13 Aug 2010

Company stands by decision to open Mt Hutt ski field

9:30 pm on 13 August 2010

NZ Ski denies its staff made a miscalculation by opening Mt Hutt where high winds stranded 1200 people for nearly 24 hours.

The Canterbury ski field's access road was closed off about midday on Thursday as winds gusted up to 200kmh in some places on the mountain.

NZ Ski chief executive James Coddington says the high winds came up very quickly and the right decision was made to close the access road.

Mr Coddington says the wind died down enough to reopen the road just before 10am on Friday, giving a weather window of about two hours to bring everyone down.

Mt Hutt ski area manager Dave Wilson said it was a windy night but there was enough food and the facilities held up under the extra load, with people crammed into every nook and cranny of the base building to sleep.

MetService says the high winds were caused by two conflicting weather patterns combining and forcing gusts through gaps in the mountain.

Forecaster spokesperson Bob McDavitt says this type of weather is quite common, but under certain conditions it can have a strong impact.

Meanwhile, people who were stranded can apply to get some of their costs refunded.

Mr Wilson says many have already received partial or full refunds, depending on the time they arrived and several other factors.

He expects the mountain will reopen on Saturday, weather permitting.