Last week in Canterbury, Winter stamped her mark and delivered the goods. Today was all about checking out how good a job she did, in the form of Mt Hutts opening day.
It was an exciting day, for many reasons. If we think back a year ago, we we’re just out of lockdown and the season was very uncertain, face coverings and social distancing were required, and on top of that, it was a somewhat average to poor start snow wise. There some doubt that there would even be a ski season. Doesn’t that seem so long ago now!
In contrast, today over 2,200 snow lovers descended (or ascended?) on Mt Hutt to celebrate not only the season opening, but their amazing new chair! Life was normal, life was good, it was great to be in the mountains!
And then of course there was the snow cover. Unbelievable! The best opening cover in 10 years with wall to wall snow from the base area up. Mt Hutt surely had her winter coat on! The lower half of the triple? Yep, needs more. And the snow quality? Well, as Mt Hutt said in their snow report “It's firmer than a good handshake off-piste, so we suggest staying on the trails for opening weekend”. Indeed it was. On-trail however, while not silky corduroy by any stretch (actually, in some places still pretty firm), the skiing was surprisingly good. And given it’s been 8 months or more since we’ve all skied, you might even say amazing! Great job by Team Hutt to get the mountain into shape for opening.
So then, the new lift … think, amazing! We’ve been told the lift is state of the art, and truly, when you look at it, and ride it, you can tell it is. If a lift can be beautiful, then this is it! This is the first 8 seater in NZ and Mt Hutt have gone from zero to a very “hot start”, with hundreds of people queuing to ride it. The team did an amazing job managing the loading and getting people up the hill. Stats? A 2 minute (!) ride time and up to 3000 people an hour moved. Plus, it’s designed to better manage bad weather conditions, namely icing and wind. It’s a bold and beautiful investment.
Mt Hutt now then has 14 high speed seats of out of the base area, and today they proved how efficient that was. Even on the Summit 6, with seemingly large queues, the waits were 10 minutes or less. And after lunch, virtually no queue. Which then made us think, when was the Summit 6 installed? Guesses please …
… June 2005 it was commissioned, it’s 16 years old and still gong strong!
Overall then, an impressive start for the 2021 season by Mt Hutt. The road was in great shape, they have obviously worked with mother nature to deliver a great ski and riding experience, and the team were helpful and full of smiles.
Expecting a big and eager crowd, we left Christchurch just before 6am arriving at 7.30, to half empty car park! Damn, we could have slept for another 45 minutes, as it was probably around 8.20am before cars were being parked in the lower (shuttle) car parks. Nonetheless, weekends and new snow days probably do mean an early start, and then coffee and breakfast on the mountain, as we did.
The early start meant we felt we could leave early as well, and many did, thus the lack of queues the afternoon. But if I am really honest, the ski legs needed weren’t quite up to it anyway! Overall though, a fabulous day to be back on the snow!
More snow is arriving Tuesday/Wednesday which will hopefully soften up the off-trail runs, as do colder temperatures which will mean snow making will resume. But whichever way you look at it, Mt Hut has by far the best skiing and riding in New Zealand right now, and I am picking this could be one of the best, and busiest winters ever. Thankfully due to their investment that should mean shorter queues that move faster!
Next week we're expecting to see several of the southern areas open, assuming cold temperatures allow for snow making. Cardrona is scheduled for this Friday, June 18. Then Coronet Peak on Saturday July 19. You can check out all the 2021 projected opening dates for NZ ski areas here.