Fresh falls boost Coronet


Thousands of keen skiers and snowboarders have enjoyed their first runs of the season at Coronet Peak.

The Queenstown skifield opened to clear skies on Saturday, before fresh snow overnight and yesterday.

Coronet Peak boss Ross Copland says he expects a busy season as tourism numbers rocket in the resort.

“Queenstown seems to break a record every month.

“June’s shaping up to be another record and I’ve been listening to people talk about having to get right on the front foot to get accommodation.”

Heavy snowfall in recent weeks, along with Coronet’s snow guns, enabled groomers to lay down a base, helping the skifield mitigate problems caused by some rainy weather in the few days before opening.

The snow base at Coronet was a minimum of 20cm and a maximum of 50cm, but between 5cm and 10cm fell yesterday.

NZSki also planned to run the snowguns for 24 hours yesterday and today.

Over the valley at The Remarkables skifield, there has been 40cm and 70cm respectively, with more snow expected this week.

NZSki-owned Coronet welcomed an estimated total of about 2500 skiers and snowboarders on Saturday, despite only opening the main runs.

Those big runs included The M1, Big Easy and the beginners’ area, the safe learning zone.

About 300 people queued for the first Coronet Express chairlift up at 9am.

Predicted gales failed to materialise and instead skiers were treated to clear skies, light winds and relatively warm conditions, at about 3degC.

Snow conditions were good to firm on the eight of 27 runs groomed.

Elsewhere was icy and there was little coverage off-piste.

First on the chairlift were Wakatipu High School pupils Oliver Hill, Simon Morganty and Ben Evans (all 16), from Arrowtown, and Angelique Vinnedge (22), from Canada.

The boys slept on the mountain overnight, arriving at 9pm, while Miss Vinnedge joined them at 6am. Oliver said: “It was pretty cold.

“We tried to sleep on the chairlift but that didn’t go so well.

“We’re looking forward to the season.”

The group instead bunked down in sleeping bags outside NZSki’s base building. It is the second year Oliver has been first on.

Vinnedge said her first run down M1 was “splendid”.

“It was definitely worth getting up early to see all the stars out and a great sunrise.”

Copland cracked open a bottle of Champagne at the chairlift to mark the occasion, while those who queued were given breakfast and bubbly.

He said he was delighted to open, after seven months’ preparation.

Changes over the summer include new trails and topography, with 30,000 cubic metres of soil moved, new grooming technology, and more car parking.

NZSki has 550 staff on the mountain.

Their training had been helped by heavy snowfall in recent weeks.

Over the Crown Range on Saturday, Real Journeys-owned Cardrona skifield also opened all four chairlifts, welcoming about 1500 people.

The Remarkables skifield is due to open on Saturday, while Wanaka’s Treble Cone will open on Thursday, June 23.