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Massive snow storm delivers the goods for Canterbury Ski Areas
Mt Hutt, 31 May 2021

2021 is shaping up to be one of the best ski seasons ever after the biggest storm in years has hit Canterbury. It’s been big news down here in Canterbury, a one in a 100 year storm, and man, has it been wet, and snowy! As a quick summary:

  • Mt Hutt are estimating 2+m (!) above 1700m
  • Mt Dobson has estimated 1.3m
  • Roundhill are reporting one metre of very heavy snow at the top of T1 and 60cm at the base
  • No reports out of the Craigieburns at this stage 
  • A few road washouts will need repair before access to some ski areas, either on the areas or main highways
  • Weather is tapering Monday and clearing Tuesday, when we'll really see what has happened! 

Where did the Weather come from?

If you’re a bit of weather geek, our friends at WeatherWatch published some great graphs of why this happened.

WeatherWatch Storm

Essentially, one massive system stretching up to the Islands, bringing lots of warm most air south, which then forced the air up into Canterbury where it hit the Alps, stopped, and dumped tons of moisture! It has obviously spilled over into some other areas, but Canterbury clearly bore the brunt, which is good, and bad …  

Before we get into that, some weather stats. ECan has weather stations all around Canterbury, at the Mt Hutt station 374mm so far. Not too far away at Mt Somers they recorded 570mm, unreal!   

Mt Hut Rainfall - May 31 2021

So, how much snow has fallen?

The simple answer is, no one really knows yet, but indications are obviously EPIC! Mt Hutt is probably the best indicator given the “storm troopers” are on the mountain, but as of this morning (Monday May 31) they have lost internet so the webcams aren’t working. As they say on their report “The situation higher on the mountain is a mystery - our snow safety team will head out and assess once the wind backs off and visibility improves.”. Their guess is 2m (!) of snow above 1700m, with the lower mountain maintaining their 40cm base, despite the soggy conditions and sleety rain due to the high freezing level.

Mt Dobson has also estimated 1.3m of snow, but currently they have a number of washouts on the road, so they have cancelled their planned “friends and family” preview day. Should be epic once they are open!

Roundhill have reported "We’ve had one metre of very heavy snow at the top of T1 AND 60cm at the base area so we’re looking set to have a perfect base. The team are on track for opening July 2nd, just over 4 weeks from now!"

Porters and the rest of the Craigieburn’s is anyone’s guess! Probably a lot, but clearly a lot of rain too which has caused some issues on the roads. It would appear some of the Porters Access Rd has washed out.

Porters Road Washout

And the Porter Bridge (SH73) which provides access to Cheeseman, Broken River, Craigieburn and Temple Basin has also had the approach washed out. Expect a few days at least to repair both.

Porter River Bridge

For now, as of May 31, it’s watch and wait for the storm to clear, and for a better picture to emerge. There will be further light snow today, clearing Tuesday.

One thing however is very clear, the Mountain Safety Council has a simple message: Stay out of the backcountry! Oh, one other thing is … this is likely to be one of the best starts to the ski season in Canterbury ever!

Keep an eye on our New Zealand snow reports, or our 7 day New Zealand snow forecasts for more information!