Ski areas welcome May snowfall

South Island ski operators have welcomed fresh falls of snow at the weekend as they continue to invest many millions of dollars in their skifields.

Fields, particularly those in the Queenstown-Central Otago area, are expecting strong inbound winter tourist arrivals from Australia, given that airlines have increased available seat numbers.

Porters Ski Area general manager Uli Dinsenbacher said some good snow had fallen overnight and with a drop in temperature the skifield was running new snow guns.

Staff had been busy over the summer months building and installing an automated snow-making system, replacing a manual system. The snow guns-based system was an investment in the order of $500,000 and would produce 20 per cent to 30 per cent more snow than previous models.

"Like everybody else we had quite a good snowfall over the weekend, cooling down the ground," Dinsenbacher said.

"We've got a brand new automatic snow-making system just installed last week. It's cranking up today.

"They turn themselves on and off when the conditions are right. You can actually monitor them from a computer."

The snowfall had already covered the rocks on the mountain, and Porters was on schedule for a June 20 opening, he said.

NZSki general manager sales and marketing Craig Douglas said strong snow fell overnight, adding to falls and cold temperatures in the middle of last week.

The weekend fall had added 50 centimetres of snow at The Remarkables to give a base of 75cm, with the field due to open on June 21. Coronet Peak, also operated by NZSki, now had a base of 40cm on the upper mountain.

Coronet Peak and Mt Hutt, where there had been light falls, were due to open on June 7.

"All of the snow bodes well obviously, [but] Mt Hutt hasn't really copped it yet."

The company, owned by Trojan Holdings, had committed to tens of millions of investment at its fields over the next couple of years including upgrading snow-making equipment and feeder pipes in the ground.

The investment included a $20m base building to be completed in 2015, to offer skiers ticketing, rentals a restaurant and cafe.

"At The Remarkables we've got a major development programme under way, which kicks off really this winter," Douglas said.

"So we'll have a new chairlift, a whole lot of new snow-making infrastructure there, guns, plumbing and pumphouses, and things like that."

There was also insurance-funded work, completed at Mt Hutt to reinstate infrastructure that had been damaged in 2013. Mt Hutt had also developed some new ski trails.

The Press