An overnight snowfall, cold temperatures and blue skies made for a “fantastic” season opening at Coronet Peak - the closest of Queenstown’s six commercial ski areas - and, further north at Canterbury’s Mt Hutt, skiers and boarders found 65cm of snow blanketing the mountain.
Opening two ski areas on the same day on schedule was a first and the result of “a huge team effort between two mountains and 14 departments,” NZSki chief executive James Coddington said.
More openings are scheduled for later this week. Snow Park NZ (Wanaka) is due to open on Friday (15.06.2012) and The Remarkables on Saturday (16.06.2012). Next week, it will be the turn of Cardrona Alpine Resort (22.06.2012), followed by Treble Cone (28.06.2012).
Family friendly programmes
New family-friendly facilities and programmes are a feature of the 2012 ski season at many New Zealand ski areas. Mt Hutt has launched the Methven Kids 4 free promotion, and Treble Cone has a new terrain fun park for children and an expanded freeski school programme.
Transport to and from the ski areas includes new buses connecting Queenstown, Coronet Peak and The Remarkables, and a new discounted multi bus pass.
Visitors can also choose the more spectacular option of a direct scenic air service between Queenstown and Treble Cone with a flight path over Coronet Peak, the old gold mining village of Arrowtown, historic Macetown and landing in the Matukituki Valley - a 45-minute journey from airport to ski field.
Coronet Peak ski area
Hardy skiers and boarders - including some who’d arrived at 4.30am during an early morning snowstorm - lined up for the official day one starting honours at the ski area’s Coronet Express Quad. The crowd of skiers and snowboarders built to around 1,000-plus for the day.
Snow conditions were “fantastic” for the first runs of the season, according to Coronet Peak ski area manager Hamish McCrostie.
Snow sports were out in force this weekend as the first two New Zealand ski areas opened for the official start of the 2012 winter season.
“We’ve received about 20cm of natural snow in the build-up to opening but we’ve been able to open with a 35cm average base thanks to machine snow and some nice top ups.”
Coronet Peak has an expanded kids Funzone in the novice and beginners areas for 2012, and the Icebar - an outdoors bar with amazing views launched last season - is back and “bigger and better”, McCrostie says.
Mt Hutt ski area
Mt Hutt ski area - a 60-minute drive inland from Christchurch - celebrated the 2012 launch with early morning skiers and snowboarders arriving from 4.55am onwards.
The much anticipated first day on the slopes, which attracted approximately 1,400 skiers and boarders keen to enjoy the 65cm of snow blanketing the mountain following last week’s snowstorm, was celebrated with bubbles from Queenstown’s Amisfield winery.
On-trail conditions were “10 out of 10”, according to Mt Hutt ski area manager James McKenzie. “I’ve spoken to heaps of guests and they are unanimously saying the conditions are fantastic.”
Families were out in force, McKenzie said, with the attraction of the new Methven Kids 4 Free deal that means children 10-and-under stay, eat and ski for free for the winter season. Aimed at making family winter holidays more affordable, the resort-wide promotion includes many local Methven businesses and local transport, and is open to local and international visitors.
Mt Hutt is “an all-round adventure playground for kids,” McKenzie says, with family-friendly events such as the Saturday night ‘dinner with the stars’ complete with huskies and snow groomer rides.
Snow Park NZ, Wanaka
At Snow Park NZ there’s plenty of early snow and the grooming machines are hard at work getting New Zealand’s premier freestyle ski and snowboard terrain park ready to open later this week.
Celebrating its 10th anniversary season in 2012, the family-owned boutique mountain resort - in the Cardrona Valley between the resort towns of Queenstown and Wanaka - has earned a reputation as a world-class training ground for top level winter sports but also caters to all levels of skier and snowboarder, from pros to families.
During the coming season Snow Park will host a series of local, junior and world-class events, including the AFP Gold Level North Face NZ Freeski Open, the Billabong Bro-Down, Electric Quarterpipe, and the Jr. Slopestyle Series for locals. There are also private performance camps, attracting some of the world’s best riders.
Snow Park’s on-mountain luxury and budget accommodations provide a ski-in, ski-out experience and a laid-back family-friendly atmosphere.
Treble Cone ski area
Treble Cone - the South Island’s largest snow resort which is due to open on 28 June - has added a new Jazz Fun Park designed to introduce the youngest novice skiers and snowboarders to the thrill of park riding, and an expanded Freeski Camp coaching programme running as weekends and five-day holiday camps.
Freeski Camps offer skiers aged six to 17 years the opportunity to advance in one of the fastest growing snow sports while safely exploring Treble Cone’s diverse terrain under the guidance of expert coaches.
The two five-day school holiday camps (starting 2 and 9 July) are led by eight-time New Zealand Freeski Open champion Geoff Small, working alongside other top coaches. The programme aims to improve technical and tactical skills, and will include coaching at selected freeski competitions and at the Junior Nationals. The full season programme will run over nine weekends with a holiday block course.
Budding young ski racers can also sign up for the TC Race E / K Programme - either as a five-day holiday or a seasonal programme - which is designed to develop the physical and mental skills of young ski racers.
Treble Cone has also produced a new 2012 trail map highlighting the diverse terrain of the 550-hectare mountain. The map charts new areas such as the challenging Motatapu Chutes, and introduces a new trail-grading scale using international colour standards. Groomed trails are marked and expansive off-piste areas identified by their boundaries.
Picture perfect Queenstown
Queenstown is looking picture perfect with fresh snow on the mountains and “a real buzz around town now as everybody gears up for winter,” according to Queenstown tourism chief Graham Budd.
Airlines have boosted trans-Tasman flight schedules by 8% to cater for international winter holidaymakers heading to Queenstown, and the first of the annual influx of visitors will be arriving in two weeks to officially celebrate the start of winter at the annual American Express Queenstown Winter Festival.
Dubbed the southern hemisphere’s biggest winter party, the multi award-winning festival (22 June - 1 July 2012) attracts an estimated 45,000 people each year to celebrate winter in style. The festival features 10 days of non-stop fun with on-mountain action, fireworks, street parties, concerts, comedy, free family fun, and a mix of internationally acclaimed performers and home-grown acts.
Entertainment will continue throughout the winter season with various events staged on the snow and in town. Highlights include the Free Ski World Cup Half Pipe and Snowboard World Cup Half Pipe (20 - 26.08.12), Winter Games Adventure Film Festival (24 - 26.08.12), Gay Ski Week (25.08 - 1.09.12), Northface Freeski Open of NZ - Slopestyle and Halfpipe (28.08 - 1.09.12 at Snow Park) and the Big Mountain (3 - 8.09.12 at The Remarkables).