Queenstown’s snow drought

Not too shabby: The Remarks remains white, yesterday PICTURE: THE REMARKABLES

Queenstown’s ski season faces an uphill struggle with little or no natural snow on the horizon.

But skifield operator NZSki remains confident it can keep Coronet Peak and The Remarkables topped up with snowmaking.

However that’s dependent on overnight temperatures, at least, remaining cold.

Metservice weatherman Peter Little says he’s not expecting any large dump of snow in the next week or two.

“There’s a front possibly middle to end of next week, but that doesn’t look to be a big snow producer.”

A decent dump mightn’t come till mid-July, he says.

Due to unusually dry conditions, “there is less snow than normal at this time of year”.

Little, however, says “it does look at this stage that it should stay cold”.

“[Skifields] still should have some good conditions for artificial snowmaking.”

Despite little if any natural snow, which has delayed this week’s opening of Wanaka’s Treble Cone, Coronet Peak boss Nigel Kerr says “we’ve been blessed since Queen’s Birthday [weekend] with some reasonable and ongoing snowmaking conditions”.

From opening on June 15 for sightseeing only, in one week he notes enough snow was made to open three chairlifts from top to bottom.

A lot more snow had been made than this time year, and the skifield was taking every opportunity to make snow.

“There’s been quite a few nights where we thought, ‘nah, we won’t get any snowmaking’, but we’ve actually got snowmaking away.

“We won’t give up.”

One benefit of the dry spell, Kerr says, is you tend to get cold, clear weather that’s ideal for snowmaking.

Guns had been going day and night, though just at nighttime over the past week.

“The weather forecast looking into early next week isn’t showing much of anything, but you know you only ski on the top centimetre – it’s all you need to have fun.”

Australian school holidays start this weekend, and New Zealand school holidays the following weekend.

“I would like to see, in my heart of hearts, a significant dump of snow by that following weekend,” Kerr says.

“Before the days of snowmaking, winter didn’t start till the shortest day, and it still does, really.”

With top-to-bottom skiing on both Coronet Peak and The Remarkables, NZSki CEO Paul Anderson says it shows its snowmaking investment is paying dividends, “because we get the guests out on snow even though it might not be natural”.

He notes that The Remarkables’ higher altitude means it got snow in early June, “and we’ve held on to it because it’s been nice and cold”.

“We’re getting very good visitor numbers.”

He admits if nighttime temperatures warm up “we can’t make snow but, touch wood, behind every warm spell you usually get a flick of a southerly”.

He’s expecting both fields to be busy over the school holidays.

“Then, following on from school holidays, if we haven’t got natural snow by then it will start to be tougher because people will vote with their feet.”


  • NZSki raised $28,500 for Wakatipu Youth Trust from $20 locals’ days at Coronet Peak and The Remarkables last weekend. The trust, which offers support to youth aged 10 to 24, was chosen as it’s provided assistance to NZSki staff over the years.