Ski season opens: It’s all going downhill at Mt Hutt
Perfect blue skies and a recent dump of snow brought more than 2000 skiers to Mt Hutt as the Christchurch field opened for the season yesterday.
Operators NZ Ski said skiers had turned up in their largest numbers in over a decade.
“Beautiful weather has brought people out in force,” chief executive Paul Anderson said.
The previous opening day record at Mt Hutt – 2093 skiers – has stood since 2009.
In an effort to beat the crowds yesterday and be first on the ski field’s new chairlift, some snow lovers resorted to camping out overnight.
Ben Yorston was first at the gates and said he was “running on adrenaline” after staying up all night.
“Because it’s a new chairlift, I’m definitely pumped to be first, because it’s something that’s going to stick around for 100 years.
“So it’ll be cool when I’ve got kids to be able to tell them that I was first on this.”
Although early season conditions had kept the lower slopes closed, the new Nor’West Express lift was doing its work to shift visitors up the mountain.
The eight-seater, which replaces the old chairlift, increases lift capacity from 1600 to 3000 skiers and hour and can operate in high winds.
“It allows us to keep on running when the old chairs were right on the threshold for operating,” ski field manager James McKenzie said. Parking was backed up 2.5km at one point yesterday, with shuttles kept busy running from the bottom of the mountain.
Forecasts predict another fine day for skiing today, with conditions set to deteriorate tomorrow.
Just two weeks after Methven was cut off by severe floods in Canterbury, access to the mountain has been restored, and the wet weather left plenty of powder on top of the mountain.
“At the top of the mountain we’re measuring snow in excess of three metres,” McKenzie said.
“There are some seasons when we don’t see three metres all year.”
Elsewhere on the East Coast, club fields also benefited from the recent snow. Amuri Ski Club at Hanmer Springs had its earliest opening on record last weekend.
In South Canterbury, the Fox Peak club field reported plenty of snow but slopes could not be reached due to damage to access roads.