Coronet Peak takes ski fields' opening crown
Queenstown's Coronet Peak ski has become the first Australasian ski field to open for winter.
Manager Ross Copland says all signs are pointing to a "fantastic" season ahead.
"It's great to finally be here and we're all absolutely amped about opening on schedule with such fantastic conditions and the season to come," said an ecstatic Copland. "Everyone's really enjoying the snow and atmosphere, the car parks have filled up, it couldn't be better.
Around 800 hardy skiers and boarders began arriving from 5am this morning to get their coveted first-on-the-lift placing, with the accompanying T-shirt to prove it.
For the third year in a row, local Queenstown kids Cougar Bryant (10) and his sister Tallulah (8) were first in line at Coronet Express Quad, this time joined by younger brother, six-year old Tristan.
Mum Tania was also early enough to share a seat on the first chair lift up the mountain for the 2013 season.
Copland officially marked the start of the Australasian ski season with a spray of Amisfield bubble and those over -18s first on the lift were given a complimentary glass to wish them well for the season.
He says its one of the best opening days in recent memory, with around 2,000 people flocking to the slopes.
Getting in his first runs among them was 61-year-old Japanese skier Tomoyoki Imada, who holds the record from last season of the most vertical kilometers skied in one season.
Coronet Peak's investment and recent software update in a fully-automated high-tech snowmaking system, the largest in the Southern Hemisphere, has paid dividends in adding to natural snowfalls over the past two weeks in getting the base of snow ideal for opening day.
"Not only are we first to open, but thanks to the fantastic job by our grooming team we're doing it with a number of trails operating for all levels of skier and boarder, a full range of facilities, great coffee, braziers blazing on the deck and a fantastic vibe," said Mr Copland.
"It's great for Coronet Peak, great for Queenstown, and great for tourism in New Zealand."
Coronet Peak opened with a 30cm base on the lower slopes and 40cm up top, providing access on the Coronet Express to the main M1 trail, Upper and Lower Wall Street, Mid Gully, Shirtfront and Million Dollar.
The Meadows Express lift also opened for novice and early intermediate skiers and boarders, and carpet lifts accessed the main beginners' area.
For up-to-date snow conditions and further information go to www.nzski.com<http://www.nzski.com>