Ski Season in New Zealand Lacks One Thing: Snow

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Image: The Remarkables ski area near Queenstown, New Zealand
Skiers and snowboarders enjoy clear skies at The Remarkables ski area near Queenstown, New Zealand, on Thursday, July 31, 2014. The Remarkables is one of several large ski areas that has been making snow at record rates following the warmest start to winter ever recorded.Richard Savoie / AP

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Winter has rolled into its third month in New Zealand, and the Craigieburn Valley Ski Area is one of several resorts that haven't opened for a single day this season. Some fear there may not be enough snow to open at all this year — something manager Nick Jarman says has never happened during his 30 years carving turns on the mountain's slopes. It’s the warmest start to the country’s Southern Hemisphere winter since record-keeping began in 1909.

The country's largest ski areas have managed to open only because they've invested in equipment to make their own snow, which they've done this year in unprecedented quantities. But New Zealand also has a tradition of small ski areas that rely entirely on natural snow, and many are facing steep financial losses this year. Ski area operators point out that while June of this year brought record high temperatures, the same month last year brought a healthy dump of snow that set up most operators for a good season. But Heather Purdie, a University of Canterbury glaciologist, says ski areas are likely to find it a tougher business as the number of hours and days below freezing declines.

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