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Ski season recovers after ‘worst start in a decade’

Rain and warm weather doomed the start of the ski season to one of the worst beginnings in nearly a decade, ski operators say.

But after the initial glitch snow bunnies were treated to a great season.

Mt Hutt ski area manager James McKenzie said the season had been a “topsy-turvy ride”. 

“It started off great, it got bad and now it’s good again.” 

The season started on June 13 and for the first three days, the fields boasted record numbers.

But about a week into it, warm weather and rain put skiers off.

“You could argue it was one of the worst [periods] for the last 10 years,” Mr McKenzie said. 

The last time conditions were similar was in 2005, he said. 

But after that, the season improved with strong visitor numbers, which looked to stay healthy until the season finished on October 12.

The ski field had relied this season on snowmakers, which were used for 900 hours — three times longer than in previous years, he said.

“Without snowmaking we would be severely compromised.” 

Treble Cone marketing manager Nick Noble said it had been “one of the toughest starts” but once the season was able to open, it had been one of the strongest the field had seen. 

The rough weather in late June delayed the start of the season by about a week or two, he said.

“But since then it has been particularly strong.” 

The field was due to close on September 28.

The Remarkables ski area manager Ross Lawrence said the season had been “pretty good”.

“It was a little slow in starting … but once up and running it’s been very successful.”

July and the start of August brought a lot of good snow dumps, he said.

“For the last 25 or 26 days now we’ve this brilliant fine weather — just beautiful, fine sunny days, which is exceptional. 

“It’s taking us into springtime very happily.”

The field was scheduled to finish its season on September 28.

Meanwhile, Mt Ruapehu chief executive Dave Mazey said it had been a good season following a bit of a “slow start”.

“Certainly that was a very good snowfall we received at the end of July, early August, and the last few weeks have been very good,” he said.

“Good snow cover, we’ve had very good snowmaking through August.”

The numbers had been “very good” in the last few weeks, he said, adding he was reasonably confident of “good strong skiing” right through to Labour weekend in late October.

– NZ Herald; Additional reporting Patrice Dougan

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