SNOW GO ZONE

Go Travel New Zealand - - Contents - By Kris Her­bert

Iar­rived in New Zealand 15 years ago - a last-minute de­ci­sion to jump on a plane from Syd­ney for a week-long freeski­ing com­pe­ti­tion. Af­ter seven days in Wanaka, we were hooked. The next year we came back for a sea­son. And never left. We’ve spent the last decade and a half get­ting to know New Zealand, and by now our favourite ski fields are just like old mates…

Its 1am and it’s been snow­ing for the last six hours. There’s a foot of light, dry pow­der ev­ery­where and in the dis­tance is the faint hum of a trac­tor mo­tor in fourth gear. A line of skiers is be­ing pulled past fuzzy flood­lights and into the dark­ness above.

From the wooden deck of the hut, you can’t hear the mo­tor. It is drowned out by the thump­ing of house mu­sic and the stomp of peo­ple try­ing to dance in ski boots.

Sud­denly, the sky clears al­most in syn­chro­ni­sa­tion with the moon ris­ing over the ridge. The bowl of fresh snow is bathed in light and a hand­ful of red­faced rev­ellers aban­don the dance floor to seek the newly lit freshies. Sud­denly there are whoops of de­light bounc­ing out of the dark­ness.

Ski­ing at night is like skinny-dip­ping - the joy of fresh snow is com­pounded by the sense of for­bid­den plea­sure. Sto­ically pre­sid­ing over it all is Hayley Green. The Bro­ken River snow safety of­fi­cer is sit­ting qui­etly on the deck of Palmer Lodge with a cup of cof­fee in one hand and a hand-rolled cig­a­rette in the other.

The fresh air and hot mulled wine has made this scene down­right sur­real. We keep wait­ing for some­one to tell us we have to stop ski­ing, stop danc­ingto turn the lights out and go to bed. This is a ski hill, af­ter all, and not a wild teenage house party.

But it feels more like the lat­ter. Es­pe­cially when en­thu­si­as­tic skiers

start build­ing and slid­ing handrails onto the deck and even ski­ing onto the dance floor. Or ear­lier, when the sunny day en­cour­aged some­one to bring the pool ta­ble and bean bags out onto the deck.

We wonder what limit there is to this mad­ness and ask Hayley:

“How long are you go­ing to run the lifts?” He smiles, shrugs and an­swers, “Un­til no one wants to ski any­more.” Uh-Huh. “And how long will the DJs be play­ing?”

“Un­til no one wants to dance any­more.”

You can’t ar­gue with the logic so we don’t. We just ski away with grins like teenagers on a late night toi­let-pa­per­ing mis­sion. In the morn­ing the sun­rise will re­veal all our deeds. The moun­tain will be lit­tered with our tracks – care­lessly strung up and down the moun­tain.

New Zealand’s Craigieburn Range is on the east­ern edge of the South Is­land’s defin­ing moun­tain­ous spine, the Southern Alps. In the 1950s, a club of ea­ger moun­taineers set up a ski field in the heart of this range. You had to walk 90 min­utes to the lodges and an­other 20 min­utes to the base of the field’s one rope tow.

It was a place where men could be men and women – well, they had to

stay home. The Craigieburn Ski Club had a men-only pol­icy, which soon prompted the es­tab­lish­ment of Bro­ken River Ski Club just two basins south. It was the “fam­ily” op­tion.

Craigieburn’s no-women rule didn’t last long (New Zealand was, af­ter all, the first coun­try to give women the right to vote, in 1983) but the orig­i­nal spirit of club ski­ing re­mains along with the rope tows. Gear freaks and fash­ion vic­tims are rare. Not ev­ery­one is rip­ping it up in vin­tage equip­ment but no one is likely to care if you are. Be­cause the clubs were set up for moun­taineers who loved to ski, the founders didn’t mind earn­ing their turns.

If you’re into ski tour­ing to get fresh tracks, you may not have to venture be­yond the bound­aries for a cou­ple of days af­ter each snow­fall. There is a great free­dom in be­ing in the com­pany of more pow­der than you can ski in a day. The ur­gency dis­ap­pears and you find your­self lin­ger­ing on the sunny bal­cony of the day lodge for an­other cup of cof­fee – or to watch the lo­cal en­ter­tain­ment in the form of the kea, the world’s largest – and most mis­chievous – alpine par­rot. Kea are so in­tel­li­gent, they even out­smarted re­cent univer­sity-de­signed in­tel­li­gence tests set up in the Southern Alps. They love to get their breaks into ev­ery­thing – es­pe­cially ski gloves, boot lin­ers and roof racks. Back­packs and candy bars left on the deck are open slather. When ab­sent­minded guests are about, per­sonal bat­tles of wit and on-snow agility en­sue.

If the chutes and bowls of Craigieburn and Bro­ken River aren’t enough, there is a lim­it­less amount of tour­ing avail­able from the clubs – the most pop­u­lar be­ing a route which

links the two fields. Sep­a­rated by only one bowl, the clubs joined forces sev­eral years ago by al­low­ing skiers to use their passes in­ter­change­ably. Now they mar­ket them­selves as New Zealand’s largest off-piste ski area.

Ski­ing in New Zealand is a self­0styles ad­ven­ture with some­thing for ev­ery­one. You can lush it up in five-star accommodation or roll up your sleeves to help peel spuds at the club­bies.

I ar­rived in New Zealand 15 years ago – a last minute de­ci­sion to jump on a plane from Syd­ney with my then­boyfriend, now hus­band for a week-long freeski­ing com­pe­ti­tion. Af­ter seven days in Wanaka, we were hooked. The next year we came back for a sea­son. And never left. We’ve spent the last decade and a half get­ting to know New Zealand, and by now our favourite ski

fields are just like old mates – lov­able, im­per­fect and, most im­por­tantly, there when you need them.

The char­ac­ters I love the most are the “club­bies.”

“Club­bies is the term for New Zealand’s own spe­cial brand of clu­brun ski ar­eas. Founded by hardy pi­o­neers as early as the 1930’s, ski clubs have min­i­mal fa­cil­i­ties and lit­tle or no groom­ing. They are non-profit and sur­vive through the vol­un­teer ef­forts of their mem­bers. Many fields are ac­cessed by walk­ing tracks and the lifts are of­ten rope tows that re­quire skiers to wear har­nesses with metal “nut­crack­ers.” Club­bies are open to the pub­lic but overnight guests are usu­ally asked to help with food prep or dishes – and this back­packer-style ap­proach is re­flected in the af­ford­able price. Each ski club has its own dis­tinc­tive per­son­al­ity and is guar­an­teed to be pop­u­lated with in­ter­ested char­ac­ters. We love club ski­ing be­cause it’s a friendly so­cial ex­pe­ri­ence with crowd­free off-piste ski­ing.

Club-style ski­ing won’t be for ev­ery­one, but luck­ily there are still plenty of choices for the five-star fans. In the North Is­land, the grand Chateau Ton­gariro at the foot of Whaka­papa Ski Area gives ac­cess to the coun­try’s largest ski area as well as fa­mous trout fish­ing and ther­mal re­sorts. Fur­ther south, the coun­try town of Methven sits at the base of Mt Hutt in Can­ter­bury, and the ever-grow­ing re­sort town of Wanaka is home to three large, com­mer­cial ski fields in the Cen­tral Otago re­gion.

The most cos­mopoli­tan of New Zealand ski des­ig­na­tions is Queen­stown. The town sits on the shores of Lake Wakatipu and is gemmed by spec­tac­u­lar southern peaks. The moun­tains are home to two com­mer­cial re­sorts while the town is packed full of pump­ing bars, ex­cel­lent restau­rants and im­pec­ca­ble accommodation.

Whether you book in for a sold week or two, or de­cide to road trip around the coun­try, there’s al­ways plenty of off-snow ad­ven­ture in New Zealand. The lit­tle is­land na­tion is rife with out­door ac­tiv­i­ties – from soak­ing in ther­mal pools to get-boat­ing, bungee jump­ing, fish­ing and moun­tain bik­ing.

North Is­land

MANGANUI

Mt Taranaki was the lo­ca­tion dou­ble for Mt Fuji in Tom Cruise’s The Last Samu­rai, but all the sim­i­lar­i­ties end there. Taranaki is a sparsely pop­u­lated re­gion of New Zealand, fa­mous for surf breaks and its vi­o­lent vol­canic his­tory. Manganui is Taranaki’s only ski area, and get­ting there is an ad­ven­ture in it­self. The beau­ti­ful 20-minute walk from the car park takes you across an avalanche gully, which is some­times scat­tered with avalanche de­bris. The lit­tle club field has three rope tows and a t-bar. You can ski right into the warm, bright Manganui has a great mix of fam­ily-friendly and ex­pert ter­rain – all within reach of Taranaki’s fa­mous Surf High­way and some of the best breaks in New Zealand. They don’t call it Tar­adise for noth­ing.

RUAPEHU

New Zealand’s two largest and most de­vel­oped ski fields sit on the slopes of an ac­tive vol­cano, Mt Ruapehu. The High-altitude plateau of the cen­tral north is­land is rich with geother­mal ac­tiv­ity – mud pools, gey­sers and hot springs. Us­ing some lo­cal knowl­edge, we found a hot river in Taupo for an evening dip. The lakes are fa­mous trout fish­ing des­ti­na­tions and the re­gion is rich with Maori his­tory. Mt Ruapehu is par­tic­u­larly good in spring, when the snow is of­ten less wind af­fected and the longer days make for softer snow con­di­tions.

Whaka­papa Is one hour and 15 min­utes from the Taupo. It has all the ameni­ties of an in­ter­na­tional ski area, in­clud­ing 14 lifts, 30 groomed trails,

plenty of off-piste ter­rain as well as ski school, ski hire, restau­rants and cafes. Com­pared to its neigh­bour­ing field at Turoa, Whaka­papa has more ter­rain for the hard-core – cliffs and chutes – and be­ing a bit shadier, it’s a bet­ter choice for dry pow­der. We al­ways love a stop at the Chateau Ton­gariro, tucked into lush sub­trop­i­cal for­est at the base of Whaka­papa. Sip­ping cock­tails in the vel­vet-clad pi­ano bar has a sort of Euro-charm that’s rare in the New World.

TUROA

At 2,322m, Turoa is the high­est ski area in New Zealand. Its 500ha of ski­able area in­cludes a four-kilo­me­tre run and three ter­rain parks as well as snow­filled bowls and steep chutes. We took a 90- minute walk to the crater of the vol­cano – an un­for­get­table ex­pe­ri­ence. Turoa is ser­viced by Ohakune, a thriv­ing lit­tle ski town marked by a gi­ant car­rot sculp­ture. Ohakune is the place to eat, drink, sleep and party. For the best of the lat­ter don’t miss the Moun­tain Mardi Gras in June.

South Is­land RAINBOW

The spec­tac­u­lar Southern Alps are the back­bone of the South Is­land. At the north­ern tip of this snow-peaked spine is Rainbow Ski Area and the Nel­son Lakes Na­tional Park. Rainbow sits above St Ar­naud, a vil­lage of tra­di­tional for­est branches (hol­i­day homes) on the shore of Lake Ro­toiti. We’ve had some great hol­i­days at Rainbow, with seven or eight fam­i­lies hir­ing or shar­ing baches around the vil­lage. The field it­self is a club field with a t-bar, plat­ter, ter­rain park and one short rope tow. The ski area is fam­ily-friendly, has great views down to the sandy beaches of Golden Bay or the fa­mous Marl­bor­ough wine re­gion.

CAN­TER­BURY Mt Ly­ford

Mt Ly­ford sits be­tween the ther­mal re­sort of Han­mer Springs and the coastal par­adise of Kaik­oura. Once a high coun­try sta­tion, Mt Ly­ford was de­vel­oped into an alpine vil­lage and ski area by lo­cal farm­ers in the 1980’s. Log chalets were built on oneacre sec­tions and the ski field had de­vel­oped over the years to in­clude a t-bar, two plat­ters and a rope tow as well as a restau­rant and tub­ing area. It’s a fam­ily friendly hill with good tour­ing views to the sea. Mt Ly­ford of­ten gets large dumps in the early sea­son from coastal sou-westers. Hire a log chalet or stay in the log lodge at the base.

Surf­ing, whale watch­ing and dolphin swim­ming is only 30 min­utes away in Kaik­oura, while Han­mer Springs Ther­mal re­sort is 30 min­utes in the other di­rec­tion.

Christchurch

Christchurch is New Zealand’s sec­ond largest city. In Fe­bru­ary 2011, the city was struck by a mas­sive earth­quake – 184 peo­ple died and thou­sands of homes were dam­aged be­yond re­pair. We’ve en­dured more than 1000 af­ter­shocks. The city has proved its re­silience, though, and new bars, restau­rants and shops are spring­ing up around the city.

The lonely Planet re­cently called Christchurch one of New Zealand’s most in­ter­est­ing cities. Our shaken city boasts eight ski ar­eas within reach of a ski trip. On down days we go surf­ing, walk­ing and moun­tain bik­ing. Christchurch is also home to New Zealand’s only ski man­u­fac­turer, Kingswood Skis. Visit the fac­tory by ap­point­ment to get a pair of hand­crafted, cus­tom-made skis.

Han­mer Springs

Han­mer Springs Ski Area is a club field near the ther­mal re­sort of Han­mer Springs. The ski area can get great snow and on a pow­der day, you might just have it all to your­self. Ask the lo­cals about a hid­den run on the back­side that tra­verses back to the tows. There is on-field accommodation and wacky dress-up events in­clud­ing the Bac­ardi Cup. With nearby jet-boat­ing, bungee jump­ing, trout fish­ing and golf, Han­mer Springs could be con­sid­ered a poor man’s Queen­stown, but the real draw for this re­gion is the largest ther­mal re­sort – we never say no to a good hot soak at the end of a day’ ski­ing.

Porters

There are big plans afoot for Christchurch’ new­est ski filed. A $500 mil­lion devel­op­ment has been ap­proved for Point­ers, to in­clude new chair­lifts and New Zealand’s first gon­dola from the main high­way. Even­tu­ally the devel­op­ment will in­clude a 3400-bed alpine vil­lage with hot pools and hik­ing and moun­tain bik­ing trails for sum­mer. For now, Porters re­mains a small-ish com­mer­cial field with great fam­ily ski­ing as well as fa­mous off-piste runs like the steep Buff Face and the long thigh-burn­ing Big Mama.

Cheese­man

From Christchurch, Mt Cheese­man is the next ski filed along the alpine High­way 73. Cheese­man is a fam­ily-fo­cused club filed with a few groomed runs and t-bars but for those who look a bit fur­ther, there is easy ac­cess to the back­coun­try and we al­ways try to grab a few end-of-day runs down the ac­cess road and through to the beech for­est Cheese­man has an on field Café and accommodation part way down the road at For­est Lodge.

Bro­ken River

Shel­tered from the wind, the Bro­ken River gets great snow and plenty of it. We like the joke about its “snow guns” – when the north­west wind pumps dry wind­blown snow over the ridge and onto the main bowl. Bro­ken River is a clas­sic club­bie, com­plete with rope tows and a de­cent walk in. An in­cli­na­tor gets you most of the way up the moun­tain but

we find “Stair­way to Heaven” still keeps the crowds at bay. The accommodation at Bro­ken Rive is amongst the beech for­est a sun-soaked bal­cony com­plete with bar­beque. The lo­cals are friendly and the beer is cheap.

Craigieburn

Craigieburn is known as “the big one” and is renowned for its steep chutes and bowls. Ex­treme ski­ing pi­o­neer Glen Plake is a life­time mem­ber. Craigieburn gets loads of snow from the north­west and we find it’s a good op­tion for foggy days with those fa­mous chutes pro­vid­ing some def­i­ni­tion. Mid­dle basin is one of our favourite runs – long with a con­sis­tent pitch fol­lowed by a short walk back to the tows. Craigieburn also has a bar avail­able on the moun­tain.

Mt Hutt

Mt Hutt is Can­ter­bury’s premier com­mer­cial ski field. Sit­ting an hour and a half south-west of Christchurch, the field re­ceives re­li­able snow falls (but has snow mak­ing just in case). From large groomed runs to chutes and ter­rain parks, Mt Hutt has it all, with the back­drop of amaz­ing views across the Can­ter­bury plains to the sea. Nearby Methven is also a base for heli-ski­ing op­er­a­tions, and comes alive in win­ter.

Heli­park

Heli­park rev­o­lu­tionised heli-ac­cessed ski­ing when it opened a few years ago. THE $325 Heli­park Ac­cess Pass in­cludes your first run on a 660ha of back­coun­try ter­rain. Af­ter that, you’re charged $75 per run. You pick your own lines and de­cide how many runs you do. Mt Potts Lodge has accommodation avail­able and is also the base for Mt Potts Heliski, which flies into the Two Thumb range to ac­cess some of the best ter­rain in the coun­try.

Tem­ple Basin

Tem­ple Basin is the only ski field that sits in the mid­dle of the main range. With views of glaciers and hang­ing ice falls from the lodge, it’s a real alpine ex­pe­ri­ence. The club filed is ac­cessed by a 50-minute walk through the Arthur’s Pass Na­tional Park. A free goods lift car­ried gear up the moun­tain. It’s all worth it to wake up at the top of the world, with amaz­ing ter­rain at your doorstep. The lodge sleeps 120 peo­ple and serves great food. Tem­ple Basin gets huge dumps from the north­west. We have been asked to help dig out the lodge or tows at the start of the pow­der day.

Mt Olym­pus

Mt Olym­pus is known as the play­ground of the Gods and is a wide open, south fac­ing bowl 2 and a half hours from Christchurch. Nearly an hour on a shin­gle road that twists up and around the Ry­ton Val­ley al­ways makes us feel pretty far from re­al­ity. So do the club’s fancy dress box, hot tub and tra­di­tion of par­ty­ing into the wee hours. The brand new sleep­ing quar­ters are quiet, though, and the hut Is a true skiin, ski-out ex­pe­ri­ence, which is handy for night ski­ing. We also love that the ticket of­fice/bar serves cock­tails and proper flat whites. There are al­ways a few good

char­ac­ters soak­ing up the sun in the Beer Gar­den out­side the hut. When the sun gets too low, we just pack up and ski over to Rum Rock to catch the sun­set. Tra­di­tions like these have given Mt Olym­pus the tagline: “a drink­ing club with a ski­ing prob­lem”

Macken­zie District Fox Peak

Fox Peak is a true club field at the high­est point of the Two Thumbs range, near the town of Fair­lie. The wide-open faces are free of crowds and week­end accommodation is avail­able on the club’s cost 40-bed lodge.

Round­hill

A few years ago, we no­ticed that Tekapo’s Round­hill went from one of the short­est ski hills in the coun­try to one of the long­est overnight. This was due to the ad­di­tion of the Her­itage Ex­press Rope Tow in 2010. The 1440m long tow gives ac­cess to the Two Thumb range’s chutes, gul­lies and high-alpine snow. Round­hill also has a ter­rain park and a café/bar. It’s a great fam­ily ski area with a large beginner zone. Tekapo sits on an ice- blue glaciated lake in the dra­matic land­scape of the Macken­zie re­gion. The area is known for its ex­cel­lent fish­ing, boat­ing, hot pools, ice-skat­ing and stargaz­ing at the nearby Mt John Ob­ser­va­tory.

OHAU

We love Ohau for its friendly at­mos­phere, good lodge, wacky events and spec­tac­u­lar views over the lake. It’s a small filed with just one chair­lift, a plat­ter and a snow mat, but there are groomed runs s well as some good off-piste ter­rain and ac­cess to the back­coun­try. Ohau is un­crowned so we find it a good choice for pow­der days. The Lodge is lake­side and in 15 min­utes you can be carv­ing the fresh pow­der on this amaz­ing bou­tique field.

AWAKINO

A week­end at Awakino is a clas­sic kiwi ad­ven­ture.

This tiny club field out­side of Oa­maru is only open in good sea­sons and only on week­ends. Awakino doesn’t even ap­pear on most lists of New Zealand ski ar­eas so we al­ways ar­rive to a warm wel­come and plenty of room to move.

DOB­SON

South-west of Fair­lie is Mt Dob­son, a fam­ily owned ski area with triple-chair and all day sun. Mt Dob­son has the high­est alpine car park in the coun­try, which leads to rolling ter­rain and a nat­u­ral half-pipe. This field can be ski­able when many of the other fields are closed or have high winds – a gem not far from a num­ber of other at­trac­tions and ad­ven­tures.

Southern Lakes District Cardrona

An hour from Queen­stown and 35 min­utes from Wanaka, Cardrona is a fam­ily-friendly place with four kids’ cen­tres and two child­care cen­tres. Cardrona is known for its great beginner and in­ter­me­di­ate ter­rain as well as hav­ing the most ex­ten­sive ter­rain park fa­cil­i­ties in New Zealand.

Tre­ble Cone

With 550 hectares spread across three large basins, Tre­ble Cone is the largest ski area in the South Is­land. We never tire of the spec­tac­u­lar views across Lake Wanaka and into the Southern Alps. The moun­tain has a ver­ti­cal rise of 705m and a 4km groomed run.

Tre­ble Cone is known for snow qual­ity – dry pow­der and plenty of it. The great snow and in­fa­mous ter­rain of nat­u­ral pipes and chutes means there are al­ways plenty of Wanaka-based “Cone Heads” snaking up the moun­tain on a pow­der day.

Wanaka

Tourism Wanaka has re­cently de­clared the re­gion “The World’s First Pro­tected Lifestyle Re­serve” and pub­lished a char­ter de­signed to pre­serve and share the Wanaka way of life, an out­door-ori­en­tated life in a spec­tac­u­lar moun­tain set­ting. When we first vis­ited Wanaka in the mid-90’s, it was a laid-back hippy town. Over the last 15 years, it’s trans­formed into a more re­sort­style des­ti­na­tion, but there are still a few ves­tiges, like Cin­ema Par­adiso, where you can watch a film from a sofa or an old Mor­ris Mi­nor.

Snow­park

Snow­park is a freestyle mecca – a ded­i­cated park re­sort. On their high-coun­try farm­land, the Lee fam­ily has built a stan­dard half­pipe, a quar­ter­pipe, large kick­ers, 40+ rails, hits, jumps and more. There’s even a beginner park. With 33 au­to­matic snow­guns, Snow­park can op­er­ate on snow­mak­ing alone. There is a lux­ury or back­packer accommodation on the moun­tain as well as a great restau­rant and thump­ing bar.

Queen­stown

Over the years, Queen­stown has wel­comed pi­o­neers and farm­ers, gold seek­ers and ad­ven­tur­ers thrill seek­ers and now hol­i­day­mak­ers. Bungee jump­ing was in­vented here by AJ Hacket. The bungee op­er­a­tors, along with jet-boat­ing and ski­ing, have earned Queen­stown the ti­tle “ad­ven­ture cap­i­tal” of New Zealand. But we like Queen­stown for its cos­mopoli­tan feel. They’ve packed a lot of amaz­ing bars and restau­rants and shops into this lit­tle walk­a­ble moun­tain vil­lage. Queen­stown has an in­ter­na­tional air­port which makes it an easy des­ti­na­tion from the East Coast of Aus­tralia. Ar­rive in the morn­ing and be on your skis or board by lunchtime.

Bro­ken Hill

Round­hill

Ruapehu

Mt Ly­ford

Christchurch

Bro­ken River

Tre­ble Cone

Round­hill

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.