Up to 300 vehicles full of frustrated skiers were forced to wait while heading towards prime conditions at Mt Hutt due to a communication error, with some turning around and heading home.
Mt Hutt ski area manager James McKenzie said a “breakdown in communication” caused the issue on Sunday morning, but they “got on top of it pretty quickly”.
The delay was caused when a car lost its chains between the upper and lower carpark, forcing cars to be diverted to the lower carpark.
McKenzie said someone had then “made an assumption we were already full at our top car park when we weren’t”, leading to a message being sent out saying the mountain was at capacity on Mt Hutt’s Facebook page and website.
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After seeing the message, a number of vehicles turned around and headed home.
“It was such a short time between saying we’re at capacity to saying we’re open again,” said McKenzie.
He said it was “a shame” some people had gone home.
“We’ve obviously apologised on our Facebook page for the confusion, and it’s not something we want to see happen again.
“We’ve got a pretty robust system, we’ll just make sure the guys are extra vigilant.”
The mix-up left some of those affected feeling furious, with a few taking to Facebook to vent their frustrations.
One commenter called the mix-up a “shambles”, while another called for the mountain to “get someone competent to manage the road”.
Each of Mt Hutt’s carparks is able to hold about 600 cars.
The mountain currently has a 2.7 metre snow base, which McKenzie said was one of the best bases on the mountain since 2009.
He said today’s conditions were “absolutely spectacular”, with soft and powdery snow on trail and queues of 10 to 15 minutes.
“The weekend weather’s been phenomenal, we’re very lucky.”
Mt Hutt have offered cheap early-bird season passes in recent years, which some believe has put pressure on the mountain.
One Facebook commenter who got to the top carpark said they had left Christchurch at 4.30am to secure a spot.
McKenzie said the skifield had suffered “a couple of tough years” before they launched the cheap pass campaign, which had “bought life back to the mountain”.
“The great thing about the cheap season passes is it gives people a chance to get into a sport that’s right on their doorstep.”
He said season pass holders only made up “a fraction” of people using the field.
“Prior to having our cheap passes, we would always have one or two days of the year when we would have to shut the mountain because we’d reached capacity.”