Severe winds battered the Remarkables Ski Area’s new base building at the weekend, shattering dozens of windows and causing at least $100,000 worth of damage.
Gusts estimated at more than 200kmh on Saturday night also blew out windows in the old base building and damaged huts and snowmaking equipment, while wind-blown stones scoured vehicles in the car park.
One of the first people on the scene said the $23million facility – completed last June – resembled an “abandoned Martian city”.
Gerrard Liddell, of Dunedin, said he arrived on Sunday morning for a climbing trip with friends to an “unbelievable scene”.
Ski area manager Ross Lawrence said the damage was “pretty devastating”.
More than 30 double-glazed windows and doors in the building had been blown out, and shattered glass was dispersed through the top level.
“I knew it was windy that night but we didn’t anticipate this.
“I’d call it a once-in-a-100-year wind. We’ve never experienced anything like it.”
Wind speeds were not recorded because of a power cut earlier on Saturday, but he estimated they were between 180kmh and 210kmh.
Repairs were likely to take weeks, and options for strengthening the windows and panes were being considered.
“We do love the glass. It makes the facility what it is. It’s just a case of mitigating the risk as much as we can.”
He was not concerned about the building’s robustness.
“The design accounts for winds of over 200kmh, but it’s not actually the wind itself, it’s the stones off the car park and the open faces; that’s what has done the damage.”
The building has been plagued by extreme weather since its inception.
Spring snowfalls hampered the early stages of its construction in 2014, and weather conditions last June prevented the fitting of the last of its huge windows, delaying the ski area’s opening by a week.
Five windows were blown out during high winds last November.
Shawn Heeley, of Queenstown, said he camped on the Remarkables range with his 11-year-old son on the night of the windstorm.
As the gusts peaked over a five-hour period, their tent was lifted off the ground while they were inside it, despite being secured with rocks and climbing ropes.
When they returned to the ski area car park, they found his car “completely trashed” by wind-blown stones.
Four of its windows were blown out and its wing mirrors smashed, while its interior was “scoured out” and full of gravel.
“The whole car is a write-off for insurance.
“Even the panel beater said he’d never seen anything like it.”
– Otago Daily Times