The powder and the glory

Snow arrives 'just in time' at Rainbow

SVEN HERSELMAN AND FAIRFAX NZ
Last updated 08:33 06/08/2014
Rainbow Ski Area
WINTER FUN: Rainbow Ski Area weekly development programme members, from left, Ella Schoni, Lina Schoni, Luca Stackhouse, Brittany Mark, Emily-Rose James and Alaina Burr have a ball in the snow.

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Good snowfalls on Sunday and more expected later this week have staff at Rainbow Ski Area confident the slopes will be open right to the top of the mountain by the weekend.

The ski area, near St Arnaud, opened a month ago, but only the lower slopes have been open.

Ski field manager Jono Hay said a fresh dump of 10 centimetres to 15cm of snow on Sunday had put them in a better place to look at opening the whole field soon.

"The snow on Sunday came just in time. We are expecting some tonight, and hopefully some on Thursday and Friday.

"The colder temperatures also mean we have been able to make more snow and we have extended our snow-making higher up, so we should be open all the way to the top by the weekend," Hay said.

Visitor numbers had been good, with school groups of around 70 children a day experiencing the winter wonderland.

"The school groups have been keeping us really busy."

The unusually warm weather in June initially had Rainbow staff worried they would have to postpone opening day, but a flurry of snow late in the month meant the popular winter destination was open on time. Rainbow's snow-making equipment was upgraded in time for the start of the 2014 season, and this had eased the impact of low snowfall.

In Canterbury, skifields are experiencing their worst season in years, forcing many to cancel lucrative bookings and events.

Most of the region's club fields remain closed as they await a decent snowfall.

The bigger ski areas, including Mt Hutt and Porters, are open, but they have relied on snow-making machines.

Mt Cheeseman mountain manager Cam Lill said it was "pretty gutting" to watch what little snow the mountain did have melt away last week. With just 15 centimetres of snow, the field is closed. It needed at least 40cm.

Lill said he was optimistic the area would open this year and the upcoming forecast gave him some hope.

"Until the snow's on the ground it's anybody's guess what it will do." Mt Cheeseman's 70-bed ski lodge had been fully booked during last month's school holidays, so all bookings had to be cancelled.

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- The Marlborough Express

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