New Zealand: Missing Snow Puts Famed Ski Areas In Dangerous Situation

New Zealand’s Tūroa ski area is usually a white wonderland at this time of year, its deep snowpack supporting its famed spring skiing.

This season, it’s largely a barren moonscape, with tiny patches of snow poking out between vast fields of jagged volcanic boulders.

The ski area was forced to close for the season this week, three weeks earlier than planned.

Rain repeatedly washed away the snow, and the ski area’s 50 snowmaking machines proved no match against balmy temperatures.

The two ski areas, which are among New Zealand’s largest, are owned by the same company and located on opposite sides of Mount Ruapehu. Should they be forced to close permanently, it would leave North Island, where more than three-quarters of the nation’s 5 million people live, without any major ski areas.

The sports have long been important for attracting foreign tourist dollars to New Zealand and form part of the nation’s identity as an outdoor adventure destination.

At Tūroa this season, workers in snow-grooming machines spent thousands of hours pushing what snow there was onto trails, allowing expert skiers and snowboarders to take the chairlifts to the top of the ski area for limited runs.

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