Our Winter 2017 Heliski Prediction

June 4, 2017

The recent 2017 May snow fall on the Remarkables in Queenstown. (pic: Queenstown NZ)

The recent 2017 May snow fall on the Remarkables in Queenstown. (pic: Queenstown NZ)

So, with the first 2017 snowfall covering our heliski terrain you are probably all wondering what we are predicting to happen this winter?

For the ones who have heliskied in New Zealand before, you will understand how hard it is to make an accurate weather prediction. This is due to the South Island being a skinny piece of land with a large mountain range called the Southern Alps running through the middle of it. This range draws in multiple storms which hit the west coast, delivering a large amount of snow, which then flows over into the east. The weather can change and move depending on a number of factors so you need to have years of practice and skill to be able to see what will happen. Luckily the guides at Southern Lakes Heliski have spent a lot of time in our mountains watching the weather patterns, they work hard to ensure that each day we fly offers great heliskiing conditions.

Watching the weather around New Zealand bringing in snow to our heliski terrain. (Metvuw.com)

Watching the weather around New Zealand bringing in snow to our heliski terrain. (Metvuw.com)

Last winter we were in a neutral ENSO (El Nino Southern Oscillation) which meant a below average to average winter.  We got snow but not as much snow as we would have liked on our lower terrain. It didn’t phase us as a heliskiing company, as we could fly a bit further to our western terrain where the snow storms were delivering on a regular basis. Thankfully, the 2016 season improved like a fine wine and toward the end of the season we were seeing sizeable dumps of snow to lake level.

The 2017 winter is looking much better than 2016. We have a moderate chance (56%) of an El Niño developing over May to July. The El Niño is then set to strengthen to 70% as we enter August to October. El Niño’s generally mean great news for New Zealand. They increase the likelihood of higher than normal pressures over SE Australia and lower than normal pressures over to the east. This is excellent news for ourQueenstownand Wanaka terrain as we typically score good dumps of light dry snow off the cold southerlies and south-westerly storms.

Having a helicopter makes finding the good snow easy.

Having a helicopter makes finding the good snow easy.

Overall, we are pretty happy with what we see happening out there. If what is predicted occurs then we will see an above average season. Already May has already delivered us a good dump of snow to lake level. This will help to cool the sea temperatures which in turn will speed up the arrival of the El Niño. The recent snow will also start to cool the ground creating a cold base layer in the mountains for future snow to attach to.

No matter what happens we are not worried as we are lucky to have the most terrain out of any heliski operator in the Southern Lakes region.  Having a helicopter certainly helps, as we can fly to where the snow has fallen and enjoy the best skiing and boarding conditions in the region. Fresh powder runs for everyone! If you want to stay up to date we update our heliski snow reports every day, when the season starts.