Massive snowfall and ice closes Desert Road; warning to avoid travel

Press Release – NZTA
People should continue to avoid all non-essential travel across the central North Island.

Currently the only north to south routes that are open between Auckland and Wellington are located on both edges of the island – along State Highway 3 on the west coast and State Highway 35 around the East Cape.

MetService is warning snow will continue to fall on State Highway 1 Desert Road and the higher parts of State Highway 5 Napier-Taupo Road until late Friday.

There are also several local road closures. These closures can be checked with District Councils.

NZ Transport Agency spokesperson Karen Boyt says with more snow expected to fall people should still delay their journeys if they can.

“We are expecting ice and more snow on the roads so people should delay all non-essential travel. Staff and equipment from the upper North Island has been called in to get the roads open as quickly as possible.

“And our crews will be out ploughing the snow on the routes that we know will be the most likely to open first,” Ms Boyt says. People are advised to slow down and watch for unexpected hazards as melting snow and ice can cause slips and rockfalls.

Press Release – Mt Ruapehu – July 13
After steady snowfall overnight on Tuesday, Whakapapa ski area awoke to an unexpected sunny bluebird morning, much to the delight of earlybird skiers and snowboarders. Up to 20cm of snow fell around Whakapapa base with 40cm on the upper mountain since last night. The Bruce Road was restricted to chains or 4WD vehicles from Whakapapa Village.

Another polar front then hit Whakapapa just before noon which saw heavy snow falls across the mountain, waist deep in places. At 1pm the Rangatira Express was closed followed by Happy Valley at 1.45pm due to blizzard conditions. At 1pm the road was closed to uphill traffic due to deteriorating conditions and visitors were advised that shuttles would head down the mountain early to avoid road closures.

Slippery conditions and poor visibility on the Bruce Road prompted Mt Ruapehu to arrange convoys to escort visitors safely down the mountain. A number of visitors were delayed due to the blizzard and were offered complimentary hot chocolate and chips while they waited for the road to clear. Mt Ruapehu shuttles were used to transport visitors safely down the mountain.

At Turoa, 25cm of fresh snow fell at the base area and 30-40cm on the upper mountain overnight. It continued to snow throughout the day at Turoa and the ski area was closed due to heavy snow fall and blizzard conditions. Snow Trails Manager Fred Campbell says, “We’ve had a groomer up to the Giant chairlift, it’s snowed most of the day and there’s another front is coming through in the morning which will bring even more – it’s looking good!”

Marketing Manager Matt McIvor says, “We’re stoked to see the heavy snow falls on both Turoa and Whakapapa. The guests who got first tracks up Whakapapa were able to get a full morning of skiing and snowboarding before the second front hit. It’s looking pretty good with more snow forecast over the next 48 hours.

“Our groomers and de-icers will be working hard to open more lift facilities and trails for the weekend.” He says that it’s likely Turoa would be opening the Parklane, Movenpick and Giant chairlifts, and Whakapapa would open the Waterfall Express chairlift and more trails around the lower mountain in time for the weekend.

There’s plenty of fun to be had this weekend on and off the slopes with the new ‘Mexican inspired’ Schuss Haus Corona bar opening on Hutt Flat, located slope side between the Rangatira and Waterfall Express Chairlifts. There’s also a night skiing launch party on Saturday with live music and marshmallow toasting from 5pm.

The ski slopes will be particularly busy this weekend and the Mt Ruapehu team is suggesting catching a shuttle up the mountain from National Park or Ohakune as the carparks will fill quickly. With so much snow it will also be the better option.

Visit mtruapehu.com for more information on snow conditions and new developments for winter 2017.

Content Sourced from scoop.co.nz
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