1,200 New Zealand skiers trapped

More than 1,000 skiers, including 300 children, have slept on the top of Mount Hutt in a cafeteria after wild weather forced the closure of the ski field.

In conditions described as horrendous, whiteout conditions and gale force winds of up to 200 kilometres per hour gusted on top of the mountain.

The force of the wind smashed car windows at the base of the mountain and ski field management closed the field and all access roads, leaving 1,200 skiers stranded.

There is no accommodation at the ski resort, which is west of Christchurch.

One of the skiers who stayed the night on the mountain, school teacher Karen McKenzie, says conditions this morning have improved on last night.

“It sounds like it’s going to ease a little bit more and then they’re going to clear the road because there are avalanches all over the road,” she said.

Ms McKenzie spent the night with 70 of her year 10 students and says everyone is in good spirits, despite lack of sleep.

“[It is] very cuddly; there’s lots of bodies everywhere – basically every bit of floor space was covered with a body,” she said.

Ski field management say if the weather continues to improve they are hoping to start moving skiers down the mountain around mid-morning.

Authorities say it has been a windy night but there is enough food and the facilities are holding up under the extra load.

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