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Ski season gets under way with high hopes

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 10/06/2016

Mt. Hutt Skifield, Canterbury, New Zealand © Geof Wilson/Moment Open/Getty Images Mt. Hutt Skifield, Canterbury, New Zealand Last season was a ripper and New Zealand ski area operators have an even better feeling about the one getting under way.

Coronet Peak at Queenstown and Mt Hutt in Canterbury open on Saturday.

They do so as more tourists come to New Zealand on more flights than ever before.

Last year Queenstown Airport Corp boosted annual profit by 25 per cent, as trans-Tasman passenger numbers rose by a third and domestic passengers topped the million mark for the first time.

This year Qantas will add 13 extra flights from Sydney to Queenstown during July and August to cater for skiers heading across the ditch.

After years of debate, night flights have also started into Queenstown, allowing skiers to arrive on Friday night for a weekend on the slopes.

Locals are also reported to be buying up ski gear to take advantage of attractive deals on season passes.

In 2015 there was a traffic jam on the mountain road up to Mt Hutt on one particularly busy weekend day, prompting criticism on social media, but the response was it was a nice problem to have.

People flocked to the mountains to enjoy an early heavy dump of snow.

This year there have been some early snowfalls and a nervous wait for temperatures to stay low enough to allow snow-making in earnest.

There's also been some unwanted wind.

Mt Hutt's opening, scheduled for Friday, was delayed by strong winds.

"Yep our lovely fresh snow has been smashed with winds up to 180km/h, but on main trails they are holding up reasonably OK," the operator says on its Facebook page.

Mt Hutt ski area manager James McKenzie said weather for the weekend was looking positive, with snow forecast from mid-afternoon on Sunday through to late evening.

Coronet Peak said after some gnarly weather from Australia, it would be opening on Saturday with the usual season-opening events and prizes.

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