People ‘go up the mountain’ after ‘snow laden’ southern ski slopes

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  • Many South Island ski areas received snow dumps overnight Tuesday, according to MetService
  • A few showers hit Southland and Otago as the storm moves away to the southeast
  • In the North Island, heavy rain watches have been issued for Northland, Auckland including Great Barrier Island and the Coromandel Peninsula, Bay of Plenty and Gisborne for Thursday.
  • A warm front brings a ‘deteriorating weather trend on the North Island’, with some ‘wet and windy days’

While a storm that hit most of New Zealand wreaked havoc in many parts of the country, it brought a welcome blanket of snow to Canterbury’s ski slopes.

About 50 centimeters of snow fell on the Mt Hutt ski area, although some pockets had slightly more than that, operations manager James Urquhart said.

The ski area opened Thursday with “wall-to-wall, top-to-bottom snow everywhere,” said ski area manager James McKenzie.

People were “going up the mountain” early Thursday morning.

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Thursday is the first day the Mt Hutt ski area has operated at full capacity this season with all lifts open at 11.15am.

Mt Hutt Ski Area / Fourni

Thursday is the first day the Mt Hutt ski area has operated at full capacity this season with all lifts open at 11.15am.

“If you look at the mountain right now, it looks absolutely amazing, so I’m sure everyone in Methven will be dying to go skiing,” Urquhart said.

“The enthusiasts who wait patiently will be the first on the track. They will foam.

About 3,000 people visited the mountain during the day, with all lifts operating at 11:15 a.m. for the first time this season, Urquhart said.

By the end of the day, the queues at the lifts had cleared up – a sign of an “exceptional day”, says operations manager James Urquhart.

Mt Hutt Ski Area / Fourni

By the end of the day, the queues at the lifts had cleared up – a sign of an “exceptional day”, says operations manager James Urquhart.

The high numbers were expected given it was school holidays and the pitch had been closed for two days as staff cleared the access road and a helicopter crew carried out work on the mountain.

A ‘reactive’ snow surface created avalanche hazard and some areas were still closed as control work continued, but lifts opened from 9am.

Some people stood in line for over an hour waiting for the big elevator to open.

Porters Alpine Resort welcomed around 500 visitors on Thursday after another snow dump.

Porters Alpine Resort/Supplied

Porters Alpine Resort welcomed around 500 visitors on Thursday after another snow dump.

“Once we got everything in place, everything went smoothly,” Urquhart said.

Just before 4 p.m., when the ski area closed for the day, the lifts were cleared of any queues, he said.

“I think everyone had a great day today.”

Visitors to Porters Alpine Resort didn't have to queue for lifts thanks to

Porters Alpine Resort/Supplied

Visitors to Porters Alpine Resort didn’t have to queue for lifts thanks to “wall-to-wall coverage,” said Porters Alpine Resort marketing director Alan Lelieveld.

Porters Alpine Resort was also open on Thursday and looked “incredible” as it was “laden with snow”, he said on his Facebook page.

As with Mt Hutt, the Porters snow dump came with some challenges. The mountain received natural avalanches during the storm, which prevented the resort from opening the magic carpet and lifts on Thursday.

Porters Alpine Resort marketing manager Alan Lelieveld said it was still “a great day” on the mountain with around 500 visitors.

There was no need for queues as there was “wall-to-wall cover” of snow, which was “exceptional”, Lelieveld said.

Mt Hutt was closed on Wednesday as staff worked to clear the access road to the ski area.

Mt Hutt/provided

Mt Hutt was closed on Wednesday as staff worked to clear the access road to the ski area.

MetService forecaster Gerard Bellam said Otago ski areas – including Treble Cone Ski Area, Cardrona and The Remarkables – had between 5 and 15cm of snow overnight Tuesday.

All roads in the South Island reopened on Wednesday after at least 12 were closed due to ice, snow and flooding.

The last of the alpine passes reopened just after 5 p.m. when the final stretch of State Highway 8 between Tekapō and SH80 near Ben Ohau was cleared of snow and ice.

Thousands of people took advantage of the fresh snow at Mt Hutt on Thursday.

Mt Hutt Ski Area / Fourni

Thousands of people took advantage of the fresh snow at Mt Hutt on Thursday.

Waka Kotahi South Canterbury maintenance contract manager John Keenan said the heavy snow had made the roads impassable.

For the rest of the week, crews would work to repair potholes and damage around Canterbury, Marlborough, the West Coast and Otago.

The latest storm left streaks of rain and showers in Southland and Otago before moving away to the southeast as expected, Bellam said.

MARTIN DE RUYTER/STUFF

Flooding on State Highway 60 at Cooks Corner by the Riuwaka River near Motueka in the Tasman District.

“Sunnier spells” were felt across much of the South Island, while areas around Buller and Nelson lakes still saw some showers.

Freezing was possible Friday morning, he said.

Unlike the lower half of the country, the North Island would not have much of a break, with heavy rains in place until Friday.

Another low pressure system was moving down the Queensland coast “quite quickly”, Bellam said.

It was expected to cross the Tasman Sea, bringing rain to Northland from midday, Auckland from 3pm and Gisborne from around 8pm on Thursday.

The warm front was causing a “worsening trend in the weather on the North Island”, with some “wet and windy days” ahead, he said.

Tuesday's storm brought a new blanket of around 50cm of snow to the Mt Hutt ski area in Canterbury.

Mt Hutt/provided

Tuesday’s storm brought a new blanket of around 50cm of snow to the Mt Hutt ski area in Canterbury.

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