Mt Hutt avalanche hits triple chair

Last updated 16:50 23/06/2013
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EXQUISITE: The promise of fresh powder tempted more than 1300 people to head to Cardrona yesterday.

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A deliberately-triggered avalanche at Mt Hutt has caused extensive damage to one of the skifield's chair lifts.

Mt Hutt staff have been busy this weekend clearing the access road and facilities after a massive snow storm last week dumped nearly 3 metres of snow on the ski area.

In a statement from Mt Hutt, the skifield said that a team of eight patrollers had been identifying potential avalanche danger areas and 'bombing' them from the safety of a helicopter.

However, at 11am one such avalanche over a bluff area below the Mt Hutt base building caused extensive damage to the bottom station of the Triple Chair and a snowmaking pump house.

The full extent of the damage was not yet known.

Mt Hutt ski area manager James McKenzie said the field would only open when the access road and ski areas could be made safe.

"We've received an unprecedented amount of snow in a very short period of time so while we appreciate that everyone is champing at the bit to get up here to enjoy the conditions, we will only open when it is safe."

McKenzie said this morning's avalanche travelled about 700 vertical meters, and was around 200m wide at its widest point. It would have travelled at speeds of up to 70kmh and left a 2m high crown wall at the top.

Yesterday, more than 1300 skiiers, snowboarders and snowlovers descended upon Cardrona for its opening day.

Cardrona sales and marketing manager Nadia Ellis said it was one of the best opening days they had ever had. 

She said the snow was ''nothing short of exquisite''. ''The smiles on people's faces say it all,'' she said. 

Cardrona experienced a steady downfall of snow this week with a total of 120 centimetres falling in seven days.

Blizzard conditions and heavy snow forced Cardrona to delay its scheduled opening by 24 hours to yesterday. But, the staff worked through Friday night carrying out avalanche control work and digging out the lifts, Terrain Park and buildings.   

Additional terrain and facilities will open as conditions allow.   

Cardrona has recorded a 65cm base at the bottom of the mountain, and 125cm base at the top of the mountain. 
With such great snow conditions to kick off the season, Cardrona staff are anticipating one of the best winters in recent memory.

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- The Press

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