Lack of snow keeps some ski resorts closed in New Zealand

Interesting Associated Press story by Nick Perry on lack of snow in New Zealand

Winter has rolled into its third month in New Zealand, and Nick Jarman says he’s going stir crazy as he stares out at the driving rain on the small ski area he manages in the Southern Alps.

The Craigieburn Valley Ski Area is one of several areas that haven’t opened for a single day this season, and some fear there may not be enough snow to open at all this year — something Jarman says has never happened during his 30 years carving turns on the mountain’s slopes.

Ski operators throughout New Zealand are feeling the effects of the country’s warmest start to the Southern Hemisphere winter since record-keeping began in 1909. And while one bad season doesn’t prove a trend, it comes at a time when scientists say the country’s snow pack and glaciers are melting at an alarming rate due to climate change.

The country’s largest ski areas have managed to open only because they’ve invested in equipment to make their own snow, which they’ve been doing this year in unprecedented quantities. For now, at least, that’s helped protect the nation’s reputation as a winter play land, one that each year attracts more than 60,000 skiers and snowboarders from Australia alone from June to August when it is winter south of the equator.

At Queenstown’s Coronet Peak, 200 snow guns have been blazing day and night whenever the temperature dips a little below freezing. Those guns have turned enough water to fill 100 Olympic-size swimming pools into a white blanket that’s remained on the main trails even on days when some skiers have taken to wearing t-shirts.

But New Zealand also has a tradition of small ski areas that rely entirely on natural snow, and many are facing steep financial losses this year. Typically, the areas are run as nonprofits. They are kept open not only by tourist dollars but also from the work of enthusiastic volunteers. Operators of these areas say they can’t afford to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in snow-making equipment.

Jarman says Craigieburn employs about 10 staff but can only pay them once the area opens. He says it’s not just the ski areas that are suffering, but also the local ski rental stores, the gas stations, even the bakeries. He says he’s been refunding money to tourists who have booked ski and accommodation packages, and the season is putting a strain on Craigieburn’s finances.

“It’s going to be hard, really hard. We don’t have the extra money to spend on maintenance,” he says. “We’re not living on caviar and salmon.” Read more at SNOW.

Chasing winter at Coronet Peak in Queenstown, New Zealand

Ski Gypsy Keri Reid tells us about skiing at Coronet Peak near Queenstown, New Zealand. Here’s her insider take from

“I still find myself explaining to people that summer in the Northern Hemisphere is winter in the Southern Hemisphere. For the skiing and snowboarding obsessed, it can be a truly magical discovery. Indeed, it’s true: in New Zealand (as in a number of other countries), it’s currently winter. Traveling between both hemispheres to experience cold climates again and again is known as chasing winter and it’s wonderful.

A couple posts back, I delved into the beauty and majesty of the Remarkables in Queenstown, New Zealand. Its sister mountain, Coronet Peak, lies just across the valley. On a clear day, I liked to think that my instructor friends could see me waving over at them from the Remarks (is there such a thing altitude insanity?).

Stunning views, modern base building, high-speed lifts and quality grooming only begin to describe The Peak. Similarly to The Remarkables, the mountain offers endless possibilities with it’s bare landscapeyou could quite frankly ski/board anywhere there’s snow. That being said, Coronet differs from The Remarks in a number of ways:

It offers a vast amount of night skiing over the weekends, adding to it this season with an additional 80 lights amounting to 4 kilometers of newly brightened terrain.

    • The access road is provides a far gentler journey. Completely paved, its a short 20 minutes from Queenstown.
    • It’s larger, but also busier. Crowds fill the main trails, especially over the holiday periods, making it a far more challenging experience for novice skiers.

In my experience, Coronet Peak takes the cake for families and skiers/riders that enjoy groomed runs. The facilities are well suited to serving large groups of people ranging from complete beginners to strong intermediate skiers. Experts may be able to get some thrills, namely in the back bowls, but there are certainly more exciting resorts in New Zealand.

Coming up on July 26th, the sister mountains will be hosting the annual Peak to Peak race; an exhilarating five part race that can be completed individually or as a team. Totalling an epic 44 kilometers, participants ski/board, run, paddle and bike their way to glory.

Air New Zealand promoting service to the South Island ski resorts

Air New Zealand has teamed up with online content creator Diaries Downunder to launch a campaign promoting its direct trans-Tasman services to the South Island ski fields.
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The campaign “Meanwhile in… New Zealand” will showcase what is happening “now” on the South Island slopes, along with the kind of colorful characters you’re likely to encounter while coming down a mountain – in the tongue in cheek style of the popular “meanwhile in…” internet memes.

The first in the series of videos, featuring a trio of posers in matching woollen skivvies and pom-pom beanies heli-dropped onto Central Otago’s Isobel Glacier, can be viewed here

Destination Queenstown CEO Graham Budd says with snow falling and more forecast for the coming week, the timing of the campaign is perfect.

“All ski resorts will be open and ready this week to welcome Australian skiers, boarders and holiday makers – so now is the time to book your seat for an unbeatable winter experience in Queenstown.”

unnamed (3)The airline has also launched a social media campaign today offering customers who hit the South Island slopes this winter the opportunity to win back the cost of their airfares by hashtagging their experiences #meanwhileinnz.

Air New Zealand General Manager Australia Leanne Geraghty says while Australia has also had its share of snow dumps this winter, there’s one thing New Zealand slopes offer that you can’t experience here.

unnamed (4)“Queenstown has some of the world’s best heli-ski routes and terrains making for a unique and memorable ski experience. Air New Zealand and our alliance partner Virgin Australia currently fly at least daily from Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne to the Queenstown ski region, making it possible to check out the heli conditions today and hit the slopes tomorrow.

“New Zealand has historically had a ski season that goes all the way to late September so Australians can continue booking right through spring.”

Air New Zealand, along with alliance partner Virgin Australia will operate an additional 40,000 seats into Queenstown over the peak winter period compared with the same period last year.


Check out the best ski resorts in Australia and New Zealand

When we visited Queensland, New Zealand, we missed the end of the ski season by only 1 day. And they wouldn’t fire up the lifts for a couple late Americans. Oh well!

If you’re in New Zealand or Australia for their new ski season just beginning, be sure to check out their ski resorts.

Here’s a nice compilation by On The Snow.

Coronet Peak is the most popular ski resort on the South Island of New Zealand, in part due to its proximity to Queenstown—20 minutes away. From the summit, look left to see Gondor from the movie, The Lord of the Rings. The varied terrain offers something for everyone: beginners and intermediates have wide blue and red runs, while more advanced skiers can hit the terrain park or test their stamina on the longest run, the “M-1,” stretching 2.4 kilometers (1.5 miles). The resort is known for its efficient high-speed chairlifts. The peak is one of the last ski fields to lose its snow, hence the season typically runs from early June to mid October.

When to go: Early June to mid October

Terrain: 690 acres: beginners 25 percent, intermediates 45 percent, advanced 30 percent (includes back bowls)

Lifts: One high-speed six seater, two express quads, one T-Bar and four surface conveyor lifts

Longest run: M1—1.5 miles

Après ski: Fully-licensed restaurant plus bar and cafe with sun deck at the sub-station.

Resort facilities: Snowsports school, ski and snowboard rental shop, ski retail outlet, licensed day care center and children’s programs, first aid and emergency services.

Ski pass prices: Daily lift tickets cost $97 (NZD)

Transportation: Snowline Express costs $15 and return from Queenstown Snow Centre, departs every 20 minutes during peak times with pick-ups at designated stops where space is available. Snowline Hotel Pick is $30 (Adult), $20 (Youth 17 & under) per person for a return trip. Prebook your seat by 9 p.m. the night before. Pick-ups from designated Queenstown accommodation providers.

For the top four resorts in Australia and New Zealand, see their report.