There are less than three weeks to go until the scheduled start of New Zealand’s ski season – and right on cue, Mother Nature is delivering a week of wild and snowy weather to the Southern Alps.
The first snow fell overnight on Saturday and dumped 20-30cm of the white stuff on the Queenstown and Wanaka resorts.
North-east of here, Mount Hutt near Christchurch didn’t get quite as much snow – but it still looked magnificent this morning.
Mount Hutt is the first resort due to open, on June 8 – so it’ll be delighted by this week’s forecast, which is full of cold and powerful weather fronts marching up the South Island. According to Meteoblue’s prognosis, three more are expected before Saturday night.
The first of these fronts is going to be particularly wet and wild and NZ’s MetService has issued heavy rain and high wind warnings ahead of its arrival.
Up high, the result is likely to be wind-scoured slopes on some faces of the mountains and deep drifts in others. Let’s hope the weather stays cool in the aftermath so the resorts can add to Mother Nature’s bounty with cover from their snow cannons. We can’t be abolutely sure that though – NZ’s maritime climate is a rather fluky beast.
Meanwhile in the Alps…
Zermatt is one of only a handful of resorts now open – as mountain communities across the region take a well-deserved spring break. But you can also ski in several glacier ski areas in Austria, notably the Hintertux (which, like Zermatt, is open all year). A handful of French resorts will also join them in June for the summer ski season.
Here’s how it looked on the Hintertux last Friday, after the mid-May snowstorm.
The new snow has of course been a real boon for the glacier skiers, but it’s been followed by much milder weather. This week, for example, the daytime freezing point in France will be well above 3000m, with thunderstorms thrown into the mix. On all but the highest slopes the snow cover will be melting during the day.
Of course, a prolonged thaw is exactly what most summer visitors to the Alps are hoping for. After all, no-one wants to go mountain-biking in a blizzard…
For more on the “off season” in the Alps, check out our guide to summer.