty happy place to be right now."

The new learners’ conveyor at The Remarkables skifield. PHOTO: THE REMARKABLES
The new learners’ conveyor at The Remarkables skifield. PHOTO: THE REMARKABLES
The chairlift has cost about $20million, having two new stations and 14 towers.

Mr Kerr said the company and contractors were at the fit-out point and had been cladding the buildings, doing final wiring of the line, stations and parking building and testing the rope.

"It is spliced, on the line, tensioned up and ready to run. We expect the chairlift to be running from next Friday."

The chairlift will run as a "chondola" - chairlift and gondola - over next summer. The gondola cabins will be added after this winter.

Workers were testing the snow-making guns and systems yesterday.

"We got a couple of centimetres of snow yesterday and it's perfect cold weather this morning for getting some guns up and running."

Meanwhile, over at The Remarkables skifield, the learners' terrain has become 30% larger with the installation of a new 160m-long conveyor just above the existing base conveyor, which is 129m long.

Ski area manager Ross Lawrence said: "We've done a fair bit of excavation, opened up some terrain and created a trail.

"It's excellent for progression, for the second and third-day snowboarders and skiers not yet ready to tackle the chairlift."

Mr Lawrence said the snow was "a welcome invite to winter" and his staff had begun flushing lines and checking equipment in preparation for snow-making.

Cardrona Alpine Resort also has about 5cm of snow on the ground.

General manager Bridget Legnavsky said yesterday: "The mountain is now white and frozen, and with that frozen layer it's an incredibly good start for the end of May.

"Our snow guns are still blazing and have been since about 10pm last night. The temperature has dropped right off. We are away," MsLegnavsky said.

Cardrona has improved its base facilities this summer, having a new ticket office, a new bar, and increased base cafe seating.

There are also various improvements to trails, although the new Pringles Quad lift has been delayed after lizards were found living along the planned route.

"Although we didn't get the Pringles lift in, we've opened up the terrain into Pringles and Secret Chutes, so we've increased the skiable terrain by about 60 hectares."

Treble Cone skifield general manager Toby Arnott said Wanaka skifield had 5cm to 10cm of snow "up to the top" on Thursday. The focus over the summer had been on repairs and maintenance.

Staff for all the skifields will begin arriving over the next few weeks.

Cardrona will open McDougall's and the "Magic Carpet" on June 1, and the full mountain is due to open on June 15.

The Remarkables is due to open on June 8, while Coronet will open a week later on June 15. Treble Cone opens on June 27.

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