Happy trails on Ruapehu at last

FUN IN THE SNOW: Rhudi Redelinghuys, Hillary King, Tonie Redelinghuys and Micah Andrews, enjoying the schow at Whakapapa, Mt Ruapehu.
FUN IN THE SNOW: Rhudi Redelinghuys, Hillary King, Tonie Redelinghuys and Micah Andrews, enjoying the schow at Whakapapa, Mt Ruapehu.

The slow start to the snow season appears over after a strong southerly blanketed Mt Ruapehu yesterday.

The fields opened five days late this season after winter's delayed arrival.

Holidaymaker Adian Bognuda and his family had travelled from Wellington for a week of skiing.

He said yesterday's snowy conditions made visibility difficult on upper parts of the mountain but the snow was perfect. "It's beautiful to ski on, it is like powder, but you almost need windscreen wipers to see."

Mt Ruapehu customer relations manager Annah Dowset said now nature had taken over the company could enhance the trails. "Operational teams are going to get up there and push the snow about to make the trails optimal for the weekend."

Metservice has predicted perfect weather for a weekend of frolicking in the snow. It will be mainly fine all weekend with southwesterly winds easing on Sunday.

Locals were desperate for the season to improve, having only recorded busy periods during the recent school holidays. They were now hoping with this week's heavy snow fall the towns would be bustling with tourists.

The Mountain Rocks Bar & Cafe shift manager Joy Marsada said they had been steady in the day but this was a quiet season.

"Last winter we had full tables for breakfast and again lunch, but not this season," she said. "This weekend will be quite busy. If the mountain is busy then after 3pm town will be as well."

Dowset said hotels and motels in the area were prepared for this weekend, with many booked out.

She urged tourists to check traffic conditions before heading up the mountains after the icy conditions had already endangered some drivers.

Matai Shuttle driver Rainier Winiata said tourists without a 4WD would need to take a bus. "There were three accidents on the mountain on Tuesday and a couple yesterday - it is really icy up there."

Further north, snow on the Kaimai Range which fell overnight on Monday, could still be seen cloaking the peaks early yesterday.

Hamilton was expected to fall to -2 at 6am today and dipped to -4 degrees Celsius at 6am yesterday, said MetService meteorologist John Law.

"I don't think the snow would have gone anywhere. There was a high of 6 degrees [on Tuesday] on the Kaimais and that's at about 400m to 500m."

Law said showers would be needed to generate more snowfall.

A fine morning frost today is forecast to lead into a few showers with southwesterly winds which will continue until tomorrow.

With a cold front still coming from the south, Law said more frosts were in store for the Waikato, with a chance of more snow in high areas. Rural areas should brace themselves for cooler temperatures.

Waikato Times