The Snow Gauge

Running the rule over the ski & snowboard industry since 1995

Is NZ about to hit paydirt this ski season?

Posted by on Jul 7, 2017

Ohau

Ohau, NZ this week. A taste of things to come? Pic: NZ Tourism Guy.

Not everyone is in agreement with this one but if you listen to the Metservice, things are about to get very interesting across the ditch. The Snow Gauge put the question to NZ’s key weather forecaster and the answer was tasty indeed.

Read on for full details and a rundown a little closer to home and in South America.

If you haven’t already booked it could help you make a decision …

New Zealand

The Remarkables

The Remarkables could get a pasting soon. Pic: The Remarkables Facebook.

Without being outstanding New Zealand has already fared a little better than Australia so far in 2017. The Remarkables is reporting a 40-75cm base, Mt Hutt 53-74cm while Cardrona/Treble Cone are a little lower (around 40cm) and Ohau is higher at 90cm.

But hold on to your hats …

The Snow Gauge got in touch with the Metservice in NZ, specifically Georgina Griffiths, who looks at the rural outlooks for the country. What she said was mighty encouraging.

“The New Zealand 2017 snow season is looking very different to 2016. Since the start of the year, New Zealand air and sea temperatures have averaged considerably colder than last year.” (This is not surprising, given the extreme warmth seen across the 2016 summer, autumn and winter).

“Looking ahead, temperatures are predicted to be unusually cold for the first half of July, and it is likely temperatures linger around average over the remainder of the month. All of these things add up to a healthy looking ski season.

“Reasonably frequent, natural snow falls have already set up the South Island slopes nicely, and as expected, temperatures this week have been extremely cold (well below freezing) over the South Island. Next week, we are predicting another very cold outbreak, which is expected to produce further snowfall, risk heavy, over the South Island ski fields,” noted Griffiths. “And there is a very good chance that the North Island finally sees some decent snow next week, too.”

Interestingly enough The Grasshopper isn’t quite so positive so we’ll see who ends up closer to the mark …

 

Australia

Thredbo

Thredbo: Has a 50cm base looked so good? Pic: Thredbo Facebook.

The storm of the last few days was desperately needed and couldn’t have been timed any better for the school holidays in the key markets. The numbers are on the low side but at least there’s a base. Current depth markers range between about 20-50cm for the majors in NSW and Victoria.

In terms of what’s to come it appears to be dribs and drabs (don’t worry I’m not about to get completely Tim Bailey on you)  over the next fortnight and we may pick up 20cm or so of snow. The Frog over at Snowatch seems to like the end of this period from around the 18th so watch out for that.

The Grasshopper recently downgraded his seasonal outlook, though it is not into the dire territory by any stretch. You can read that here.

 

South America

Portillo

Portillo: Looking a treat already.

The numbers so far are impressive and with claims of a 210cm base Valle Nevado, just out of Santiago Chile is the winner. Portillo hasn’t fared to badly either (107cm base) and has better terrain than Valle Nevado anyway. Over the border in Argentina things are a bit bonier with Las Lenas at 60cm and Bariloche just 45cm.

What’s ahead then? Long range information is harder to come by in South America than a salad sandwich but general forecasts suggest nothing of major substance is on the way in the next fortnight.

With a decent base in the Chilean resorts already they could well be worth a tilt, just bear in mind the Andes tends to go famine or feast when it comes to snowfalls. But with seasonal figures often in the 7+ metre range they’ll invariably enjoy deeper snowpacks than both Australia and New Zealand.

Get over to Powderquest for some of the better South American updates.

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Why you should ski Portillo, Chile this winter

Posted by on May 11, 2017

Portillo Lake Run

Anthony Sharwood doing some spring preparation on the Lake Run, Portillo. Pic: Glenn Cullen

When discussion turns to which ski resort you’ll visit this southern hemisphere winter the arguments will invariably be of the Noah’s Ark variety.

That is, depending on where you live and your peccadilloes, it will be in a two-by-two format.

Australia vs New Zealand. Victoria vs NSW. Perisher vs Thredbo. Hotham/Falls v Mt Buller.

But for a host of reasons I’d like to throw a third animal into the mix: Portillo, Chile.

I visited the South American giant in August last year and, while far from perfect, it’s a place every skier should head to at least once in their life.

Here’s why.

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Fidel Castro, the ski resort and his missing gun

Posted by on Dec 1, 2016

Fidel Castro

Fidel earned his turns – but this was in Russia. Pic: Alberto Korda

Juan Beiza is a legend of the Chilean Resort Portillo. I got to meet him three months ago and heard about how this one time he nearly got shot trying to give Fidel Castro back his gun. Happens I guess …

Juan Beiza is a man of substance, impeccable habits and has a penchant for making you speak Spanish.

The maitre d at Portillo’s yellow hotel has been there almost as long as the ubiquitous yellow establishment – more than 50 years.

There’d be plenty of tales to tell over that time but in the circumstances it’s timely to relay one and one only: that time he almost got shot by one of Fidel Castro’s henchmen.

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Top five places to ride RIGHT NOW

Posted by on Sep 7, 2016

Portillo Lake Run

Anthony Sharwood doing some spring preparation on the Lake Run, Portillo. Pic: Glenn Cullen

September and October don’t have to be no-man’s (or woman’s) land for skiers and snowboarders looking for somewhere to ride.

These are my top five resorts to ride around the globe that will be rocking for another three to seven weeks so there’s plenty of time to get you fill before the northern hemisphere winter starts.

All resorts listed are based on current conditions and my first hand experience, well except for one place I haven’t got to quite yet …

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The world’s craziest, fastest, most improbable ski lift

Posted by on Aug 31, 2016

The slingshot lift at Portillo

Jack and Jill went up the hill at Portillo thanks to the slingshot lift. But did they make it back down?

Oh my lord. I managed to get on this thing. Now how the bloody hell do I get off?

After rattling up a 30-odd degree slope probably two or three times faster than a t-bar I at least find myself still attached to Portillo’s infamous Roca Jack slingshot.

I somehow managed to ride straight over a ski left on the middle of the track but myself and four others now must exit this cross between a poma on crack and a swingers’ club’s idea of a water skiing cable.

Gulp.

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