Queenstown snow peaking for ski opening

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Queenstown’s ski season is braced to explode into life with Coronet Peak bosses confident of a decent snow base. 

More than 2000 skiers and boarders are expected to make for the mountain, which opens on Saturday, during the weekend. 

Strong cold southerlies dumped about 20 centimetres of snow on the NZSki-operated field – which will be the first in New Zealand to open – and on the town last Tuesday. 

Rain on Sunday threatened to spoil opening weekend before the snow returned with a vengeance at the beginning of this week. 

With the mountain’s 213 snow guns firing, the surface is packed powder with a 30cm base on the lower slopes and 40cms up top. 

“It’s fantastic,” new ski area manager Ross Copland says. 

“Sunday was a little bit frightening, washing away some from the big dump we had. It proved it’s never certain. 

“But we had more on Sunday night and Monday morning and it’s a great position to be in, to have such good coverage.” 

Copland, who replaced Hamish McCrostie after his 32 years with NZSki, says the Coronet Express chair,  Meadows Express chair and all but one of the carpets in the learners’ area will be operating. 

The Remarkables, which boasts 70cm on the upper mountain and 30cms down below, is due to open on Saturday, June 22. 

Wanaka’s Cardrona opens the day before, on June 21, with Wanaka’s Treble Cone a week later. Night skiing up Coronet Peak is scheduled to begin on June 28. 

Meanwhile Snow Park NZ, across the valley from Cardrona, has undergone massive changes recently. 

General manager Sam Lee, whose family re-took the reins in April, had planned to keep the mountain closed this season. But yesterday Snow Park announced it had sold its facilities and operations to neighbouring vehicle testing company, the Southern Hemisphere Proving Ground. 

No such concerns at NZSki’s well-oiled Coronet Peak, where weather is the only barrier to a booming season. 

“It’s just a case of being prepared and playing the hand you’re dealt,” Copland says. 

“It’s a really exciting time, there’s a great buzz with the staff.”