19 Jun 2011

It's Winter Festival time - but where's the snow?

8:31 am on 19 June 2011

Queenstown skifield operators are worried a lack of snow could mar the Winter Festival due to begin on Friday.

The festival, which began in 1975, has grown into an international tourism attraction, with events at both the Coronet Peak and Remarkables ski areas.

Normally both fields would be open by now and readying for the festival, but the gates are still closed.

The company that operates the fields, NZSKI.COM, says they've been hit by a peculiar weather pattern: it was the warmest May on record, and June is tracking that way as well.

In the past six weeks, the company says, only three nights had air temperatures at the optimum minus two degrees required for snow-making machines to operate.

Chief executive James Coddington says he's hoping natural snow will fall soon - and he may be in luck, because the weatherman says South Island skifields should get some in the next 24 hours.

MetService forecaster Ian Miller says the falls will only be light - between five and 10 centimetres - but it's still likely to be cold enough to allow snow to be made.