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Central Otago is raring to go after an enforced hibernation due to Covid-19.

Where many people would hunker down for the cold, others are making the most of freedom in the South Island’s winter mecca. The News reporter Alexia Johnston takes a look at what is back on the agenda.

Winter sports lovers are making a pilgrimage to Central Otago’s backyard.
Alert Level 1 has allowed ski fields to open unrestricted by social distancing, along with a myriad of winter sporting venues.

Ice sports were among the first to make a comeback.
Alexandra’s IceInLine rink opened on June 5, marking an exciting milestone for figure skaters, ice hockey players and spectators.

However, the opening of the rink for the 2020 season was not the only cause for celebration among those keen to get on the ice.

Central Otago’s ice hockey fraternity also welcomed an influx of new players.
Flames Ice Hockey Club president Trevor Lawrence was overwhelmed by the record number of players who attended the first social Saturday night event of its season two weeks ago.

‘‘We had great numbers,’’ he said.

Thirty men and women attended the event from Central Otago, Wanaka and Queenstown.The first of the season’s Learn to Play programme for children under the age of 12 was also well attended. ‘‘We had about 30 kids and 10 new ones as young as 5.’’

Mr Lawrence said the growth had been pleasing for the sport locally.

‘‘I’m amazed. It just keeps growing each year.’’ He said part of that growth was because more under-18 players were coming through the ranks.

‘‘For the first time in three years, we had enough under-18 kids to play some games.’’

Mr Lawrence said there were times during lockdown when the future of ice hockey was ‘‘uncertain’’, locally.

However, the outlook does look bright for the sport.

‘‘I’m absolutely amazed by people’s need and want to get back to normal.’’

Mr Lawrence also hopes some more ice hockey events will be added to IceInLine’s calendar this season from outlying areas.

One event already confirmed is the Erewhon Cup, an event which is hosted by Gore ice hockey players at IceInLine.

Ski fields are also gearing up for the season.

Queenstown Lakes ski field Coronet Peak is scheduled to open on June 26, followed by The Remarkables on July 4.

Promotional material distributed last month of the opening dates highlighted what would be open at Alert Level 2.

Those restrictions no longer apply and ski fields can now operate as normal.

Wanaka’s Treble Cone is scheduled to open on June 27.

Curling has also returned to Central Otago, starting with the Macrae trophy in Alexandra last week, attracting teams from as far away as Gore and Arrowtown.

The Naseby Indoor Curling Rink is reopening on July 1, just in time for the school holidays.

Curlers will converge on the rink for the New Zealand Junior under-21 championships from July 10-12.

More will follow for the NZ men’s and women’s championships from July 29 to August 2, and the NZ mixed doubles championship from September 17-20.

New Zealand Curling media officer Ian Ford was looking forward to seeing the facility back in action.

‘‘I think everybody is going to be pretty keen to see it open.’’

Naseby’s outdoor rink and luge has also started gearing up for the cold months ahead.

It opened on Friday night, giving people a chance to get outdoors for some winter fun.

The facility’s first curling match of the season also started on Sunday night.

Participants were playing for the Brown Trophy, which included teams from Otago Central, Mt Ida, Naseby and Kiwi.

Kiwi finished with two wins, giving it the overall win for the evening.

Rink manager Jeremy Hore said a range of other curling trophies would be contested throughout the season.

The outdoor rink’s opening has come just in time for the school holidays, which start on July 4.

It will host an ice camp from July 6-10, a dance costume party on July 11 and luge camp from July 13 to 17.

Other winter events

  • Light Up Winter Cromwell, July 18.
  • New Zealand Mountain Film Festival, across five venues in Wanaka and Queenstown, June 26-28.
  • Naseby Ice Festival, July 25.