A seatbelt was unlikely to have saved a ski field worker who killed when his vehicle plunged about 30 metres off the Mt Hutt access road.
It was also lucky a second vehicle following his tracks did not go off the edge as well, police say.
The 55-year-old contractor from Ashburton was the first to drive up the Canterbury mountain this morning.
He was nearly at the ski field car-park, beyond a security gate, when he crashed shortly before 7am.
Crash investigator Senior Constable John Isitt said the 55-year-old missed a sweeping right-hand bend and drove straight ahead off the edge.
His four-wheel-drive Toyota Hilux rolled multiple times before coming to a stop upside down about 30 metres down.
The driver's body was ejected during the rollover sequence and was found about five metres from the vehicle, Isitt said.
Mt Hutt ski field staff were following the Hilux's tracks in another vehicle a few minutes behind.
That driver realised the tracks led off the road and came to a stop about two to three metres from the edge.
''Fortunately they saw the edge before they got to it,'' Isitt said.
The staff went to investigate and raised the alarm.
Isitt said the deceased was not wearing a seatbelt. However, even if he had stayed in the vehicle, ''it was unlikely the outcome would be different''.
Poor visibility or a medical event were among the possible causes of the crash, Isitt said.
NZSki chief executive Paul Anderson said there was snow on the road and it was raining at the time of the crash, but the access road appeared to be intact, with no slips reported.
The 55-year-old had been working on the ski field for a number of years and was ''very familiar'' with the road, Anderson said.
"The contractor was well known to the Mt Hutt team. He was a great guy and very knowledgeable of the area and very well respected by our staff.''
The access road was ''a road you have to treat with respect at all times''.
Senior Constable Mike Seque said he had ''nothing but praise'' for the professionalism of the Mt Hutt staff who discovered the crash.
Mountain First Aid staff attended the scene, but the driver showed no signs of life.
Mt Hutt Ski Area manager James McKenzie said the contractor company and the driver's family notified.
"Our thoughts are with the family and friends of the driver at this tragic time," McKenzie said.
Police said an autopsy would be conducted and the death referred to the coroner.
- The Press