Spring snowfall welcome for skiers

Hardy skiers at the base building of Queenstown skifield Coronet Peak on Saturday. Photo: Coronet...
Hardy skiers at the base building of Queenstown skifield Coronet Peak on Saturday. Photo: Coronet Peak.
Snow may trouble motorists heading over the Crown Range Rd, between Queenstown and Wanaka, this morning.

But skiers and snowboarders will be smiling after a parade of fronts brought a massive spring top-up to Queenstown Lakes skifields.

A MetService warning issued yesterday said 1cm to 2cm of snow might settle on the higher parts of the Crown Range Rd until noon today, and up to 5cm of snow was expected to accumulate on the road above 800m until 8pm last night.

MetService meteorologist Kyle Lee said rain should clear at lower levels in upper Southland and Central Otago after noon today, with improving dry conditions over the coming days, although it would be cold to start.

"It’s not looking too bad after what we’ve had."

Unstable and fast-moving fronts brought showery and snowy conditions to Queenstown over the weekend, and there were snow flurries in Wanaka.

"This is quite a usual pattern for spring, with mobile westerlies bringing in showers and they move quite quickly," Mr Lee said.

The Remarkables ski area, near Queenstown, was closed yesterday as staff struggled to clear snow falling at 2cm to 5cm an hour for a while.

About 75cm of snow had fallen in 48 hours to yesterday afternoon.

Manager Ross Lawrence was licking his lips for opening today. The spring top-up enabled Homeward Runs to open.

"We would’ve got through the season without this fresh snow, with the main trails open and all that, but this has covered up a lot of the off-piste and extended the off-piste as well."

With The Remarkables closed, more than 2000 people took to sister field Coronet Peak yesterday.

Coronet Peak ski area manager Nigel Kerr said yesterday afternoon the mountain had received about an extra 30cm of snow at the base building and 60cm at the top since Tuesday.

It now had what would be considered really good winter snow conditions.

"You can ski around here at whatever speed you manage, anywhere — go anywhere, go off everything."

Wanaka’s skifields received up to 45cm of fresh snow over the weekend.But wild weather on Saturday — high winds and unstable snow — closed Treble Cone.

The Remarkables is scheduled to close for the season on October 8, and Coronet Peak a week earlier.

The weekend’s snow disrupted motorists and some flights to and from Queenstown.Air New Zealand’s turboprop planes were affected by weather.

Spokeswoman Hannah Searle said yesterday: "Air New Zealand has cancelled three Christchurch-Queenstown return services and one Wellington-Queenstown return service. Jet operations are not affected at this stage."

Drivers had to carry chains on some South Island mountain passes and routes including, yesterday afternoon, State Highway 6 from Kingston to Jacks Point, and State Highway 8, the Lindis Pass, between Tarras and Omarama.

Snow temporarily closed the Milford Rd, State Highway 94, yesterday but it reopened about 5.30pm.

david.williams@odt.co.nz

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