Heavy snow strands 250 skiers in New Zealand lodge

Heavy snow in New Zealand strands travelersHeavy snow, and the threat of avalanches, left more than 250 skiers and snowboarders stranded in a ski lodge in New Zealand earlier this week, as that country struggles with one of the harshest winters in recent memory.

Nearly 16 inches of snow fell on the Mt Lyford ski resort last Monday, making travel extremely dangerous. As the fear of avalanches grew, authorities were forced to close access roads, which left many of the resort’s guests to spend the night in the lodge.

It turned out to be an extremely long night for those stranded at the resort, as the lodge is not equipped for overnight guests and there was little food for them to share. Worse yet, high winds and blowing snow caused power outages, which meant there was no heat inside the building either. The stranded skiers made the best of the situation however, getting comfortable for the night in any way they could.

The next morning, a specially equipped snow vehicle delivered extra food, and emergency crews used controlled explosions to clear the road. Eventually the stranded travelers were cleared to leave the resort, although only ten cars were allowed to drive down the mountain at a time.

Late in the week, the resort was still closed and access remained limited.

Early in the Austral winter it looked like it was going to be a poor ski season for the New Zealand resorts, as the only snow on the slopes was the man made variety. That has all changed now however, as a cold front out of Antarctica has reduced temperatures dramatically and brought plenty of snow along with it. There are even reports of snow at sea level, with some Kiwi beaches even getting a dusting of the white stuff. Now, it appears the resorts could be in for a banner year, and skiers are flocking to the mountains.

[Photo courtesy Mt. Lyford]