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Fun time...Skiers at Roundhill Ski Area on Saturday. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

by Chris Tobin

International visitors will be absent from South Canterbury’s skifields this winter but early indications are there is plenty of snow and a lot of North Islanders will be travelling south to enjoy it.

“With borders closed a lot won’t be coming but we’ve had inquiries from the North Island of people looking to come south, which is a good bonus,” Mt Dobson marketing and business manager Mike Smith said.

Covid-19 meant international ski racers from Japan, Australia, Korea, the United States and Europe, who stayed for six to eight weeks, would not be coming, nor would the 15% to 20% of recreational skiers who usually came from Australia and other parts of the world each season.

Getting ready…Shannon Rye, head ski patroller, secures a protective pad to a T-bar tower at Mt Dobson Ski Area in preparation for Friday’s opening. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

However, most of Mt Dobson’s business came from Canterbury and South Canterbury.

“We’re well placed and a lot better than Queenstown and Wanaka, who have much higher levels of international visitors.”

Mt Dobson, near Fairlie, employed around 20 staff and unlike previous years this season most of them would be New Zealanders. The ski area had an open day for season pass holders on Saturday.

“We had about 150 people come up. The snow is really good, we got 30cm on Sunday and there’s great cover over the whole ski area.”

Skier’s dream…Mt Dobson ski area has received a heavy spread of snow. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

Mt Dobson will formally open for the season on Friday, June 3. Mr Smith expected with school holidays beginning, good numbers would turn up from Saturday onwards.

“Last year the whole country was warmer and drier and it was scratchy early on. This year it’s a lot better and very encouraging.”

Roundhill Ski Area at Tekapo opened on Saturday with the beginners and T-1 area up to tower four and a-half available.

“We’ve had a good start to our season with two 35cm snowfalls in the last 10 days, the latest of which has allowed us to open five of our six lifts, and all of our beginner and intermediate terrain,” manager Tim Douglass said.

“We need another good dump of snow before we can look at opening the Heritage Express Rope Tow, which allows access to our advanced terrain on the Richmond Range.”

He said their 40 staff were all in place and looking forward to the beginning of the school holidays on Saturday.

Lake Ohau Lodge and Ohau Snow Fields reported on their Facebook page they were “stoked” to have opened for the season.

“Craig and his snow-making team have been working super hard to open up as much terrain as possible. We have the chairlift operating with a full cover on the boulevard, off-piste has thin snow cover.

“Unfortunately the platter has insufficient snow to be operational but there is snow in the forecast.”