NZ ski areas open for business

Snow Park NZ has been making snow in preparation for their opening day Thursday. Daniela Heinen/Snowparknz.com

Despite a lack of snow that delayed ski area openings for weeks, ski resorts in New Zealand are finally starting to open for the winter season.

On June 27, Mt. Hutt, in the South Island's Canterbury region, became the country's first resort to open, although with just one operating chairlift. "We don't yet have sufficient snow to open other trails, and there'll be no off-piste skiing, but the fact that we can open with what we have is due to our ability to make snow consistently since last Friday," said Mt Hutt manager David Wilson.

On Thursday, Queenstown's Coronet Peak and Wanaka's Snow Park NZ will open for the 2011 season, but with limited terrain.

At Coronet Peak, snow coverage is thin: According to a news release, their snow depth is currently around seven inches on the upper mountain. But when temperatures allow, the resort has been operating its 211 snowmaking machines.

"Even though this isn't what we'd usually offer on opening day, it's a great start," Coronet Peak manager Hamish McCrostie said in a release. "Now that colder days and nights would seem to have finally arrived, we're continuing snowmaking and grooming on all trails and will open those up just as soon as we can. We're looking forward to conditions improving as we go further into winter."