Endless Winter! New Zealand South Island is definitely my favorite place in the world. The people are super friendly, full of smiles, always wanting to chat and make friends. Its very very uncrowded with only a few cars on the roads, fewer people in the mountains, and small towns. Its like California with 1% of the people. Everything is clean, clean bathrooms, no rubbish. There are beautiful mountains and beaches…truly a surf and ski paradise. Here’s the movie.
It snowed 1.5 meters the first week of August in New Zealand filling in a low snow pack. At Mt. Cook on day 2 I walked up to the heli operator at Glentanner on a clear calm morning and asked if they could drop me off at the top. They asked, are you with the two kiwis? No, but we ended up sharing the ride which cost only $100 for a 12 minute drop off at the top. I took a few runs with them as they were real nice about letting me join them. It was my first day skiing since May and I couldn’t keep up so after 2 runs I hiked out for 2.5 hours about 7 k through tussock grass back to the road. They took one more big run down the next peak. I found a cool little hut at the bottom which would be fun to stay at next time.
I rented a Wicked Camper AWD Toyota Sienna set up with a bed and cook gear and slept in that every night for only $30 per day. There are public huts with bathrooms and kitchens for free. The Holiday Parks are a great deal for $16 a night they have bathrooms, hot showers, clean nice kitchens with pots pans, television rooms. Everything else is expensive…gas/$9/gal…beer $8…hamburger $15…coffee $5.
I headed to Wanaka, Otago, a charming, upscale little ski town on a lake with little shops, restaurants, and lots of friendly locals. Aussies, Japanese, Chinese, German, Italian, French were all there skiing so it was very international, but still completely uncrowded. I stayed at Aspiring Holiday Park, a super nice place and great to meet people while cooking dinner or watching TV etc. There was a 50cm dump, and the following day was sunny, calm and was the best powder day of the year, so went heli skiing. Great snow, but always rush, rush, rush. I prefer touring.
I met Simon, an Italian guy living at the park for the season doing milking cows and ski instructing. He had been on the Italian National Biathlon team for ten years and was a fantastic telemarker and fast in the backcountry. We went for three days to the Rabrossa back country hut near Mt. Pisa and caught some nice powder with one full on blizzard day. Luckily it cleared up and we skiied out about 15k at hitched back to town.
After a rest day, I joined a tour to Black Peak Hut. We helied in and stayed for three days. The terrain was mellow and found some good turns in the wind pack.
Keith, one of the Aussie guys on the tour wanted to go to the glaciers, so after the Black Peak tour he asked, “You want to go?” I said, “Sure”, so we organized a trip to the Fox Glacier with a guide and headed up. Nico Champey was our guide. He is IFMGA certified and was absolutely terrific. A great skier, very experienced and strong. The IFMGA certification really shows he is at the very top of his profession. We had to wait a couple days for the wind, but made it up to the lower Chancellor Hut where the snow was actually the best. The Hut was built in 1905 and felt like staying in a museum as it was the same as 100 years ago, except for the glacier having melted back some.
The next day we helied up to the high glacier Pioneer Hut and toured some fantastic terrain. Absolutely stunning scenery. There are a lot of extreme chutes up there that are untouched waiting for the right conditions. We found hard pack and ice due to the wind, so had to be pretty cautious. The weather was perfectly clear and calm though.