24 May 2018

Skiers delight: Snow points to 'absolutely stunning' season

8:35 pm on 24 May 2018

Queenstown and the surrounding areas have experienced freezing temperatures, icy roads and plenty of snow on the ground.

Snow on the Crown Range.

Snow on the Crown Range. Photo: Twitter / @QueenstownLakes

But it comes as good news for many and marks the beginning of the alpine resort's favourite time of year.

Wakatipu High School principal Steve Hall said school had a delayed start because of the scenes which greeted the town this morning.

"Snow on the ground, snow on the roads ... pretty much snow everywhere," he said.

"The weather has started to lift again now, planes are flying and we can see the peaks and it's very beautiful."

All schools in the area opened at 10.30am due to issues on the roads from the wintry blast.

But far from causing concern, the locals - many of them keen on snowsports - loved a snow day, Mr Hall said.

"There's plenty of [snowsports] enthusiasts amongst the pupils and the staff," he said.

"No one gets too unhappy about snow days down here - that's for sure."

Those tasked with preparing the mountains for the coming ski season were also smiling after last night.

Coronet Peak ski area manager Nigel Kerr said all predictions pointed to a bumper season ahead.

"About four o'clock [this morning] a front came in, which wasn't unexpected but it dumped somewhere between 15 and 40cm across the mountain," he said.

"The reality is we're looking at an amazing winter wonderland out my window right now."

Long-time staff could not recall a season beginning quite like this, he said.

"Talking to Ants, one of our maintenance guys whose been here since '96, and he was saying he can't really remember seeing such consistent snow coming in and the depth it's building up in May in his time.

"I mean it's looking like an absolutely stunning winter coming up."

The Remarkables would open on 9 June with Coronet Peak and Cadrona following a week later.

Queenstown Lakes District Council spokesperson Jimmy Sygrove said the early season snow dump had also provided a timely reminder for those wanting to access the ski areas, or anywhere else in the district, to drive to the conditions and to carry chains.

"It's been a bit of a mixed bag to be honest. We closed the Crown Range about 5.30am so we haven't had many issues up there, but with the snow falling as low as it did around the Wakatipu Basin we've had a few crashes, a few snarl-ups on the roads.

"We've had an instance where someone passed a grit truck that was gritting the roads and came unstuck in front of them and ended up blocking the main Shotover Bridge."

Earlier in the week some motorists ignored warnings to use chains on the Crown Range and came unstuck, causing delays and needing to towed out.

Motorists should exercise caution in the conditions and carry chains at all times, Mr Sygrove said.

Council staff would be manning bays at either end of the Crown Range as needed to ensure motorists were using chains and to help put them on.

"The key thing is even four-wheel drive vehicles don't cope well on the ice up there, so the message we are pushing is that everybody carries chains across the district," he said.

MetService meteorologist Tui McInnes said there was good news ahead for skiers, despite the weather system which brought the overnight snow dump moving to the northeast, as temperatures would remain cool and more snow was on its way.

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