Sunny skies, bubbles and smiles all round were the hallmarks of the opening of the ski season at Mt Hutt in New Zealand after cranking up the lifts for one of its earliest openings in recent history.
More than 2000 Cantabrians and visitors to the region turned out to welcome the snow and celebrate skiing in May at Mt Hutt.
The high country ski area opening was two weeks ahead of schedule as a result of early snow coverage.
Ski Area Manager Dave Wilson says it was the first time the mountain had opened in May for more than a decade.
â€œWe have a one metre snow base which is phenomenal for this time of year. Getting the mountain open early has been a huge challenge for staff but we had a great day today making it well worth the effort.
Feedback and support from the local Methven community has been very much appreciated â€“ everyone is delighted to be open early. Itâ€™s a fantastic start.â€
First on the chair honours, complete with t-shirts, went to Suzanne Fenwick, Ian Beale, Mike Roberson and Stef Waldon of Christchurch on the Quad while Ashburtonâ€™s Michael Borland, Michael Geddes, Benjamin Mort, Lance Cotter, Callum Brooker were first on the Summit Six along with 11-year-old Sophie Sinke of Christchurch.
Lindauer flowed for the early birds and glasses raised to toast the 2009 season just on 9am as the chairs opened.
Mr Wilson said stormy weather bringing more snow was expected to hit the mountain tonight (Saturday) and Sunday with weather clearing again for Monday.
â€œTodayâ€™s weather was really one out of the bag. The forecast wasnâ€™t too flash so we were rapt to wake up to a bluebird day. Definitely life as it ought to be today.â€
Mt Hutt is expected to remain open until early October. Coronet Peak in Queenstown is scheduled to open next Saturday, June 6 with The Remarkables following on Saturday June 20.
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