Skiing on a blazing hot Christmas Day, or even New Year’s Day, could become a reality at Mt Hutt this year.
Last year, the ski area’s manager, James McKenzie, said if they were voted New Zealand’s top ski resort in the World Ski Awards, they would open for a spot of summer skiing on Christmas Day. They did get that title, but couldn’t live up to their promise as there was not enough snow on the mountain.
It’s a different story this year though, with the mountain still covered in an average base of 2.6 metres to 3.6m of snow heading into October – and that much snow is not going anywhere in a hurry.
“We’re going to live by our promise, if we’ve still got snow.”
It’s been a bumper snow season – sometimes with so much snow they didn’t know what to do with it. Graders and groomers pushed the excess into the car park area and over the side, McKenzie said. Too much snow was a much better problem to have than not enough though, he said.
Mt Hutt was due to close for the season on October 8 but would stay open for another week, taking in all of the October school holidays, due to the amount of snow still covering the slopes. They’re going even further with the establishment of a Spring Camp for freestyle ski and snowboard training and improvement in the terrain park, which will run until the end of October.
McKenzie said usually a good, strong, spring nor’west wind could strip up to 20 centimetres of snow from the mountain in a day. In a lean snow year, that wasn’t good, but in a good snow year it didn’t make a huge difference.
“It’s really nice to not have to worry, going to bed at night and coming in the next morning and wondering what it’s going to look like,” he said.
After a slow opening month in June in terms of snow falls, Mt Hutt has now had a total of 6m of snow fall on its slopes so far this season.
“In previous years we’ve been struggling to get over a 1m base, so that makes you a lot more prone to inclement weather events like the nor’west,” McKenzie said.
But two big nor’westers in recent days have barely made a dent in the 2017 snow pack.
It’s five years since Mt Hutt has experienced a snow season like this year’s.
“People who have been working here for five seasons, it’s the first time they have really seen it like this and for them it’s outstanding to see what the mountain can be like and what the skiing can be like,” McKenzie said.