New Zealand’s best ski resort, Mt Hutt in Canterbury, kicked off the 2018 winter season with all lifts running on opening day for the first time in more than 20 years.
A timely 30cm of new snow arrived on Tuesday night and a further 5cm of snow on Wednesday blanketed the award-winning ski field. At 6am this morning, the conditions were clear and calm with crystal clear skies.
Mt Hutt Ski Area Manager James McKenzie reported a mix of over 1500 regular guests and first-timers throughout the morning.
“With the best opening snow base in years and a sunny day with light breezes, we couldn’t have hoped for a better start to the 2018 winter season,” says James.
As all the lifts are running, which means the “First on Triple” Tees – new for 2018 – will become a much-coveted collector’s item.
First on the lift, who received Amisfield bubbles – hot chocolate for the little ones – and first on the chair t-shirts were from left to right Cantabrians Andy Cameron-Daniels, Paul Womersley and Ben Yorston. Ben Yorston was also first on the Summit chair.
“The Triple chairlift usually opens at the end of June or early July due to insufficient early season snow coverage on the lower mountain,” explains James.
“But thanks to a massive upgrade to our snowmaking system over the summer, we have been able to make snow on “International” in the lead up to opening day.”
James says that Mt Hutt has effectively doubled snowmaking capacity for 2018.
“We can now operate snow guns on the upper and lower sections of the mountain simultaneously. In the past we had to focus snowmaking on specific areas of the upper mountain due to pumping limitations.”
Snowmaking is key to the mountain, and these investments have increased capacity and snow management capability to improve coverage in season.”
Thanks to a record-breaking, pre-season snowmaking campaign and the recent southerly weather fronts, the snow base on groomed trails stands at an impressive 35-70cm.
“We are looking at the best opening snow base in nearly 10 years and it is awesome to see the Triple chair lift turning on day one along with the Summit Six and Quad chairs” says James.
New at Mt Hutt this year
Nothing has changed when it comes to the awesome customer service and big mountain ski terrain at Mt Hutt – two of many reasons why it’s been voted New Zealand’s best – but behind the scenes there’s been plenty of investment in infrastructure.
The 365ha ski field, which is 30 minutes from the ski town of Methven in Canterbury, once again won the Best New Zealand Ski Resort at the World Ski Awards for the 2017 season. This is the third consecutive year it has won.
James says, “Behind that great natural terrain is a lot of technical work that makes sure we get the best out of the mountain during the ski season for guests!”
As well as the 50% increase in snowmaking, Summit 6 chairlift has had a wee makeover too. This is the highest point on the mountain, which on a good day has unrivalled views across the Canterbury Plains to the Pacific Ocean. A robust new tower safety system at Summit 6 looks to shave off an hour of de-icing, helping the lift take guests sooner on big snow days, while a new unload ramp will also make the experience safer.
The popular Sky High Café has been renovated to speed up food and coffee service and create more space. This includes an entire new food servery for hotter, faster bigger, better meals and with a more logical layout, a new seating area for groups, and an extended Sixteen10 coffee bar doubling coffee output and accommodating more seating.
Other developments include a SNOWsat (a super-accurate GPS/snow depth system) installed in groomers, and a new call centre to deal with sales and enquiries even more efficiently.
In terms of parking, a new 44-seater 4WD bus will make car park shuttling more efficient, and toilet facilities will be provided at the lower carparks.