Snowfalls timely for skifield opening

TRACY NEAL
Last updated 12:33 03/07/2014

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Snowfalls have arrived on cue for Nelson's Rainbow Ski Area, while Niwa climate forecasters predict temperatures for Nelson and the top of the South Island to be slightly above average for the three months to September.

Rainbow is, however, looking forward to a good opening day on Saturday and a good season to follow, Rainbow sports club chairman Jo Rainey says.

"We are delighted to welcome everyone to the 2014 season, Rainbow's 10th anniversary year," he said.

He said the skifield would open on schedule this Saturday, subject to conditions.

"We received about 10 centimetres of dry fresh snow on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, and there is more to come this week," Rainey said.

MetService meteorologist John Law today said conditions in the Nelson Lakes area for the weekend were likely to be "clear, cold and blustery".

A little more snow was possible on Saturday, and people were advised to be aware of the wind that day. Southeast winds were forecast for the morning, but were likely to swing more to the west throughout the day. Temperatures were not expected to exceed a "high" of -2 degrees Celsius, Law said. Sunday was expected to bring spells of fresh snow down to low levels.

Rainbow Ski Area's mountain manager Jono Hay was optimistic about this weekend's opening. "All of our snow makers are in full production . . . and we have made a phenomenal amount of snow in a very short space of time."

He said they would use today and tomorrow to complete the cover and prepare the slopes for opening on Saturday.

"The beginners and intermediate slopes will be open, and we will open further terrain as soon as possible. Our snow-making capability is better than it has ever been, and on top of this natural snow base we have a great head start for progressing further up the mountain," Hay said.

This anniversary year, Rainbow is offering school holiday programmes and competitions, and entertainment programmes will be held at weekends.

"The conditions will be great for families and kids wanting time in the snow during the holidays," Rainey said.

The safety team at Rainbow warned that the Rainbow Valley road would be shaded and icy, so chains were essential. "Follow the directions on signs, and ensure your chains fit before you get here - you will need them," Rainey said.

The regular shuttle service will be running for those who don't have chains or who prefer to leave their vehicle at the lower car park.

Niwa national climate centre forecaster Chris Brandolino said the outlook for Nelson and the top of the South Island from now until September included an almost 45 per cent chance that temperatures would be in the average or above average range.

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Rainfall totals had a 35-40 per cent chance of being in the normal or below normal range and river flows were most likely to be in the near normal range.

Meanwhile, sea surface temperatures for the coming three months were expected to be near average off the west coast of the country and above average to the east.

Last month was wetter than usual. Nelson Weather Service's recordings show 155.6 millimetres fell which was 58.7mm more than the average, or up 161 per cent. That makes the total rainfall for the year up 136.7mm more than the average 458mm, or up 130 per cent. Around the region, Brooklyn had 244.8mm for the month, Mahana 120.55, Nelson city 157.2mm, Stoke South 167.9mm and in the Gowan Valley 150.3mm.

On seven days no sunshine was recorded, and the total sunshine to date for the year to last month was 98 per cent of the average 1231.2 hours.

- The Nelson Mail

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