Rainbow ski area to open early after six days of ‘amazing’ snow

The Rainbow Ski Area team has been working “non-stop” to prepare the mountain for the season, with plans to open two weeks earlier.

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The Rainbow Ski Area team has been working “non-stop” to prepare the mountain for the season, with plans to open two weeks early.

The Rainbow team was preparing to start making snow this week. Instead, they dug 3 meter snowdrifts to get to the groomer.

Rainbow Ski Area Mountain Director Thomas Harry said last week’s snow could prepare them for the season.

“It’s extraordinary for this time of year… We are delighted.”

The team now aimed to open next Friday for the Matariki public holiday – two weeks earlier than planned.

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The summit of the southern ski area, at 1760 meters above sea level, had received more than 2m of snow in places, with an average of 1.5m on the main slopes. But there was up to 3m of drift on the groomed trails and on the road.

Avalanche forecaster Matt Wilkinson said it was the heaviest snowfall he had seen in his forecast time in the Nelson Lakes area.

Rainbow, at 1760 meters above sea level, is covered in snow.

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Rainbow, at 1760 meters above sea level, is covered in snow.

But before this week’s uninterrupted dumping, the start of the season had been pretty standard, with a snowfall in May washed away by rain.

And Blenheim had nearly a month of rain in the first two weeks of June; 60 millimeters had fallen until June 14, when the average for the month was 65 mm.

MetService meteorologist Tui McInnes said the “almost continuous barrage of lows and fronts” was due to a combination of a low-pressure-prone atmosphere, southwesterly polar outbursts and warmer waters. than normal.

This brought heavy rain, large hailstones, strong gusts, a few tornadoes and more than 114,000 lightning strikes last week.

But snow had been falling for about six days in a row at the Rainbow ski area in St Arnaud, 100 kilometers west of Blenheim.

As the snow kept coming, the ski resort team had to spend a night at the nearby Mt Robert chalet last weekend in the event of an avalanche.

“It’s been non-stop for the small team on the ground as they try to get the mountain safe and ready for the season,” Harry said.

“We still have work to do, compliance items to complete and staff to assemble.”

Groomers came out at Rainbow Ski Area instead of Sun Cannons.

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Groomers came out at Rainbow Ski Area instead of Sun Cannons.

Twelve of the 35 staff for the season came from overseas, including seven ski instructors from the US, UK, France, South Africa and Australia.

International staff were due to arrive a week before the original opening date, which was July 9.

The ski area normally manages around 70 days of skiing per season, until early October, but in 2020 only managed 18 days due to Covid restrictions. This year, they planned to open seven days a week.

Rainbow Ski Club President Mark Unwin said it had been a great week for the club with a large number of ski sales and the return of the Club Snow Ball to the Playhouse Theater near Nelson.

“Get your ski gear ready for an epic season, but don’t forget your chains as early season conditions will exist on the road.”

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