Aussies hit NZ slopes

Last updated 08:27 03/07/2013

HIT THE SLOPES: Multi-sport athlete Geoff Hunt enjoys the first turns of the day at Coronet Peak at sunrise.

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Kiwis haven't seen snow like it in years and, even though their next-door-neighbours are boasting, Australians aren't complaining.

The ski season is well under way at most of New Zealand's slopes and word about the booming season kick-off is spreading across the Tasman.

"A lot of our Australian customers are coming across," Coronet Peak Ski Area manager Ross Copland said.

"They've got basically one or two centimetres of toothpaste striped on a mountain over there and they're coming here and just raving about the conditions."

New Zealand has a right to be bragging.

Mt Hutt has an early season base of over three metres, a level only seen once before in the past decade, and even then it was only at the season's end.

"The snow on the ground is quite remarkable," Mt Hutt Ski Area's general manager of operations, James Urquhart said.

"In some areas we have well over six metres of snow."

Some South Island resorts got up to two metres snow in the same number of days, when an Antarctic storm swept the country in mid-June.

The snow fall forced Mt Hutt to close for three days and avalanche danger kept it that way for another two.

But when you're in the game of supplying fresh runs for punters, those setbacks aren't too concerning.

"At this time of year we sometimes send the ski school guys out to do rock picking to make sure there's no rocks in the snow," Urquhart told NZ Newswire.

"This year we sent them out with shovels to make sure there's not too much snow in the places we need to get to."

It's not a bad problem to have, he admits.

Further south in Wanaka, one of Treble Cone's two main ski areas, The Saddle, has a two metre base of snow - most of which landed in the storm.

"It's the best start in the last few years," Treble Cone's marketing manager Nick Noble told NZ Newswire.

"Some of the locals are saying it's the best they've seen in 10 or 20 years."

Coronet Peak, just 20 minutes from Queenstown, has been open for almost a month and has a solid base of almost one metre at the top of the hill.

"It's postcard perfect and that's not an exaggeration. It is absolutely stunning out there at the moment," Copland said.

While Aussie slopes have had their first sprinklings for the 2013 season, they're trailing far behind their across-Tasman neighbours in terms of snow cover.

Perisher has a early season base of almost 30cm while Victoria's Mt Hotham has 14cm - but only in snow making areas.

New Zealand resorts admit they love having Australian skiers and boarders on their slopes, with Mt Hutt saying its visitors have doubled during this year's Australian school holidays.

With more direct flights from Australia to Queenstown this year, Treble Cone's Mr Noble says all indicators show the numbers of Aussies on its chairlifts are up.

Wanaka and Queenstown are bracing for an influx of international athletes, spectators and locals who will descend on the area later this month for the 2013 New Zealand Winter Games.

The Winter Games will host some of the final qualifying events for next year's Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

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