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A 15-centimetre snowfall on Mt Hutt overnight Sunday 2nd March has shown just how difficult it is to predict whether the ski area is in for a good winter or not.

NIWA's long-range forecast through to the end of April predicts below average rainfall and above average temperatures for the East Coast of the South Island, suggesting little snow will be falling throughout autumn.

But ski area manager Dave Wilson said NIWA's forecast did not take into account how skifields such as Mt Hutt gained much of their snow from one-off storms. The recent unseasonal 15cm snowfall was an example. "It's hard to sometimes collate the individual weather storm to a long-term prediction," Mr Wilson said.

He gave the example of the big snow of 2006 on June 12 which "changed the whole season" by setting the ski area up for winter with a huge snow base. The recent snowfall would be a good reminder to skiers and snowboarders to buy their Early Bird ski season's passes, he said.