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Ski Season Down Under


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  • Location: City of Gales, New Zealand, 150m ASL
  • Location: City of Gales, New Zealand, 150m ASL

    I don't ski, but some on here do, and are interested in how things go downunder in case there is some link to the Scottish ski season!

    In NZ, 15th May and we have a start:

    Taranaki's humble Manganui skifield is the first in the country to open for the season.

    Yesterday Mt Taranaki's skifield opened thanks to a 25cm dumping of snow the previous day.

    Other skifields around the country in both the north and south are still almost a month behind, with most opening in mid to late June.

    Manganui ski field operators had initially hoped to open today, but got in a day early after the weather cleared up.

    Stratford Mountain Club member Jack Cran said the field was opened about 11am.

    "It was lovely, the wind turned south-west and it cleared," Mr Cran said.

    About 50 people took the opportunity to get a taste of the fresh powder.

    Mr Cran said the snow had fallen without any wind and the field had a good even covering.

    The learners' tow and T-bar were open yesterday with a had 30 to 50cm snow base and Mr Cran said he hoped the top tow would be open today.

    The North Island other two skifields, Turoa and Whakapapa, on Mt Ruapehu, are not looking to open until June 20 and June 27 respectively.

    In the South Island Mt Hutt had a 110cm snow base and staff were considering an opening the skifield early but a June 13 launch still looks to be on the cards.

    In Central Otago, both Cardrona and Treble Cone are looking to open around June 27 and Coronet Peak and The Remarkables in Queenstown will open their slopes June 6 and June 20 respectively.

    And news on the South Island (12th May):

    Canterbury's ski season may get off to an early start.

    Snow fell across the South Island during the weekend, with avalanche-control work already under way at Porters.

    Staff at Mt Hutt, with a 110-centimetre snow base, were considering an early opening. The ski area had had more than 170cm of snow over the past 10 days.

    Assistant ski area manager James McKenzie said they would know Wednesday whether it was feasible to open, after considering health and safety and logistical issues. The field had planned to open on June 13.

    Porters general manager Uli Dinsenbacher said there was 40cm of snow in the car park and 1.5 metres at the top of the mountain. Staff were packing down the snow, and carrying out avalanche-control work ahead of the June 26 opening.

    Dinsenbacher said he had not seen such conditions in May in 20 years.

    "It's very unusual. We usually get snowfalls in May, but they're not as substantial as the last couple have been."

    He was confident the snow would stay.

    "It's pretty hard to melt over a metre of snow and we're getting cold nights, and that will keep the snow there."

    In Central Otago, both Cardrona and Treble Cone have 30cm bases on the upper runs, while Coronet Peak and The Remarkables have bases of more than 50cm.

    Coronet Peak ski area manager Hamish McCrostie said snow-making was due to start about May 25.

    The Remarkables ski area manager Ross Lawrence said some "keen, local freestyle skiers" had taken advantage of the snow over the weekend.

    However, Mt Taranaki's Manganui ski-field may be the first to open this winter.

    Operators are considering opening the lower and learner's slopes and the T-bar as early as tomorrow.

    Stratford Mountain Club safety services convener Todd Cations-Velvin said as long as the weather cleared, the slopes would open.

    At Ruapehu, contractors are scrambling to get a roof on the rebuilt Knoll Ridge cafeteria building that was lost to fire during the summer.

    Mt Hutt is, I believe, the highest ski field in the South Island. Car Park is about 1400m and the mountain top is about 2000m or so.

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  • Location: Bramley, Hampshire, 70m asl
  • Location: Bramley, Hampshire, 70m asl

    Thanks JO7. Looking like it could be a good season. I'm very surprised that Whakapapa and Turoa aren't opening earlier given the conditions and the fact that Mt Taranaki is already skiable. No doubt my sis will be taking advantage at the earliest opportunity.

    Any avid skier reading this who has wondered about a ski trip all the way down to NZ should do it. Great skiing and the opportunity to ski on an active volcano.

    Turoa and Whakapapa (my favourite) are both on Mt Ruapehu -- complete with alarm system to warn you to ski out of the valleys and on to the ridges thus avoiding the lava flows during an eruption!! :rolleyes:

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  • Location: City of Gales, New Zealand, 150m ASL
  • Location: City of Gales, New Zealand, 150m ASL

    Good video here on the recent snowfall to the rangipo desert area.


    Mt Hutt apparently opening on May 30th, sounds like they got a good snowfall again on the weekend (snow was to 500m for a time, then rose to 1000m with some heavy falls).

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  • Location: City of Gales, New Zealand, 150m ASL
  • Location: City of Gales, New Zealand, 150m ASL

    Rubbish in Oz:

    After a great start to the season where a set of fronts and cold polar air brought considerable amount of snow to the Australian Alps, snow has barely made it back again.

    The Queen's Birthday long weekend 2009, was to many ski resorts, the best start to the season in a decade with extensive falls over the NSW and Victorian Alps. Since then, however, little snow has fallen in the Alps.

    over the next two weeks, conditions are not looking too promising as warm and moist northeasterlies bring rain over the next few days, potentially melting the snow at low altitudes.

    A weak front is set to lower the freezing level on Wednesday and bring some snow to the higher peaks. However, less than 5cm of snow is likely.

    From about the 26th onwards, a period of dry weather is set to last for at least four or five days as a high pressure system ridges in over the southeast. This will at least allow overnight snow making.

    At this stage, the next chance of natural snow is not until around the 2nd of July, when a front and and upper trough are set to cross the southeast.

    - Weatherzone

    © Weatherzone 2009

    Good in NZ:

    Mt Ruapehu is basking in record snow levels with all Turoa runs open this weekend.

    Cold clear days and low humidity, and a couple of timely southerly storms in the past fortnight have made snowmaking conditions the best in years.

    All 34 snowguns at Turoa have been running hot 24 hours a day. Together with natural snowfall, there is a metre-deep snow base on the upper mountain.

    Turoa's main lifts Giant, High Flyer, Movenpick and Park Lane will all open tomorrow to kickstart the season. Alpine Meadow beginners' slope is already open.

    At Whakapapa, another 54 snowguns, plus natural snowfall, have added a half-metre base to build on for next weekend's opening.

    Together the snowguns spray out about 20,000 litres of water a minute on both skifields.

    Ruapehu Alpine Lifts marketing manager Mike Smith said the opening weekend at Turoa topped any previous years for snow coverage.

    "The snowmaking guys, Fred Campbell and Baltazar Sanchez, are like pigs in the proverbial, there's so much snow around."

    It was the first time all ski trails at Turoa were accessible so early in the season.

    Last year snowmaking allowed both Turoa and Whakapapa to open earlier than any previous season. This year the snow cover was more complete and over a wider area.

    About 2000 skiers are expected on the first day of the season tomorrow. Both Giant and Alpine cafes will be open.

    Two hundred staff at Turoa had been undergoing induction courses this week to prepare for the influx.

    MetService predicts cloudy conditions with strong, cold southerlies at Mt Ruapehu this weekend.


    * A family of two adults and two children can expect to part with $500 to $600 for a day's skiing and two nights' accommodation in Ohakune.

    * On-piste food and apres ski accommodation options at Turoa and Ohakune:

    * SKI: Day lift pass $83 (adult), $48 (youth under 15). Half-day $52 and $30. Discover package (one-day lift pass, gear rental, 1 1/2-hour lesson) $95 (adult), $60 (youth under 15).

    * FUEL: Turoa has three cafes Giant, Snowflake and Alpine and a bar upstairs in the Alpine Cafe. Turoa's German-born chef, Frank Betran, is offering fugassi (designer panini), sushi, homemade soup, gourmet burgers (all $8.50), pizza ($15.50), snapper and chips ($8.80) and flat white espresso ($4).

    * SLEEP: Ohakune Backpackers YHA (bring your own bedding) $27 to $37 a night; B&B (Dakune Lodge) $110 to $140 per night; Hotel (Powderhorn) suites $230 a night; apartment $750 per night; self-catering chalet rental $120 to $149 a night; lodge/retreats (Ruapehu Golf and Country Lodge) $190 to $220 per night.

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  • Location: City of Gales, New Zealand, 150m ASL
  • Location: City of Gales, New Zealand, 150m ASL

    A bit about the avalanche death on a heli skiing trip.


    At first Melbourne multi-millionaire John Castran thought he had escaped the avalanche unscathed, unaware that metres away his Sydney skiing companion was dead.

    Buried under more than 1.8 metres of snow on a New Zealand mountain range, Mr Castran, 53, could still move his arms and legs. But then the snow shifted and he was crushed.

    Pinned beneath the overwhelming weight of what moments earlier had been featherweight powder snow, Mr Castran realised he did not have enough oxygen to yell for help.

    The real estate agent survived the avalanche at Ragged Range, near Methven, west of Christchurch, yesterday, but a NSW businessman, 61, whose name has not been made public, was killed.

    As Mr Castran ran out of air, he too thought he would perish under the ice. "You choke with the snow, you can't breathe, you're suffocating … it's like being poured into plaster of Paris. The only thing I could move was my tongue, to push the snow away from in front of my mouth.

    "I thought: 'I've only got a little bit of air here, I've just got to use all the air very, very carefully'. So I just shut myself down totally."

    Mr Castran had been on a heli-skiing trip with his son Angus, 23, as well as the NSW man and two guides from the tour company Alpine Guides.

    The snow had been perfect, the sky clear blue, and the group had completed four ski runs before their chartered helicopter dropped them at the remote Arrowsmith Ranges.

    "It's one of the most spectacular places you've ever seen, absolutely breathtaking country up in the ranges about 6000 to 8500 feet [2600 metres] above sea level," Mr Castran said.

    The man who was killed when the avalanche hit about 1pm had said to Mr Castran: "You don't get much closer to heaven than this."

    The first guide skied ahead of the group to check for danger, then signalled for the men to follow.

    "I was skiing down and all of a sudden the whole side of the mountain just let go," Mr Castran said.

    "I thought I might be able to out-ski it and ski off to the side, but the whole thing was happening so quickly and the snow went straight over the top of me."

    A dull rumble like thunder signalled that avalanche warnings issued for the area that day had been accurate.

    "The first thing that comes over you is just this incredible adrenalin, and you want to scream. But if I screamed I was going to use up too much oxygen," Mr Castran said.

    "I thought: 'I've just got to be smart'. And I was very lucky that I could just turn my mind off and put myself into another place."

    As the air drained away it became "frighteningly peaceful" under the snow. About 30 metres from where Mr Castran lay, his son had dug himself out from waist-high snow and was using a search and rescue beacon to find his father.

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    Angus said the tour group had been trained by guides to find each other using beacons they had pinned to their chests.

    One of the guides was able to find the dead man within five minutes. He was free within "seven to eight" minutes, but efforts to revive him failed.

    A tour guide and director of Methven Heliski, Kevin Boekholt, said: "He was around a metre down and he had his head up and he had no snow in his mouth. He was under the snow but there's a lot of air in snow. He shouldn't have died."

    It took Angus and the second guide about 15 minutes to find Mr Castran's position. They used avalanche probes to feel for him beneath the snow and a rescue shovel to dig him out.

    Angus said he feared the worst when they pulled his father from the snow, unconscious and blue.

    Speaking from a motel room last night, Mr Castran said he was uninjured apart from a black eye and having "the stuffing taken out" of him.

    He said he and his son were experienced heliskiers and their companion, who they had met that day, regularly travelled the world for the adventure of the high-risk sport.

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  • Location: City of Gales, New Zealand, 150m ASL
  • Location: City of Gales, New Zealand, 150m ASL

    Not ideal for ski-ing in the foothills of the alps today!

    Last Update Wed, 26 Aug 09, 06:11 AM

    Status Closed

    Last Fall 5 cm, 25 Aug 2009

    Road Closed

    The access road will remain closed all day as strong winds are creating hazardous driving conditions.

    Snow Lower mountain snow depth: 140 cm

    Upper mountain snow depth: 160 cm

    Snow surface: Machine Groomed

    Weather Wind and Snow, 2°C

    At 6am we have severe NW gales and are recording wind strengths in excess of 130km/h in the base area and 200km/h on the ridgeline. The wind is not forecast to ease sufficiently to enable safe operation of any of our lifts today. On a more positive note, we have received approx 10cm of wind affected snow on the upper mountain with approx 2-5cm of wetter snow at the base lodge.

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  • Location: Sydney, Australia
  • Location: Sydney, Australia

    Will throw this in here in case anybody wants to pull it apart and explain what went so wrong downunder in August


    FWIW I've been looking for methods of forecasting the season since 2000 and it's thanks to Netweather that I've come across teleconnections.

    BTW - I'm SF and that's my attempted forecast. Probably will try for 1 more using this method before I start looking for a more analytical method of extracting data from the indicies.

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