Pow time: Coronet Peak ski area boss Nigel Kerr, with the skifeild's unofficial mascot, Oscar, in waist-deep white gold on the hill this week, delivered just in time for this morning's season opening. PICTURE: NZSKI


Transpires it takes a village to get a skifield open.

For once, Mother Nature came to the Queenstown party right on time last week, dumping 120 centimetres of white gold at Coronet Peak over four days.

Ski area manager Nigel Kerr says it’s been about 30 years since they’ve had that kind of snow to open a season with, and while the timing couldn’t be better for the skifield — which decided to open today, a day earlier than initially planned — the sheer amount’s caused a few headaches.

Earlier this week, Kerr said they’ve had ‘‘unprecedented’’ issues with avalanches all over the skifield, and on the access road which, till yesterday, was blocked by the snowpack.

Enter Helga.

Queenstown Airport loaned its snow clearing beast, a Robla Snow Blower, to help NZSki get
the mountain open this morning.

Airport operations and safety boss Todd Grace says ‘Helga’ is usually put to work to clear snow off the runways, but over the past couple of days she’s been deployed to Coronet, where she’s been helping clear the access road, enabling two-lane access, and carparks.

‘‘The snow on the access road was over a metre deep in places and rock solid,’’ Grace says.

‘‘Helga chewed it up and spat it out, making it much easier for Coronet Peak’s roading crew to carry out their prep for today.’’

Helga to the rescue: Queenstown Airport’s Robla Snow Blower, dubbed Helga, hard at work on Coronet Peak’s access road this week

Also called in to help was roading contractor Nuroad Civil, which brought in a 20-tonne, chained-up, front-end loader to help create access.

The lifts started spinning for the limited opening at 9am, but Kerr says by Saturday the
Peak will be at full-throttle.

Chains will likely need to be fitted to 2WD vehicles, but all motorists should carry them.

‘‘It would only take a bit of wind to fill in this road, because it’s a trench, and we’d have problems.’’

At The Remarkables, due to open from 9am Saturday, ski area manager Ross Lawrence says they’re looking at a banger of an opening weekend.

The skifield’s had about 90cm of new snow in the storm cycle and while it’s been blown around a bit on the hill, thanks to the ‘‘ferocious’’ winds of the past couple of days, the ski area’s blanketed.

‘‘We’re certainly confident about a good opening on Saturday with the learners’ area, Curvey Basin, Sugar Bowl chairlift, Alta chairlift, and we’re just doing a bit more checking
on Shadow Basin.’’

Avalanche control work’s been going on all week at The Remarks, too, and Lawrence reckons it’ll be ‘‘cleaned up pretty well’’ by opening day — forecast to be a cracker.

‘‘I think there’s another front coming early next week, but nothing’s going to interfere with the weekend, that’s for sure.’’

Chains will also need to be fitted to 2WDs for access there, he says.

‘‘We’re still clearing the road, and we’ll get some grit on it by Saturday, so it should be looking good.’’