Winter finally arrived in Otago yesterday after an unusually extended and balmy autumn.
Heavy snow closed the Crown Range Road for the first time this year, after about 12 vehicles slid off and another 20 were stranded.
Queenstown’s council advised this morning that the Crown Range is open but chains must be carried.
The snowfall is a welcome blessing for skifields, which are only weeks from their scheduled openings.
NZSki chief executive Paul Anderson says Coronet Peak and the Remarkables skifields got “a good dump” of snow yesterday.
Snowmaking began on the trails last week but it’s nothing compared to proper snow, Anderson says.
“A natural dump makes a huge difference. It is a substantial fall so we expect it will hang around with some cold temperatures coming over the next few weeks. Getting a top of natural snow is just fantastic.”
Treble Cone reported on its website 5cm of snow fell on the skifield.
On MetService social media, people posted about snow settling to 600m on Queenstown hills, and sleet in Dunedin.
Police closed the Crown Range road about 4.30pm yesterday as temperatures in parts of the province fell below freezing.
Police spokesman Nic Barkley says five vehicles remained on the range overnight but every motorist had been rescued.
The closure came after several drivers ignored warnings about chains being essential for any vehicle crossing the range.
The alternative route between Wanaka and Queenstown is via Cromwell on State Highway 6.
Blake and Sara Korteweg, a sharemilking couple from Hedgehope, Southland were among a group of motorists caught in about 5cm of snow on the top of the Crown Range yesterday.
Sara Korteweg told the ODT the couple, along with daughter Maisie, were driving home from Wanaka in their Holden Commodore car when they were forced to stop at the summit (1121m) about 3.30pm. There were several other cars at the top.
They did not have chains for their car, so waited for the grit truck to arrive and then followed it safely down the other side.
Otago Daily Times