The organiser of one of the world’s biggest winter sporting events – in Queenstown and Wanaka – isn’t panicked by a snow drought.
Bullish Winter Games boss Arthur Klap, speaking a week out from kick-off next Thursday, says there are no issues with Cardrona ski area, between Queenstown and Wanaka, where four of the Games six prestigious World Cup races will be staged.
Queenstown’s Coronet Peak skifield, which is hosting five days of international ski racing including two World Cup adaptive slaloms, is causing some concerns.
Klap, however, is confident the Coronet Peak races, between August 18 and 23, will still proceed – but concedes there may be changes to the course.
The skifield, according to the operator NZSki’s website, last received a snowfall – a measly two centimetres – on July 15.
The 2013 Audi quattro Winter Games NZ have attracted the biggest names in world snowsports – including snowboarding and freeskiing stars Shaun White and Gus Kenworthy. An off-mountain festival of music, films and activities including Games Villages downtown will be simultaneously pumping for the 11 days.
On the weather, last month was the warmest July on record and local weatherman David Crow expects this month will be about two degrees warmer than normal.
Crow tips little chance of any snow till the end of next week, and even that won’t be very much.
Klap, however, says he’s confident in Coronet Peak because of the ability of ski staff to manage snow.
“Though we haven’t had much for a while, we got a couple of big dumps and that gave a good base to work with, and the skifields are now so skilled at making the most of what they’ve got.
“Though the [Coronet] alpine course is not a course that most of the public would want to ski down, it actually holds its condition a lot better than the rest of the field.
“There’s some issues around the start area, whether there’s enough snow to build the start, and a little bit at the finish where we might have to finish a little bit higher up – but there will be a course.”
Klap says his team has always prepared for weather issues.
The first two Winter Games in 2009 and 2011 both had schedule changes to accommodate poor weather or an abundance of snow – “that’s all part of the alpine environment”.
“The competitors are used to changes in programme, delays in starts and finishes.
“The issue for us is not so much delivering for the athletes, it’s whether we can deliver the television product every day.”
Klap says contingencies include shifting the races to another mountain though he rules out Canterbury’s Mt Hutt – “we probably wouldn’t go outside of the Southern Lakes”.
Despite his confidence, Klap says he’s still praying for snow.
“We definitely want more snow – we’re certainly doing the right dances.”
The 11-day Winter Games, starting next Thursday, has grown in prestige every year it’s been held – and this year is attracting the top freeskiers and snowboarders in the world, with Olympic qualifying on the line for some.
Meanwhile, the launch of the New Zealand Winter Olympic team uniform will be held in Queenstown during the Games next Saturday, August 17 at Earnslaw Park from 4pm. The same night will see a live cross to Queenstown during the Lotto draw on TV2.