12 Aug 2010

Hundreds of skiers forced to spend night at Mt Hutt

10:58 pm on 12 August 2010

Hundreds of skiers stranded at Mt Hutt have been forced to spend the night after high winds closed the access road at the Canterbury resort.

The ski field and road were closed about midday on Thursday and at least 900 skiers are crammed into the cafe waiting for the wind to drop.

Ski area manager David Wilson says the wind was stronger than forecast, with gusts up to 200km/h in some places and it was too dangerous to drive down the road.

"It's inconvenient, but we've had to close the road for all the guests that are up on the mountain purely from a safety point of view. There was very low visibility on the road and the winds have just come in a lot faster than forecast."

One of the stranded skiers, Chris Vanderkolk, says staff at the ski field have kept them well informed and they understand why they can't get off the mountain.

"It's very rough - it's one of those lean against the car to stay standing sort of a situation. I haven't experienced anything like it before - and I live in Wellington. It's just blow off the side of the mountain territory."

Mr Vanderkolk says the cafe is very crowded and chaotic, but staff have provided cheap meals and everyone is in relatively good spirits.

Two snowboarders and a skier have fallen to their deaths at Mt Hutt this season, while another man was killed after his car plunged off the access road.

Earlier this week, an avalanche struck two people and forced 2000 skiers off the slope.