Resort shop straps on ski touring
An international resurgence in ski touring paired with backing for a Queenstown business from an international ski touring industry leader means the sport is sure to grow in the Wakatipu, GRANT BRYANT reports.
Queenstown is now the home of a Dyna-Fit Competence Centre – the only one in the country and one of only 30 world-wide.
Well-known Queenstowner Darryl Tatom’s Small Planet brand has become Australasia’s sole Dyna-Fit Competence Centre in a new Shotover Street premises, which opened this month.
The centre is a hub of ski touring, an old Nordic transportation mode that is enjoying a huge global resurgence, and is looking assured to grow in the Wakatipu.
‘‘Ski touring came from the days when people from the Scandinavian countries used seal skins on the bottom of wooden skis to get from A to B, but has enjoyed a huge resurgence lately,’’ Tatom said.
Tatom and Small Planet staff had been ski touring for 12 years, and local ski tourers could be spotted, with headlamps on, getting off piste on any early morning on the mountains surrounding Queenstown, he said.
‘‘There’s people getting an early morning hike in on any day of the week – just getting into the terrain and getting away from the hustle and bustle of the main fields.’’
There were two main categories of ski touring – side country or front side touring, or lightweight ski touring.
‘‘Side country or front side touring can be done off the ski lifts, but lightweight touring is more for the backcountry purists, who might go out for one or two or more days, tenting up or digging snow caves while they’re out.’’
With back country touring safety was of obvious importance, and knowledge of the terrain, its current conditions and carrying personal transceivers, probes and shovels were all necessary.
Ski touring was popular mainly among the 30 to 60 age group, was an ‘‘incredible’’ from of building up fitness and allowed freedom in the back country.
‘‘It appeals to first-time skiers with experience in tramping, good skiers who want to escape the crowds, lifts and price of lift passes, people who don’t want to be dictated to by ski area opening or closing dates or looking for untracked powder.’’
The numbers of ski tourers were growing on a yearly basis, and the Dyna-fit connection was sure to grow those numbers, Tatom said.
‘‘One of the head Dyna-Fit guys visited New Zealand last year, scouting the country for potential Competence Centre locations, and approached us.
After a trip to Europe to check it all out we decided to get on board. The international connections that Dyna-Fit have as [Ski Touring] industry leaders are sure to help the sport grow here in the Wakatipu, which we’re obviously 100 per cent behind.’’ While heli-skiing was traditionally the domain of big hill backcountry ‘bombers’, trips were being arranged for ski tourers on Mt Larkins, near Glenorchy, through Dan Kelly’s SteepWHITE company, which had had a six to eight-person hut built on the peak. Dave MacLeod’s Independent Mountain Guides is organising custom ski touring trips.
Tatom started Small Planet 16 years ago. He was one of three original founders of R&R Sports in 1988 but has sold his shares.
Shop front: Small Planet owner Darryl Tatom (right) with staffers (from left) Eddie Hollins and Warren ‘‘Waza’’ Greer in the new Dyna-Fit Competence Centre.