Skiing New Zealand’s winter in August

Aug 18, 2011

Flying to New Zealand from California is like jumping in a time machine.  You completely miss a day and in August leave summer for winter.  The 3rd turns into the 5th with one plane ride.  Time in California is 5hrs ahead of  NZ, but back a day. At the Auckland airport, walking the blue and white line to the domestic terminal this bench caught my eye.  Home didn’t feel that far away with TGR and Lake Tahoe stickers. 

Auckland to Christchurch was the last flight.  My eyes were out the window focused on snow covered peaks, vast rolling hills covered in grass, glacial river beds and mountains of  New Zealand’s South Island.  Driving out of Christchurch I caught a glimpse of the September 2010 and February 2011 earthquake damage.  Most of the older city is rubble or shifted out of place buildings.  It was a sobering sight to see.  60,000 people have moved out of the city.


Stopping at two ski shops with Ian our Atomic NZ distributor to meet some industry folks we continued onto Terrace Downs to meet up with the Atomic crew.  Benchetler, Flahr, Sage, Dana, Sven, Molly, Caroline, Eva, Clemens, Pondella, Re, Cam, Neil and Ben.  This group was here to shoot the 2012 skis, boots and bindings.


Pristine lakes, water falls, rivers and rainbows all over the paddocks tidied up for sheep and cattle to graze on.  Driving  on the left side of sleepy roads reminding yourself to always stay on the center line.

First day was weathered out so we explored Castle Hill.  It’s an ancient amphitheater of smooth rounded rock pushed up out of the ground.  It made for a good game of Lava. Dana picking a new line.

We went to the club field Temple Basin, a core ski area with big terrain.  Little different approach than ski resorts I’m use to.  Getting to the lodge and tows is a 45 minute hike.  Luckily there is a goods lift to transport gear and Sven.


Sage in the Club

Three days at Temple and nut cracking


Chutes found 

Keas love Atomics too

Next was Queenstown with Spyder shooting the 2012 Mission, Adrnlyn and Active lines. 
The kid came out in Pondella stopping at Lake Tekapu on the way down.

Another new area for me was skiing at The Remarkables.  This is a regular resort with ski lifts and lots of terrain.  Even after a dry spell of three weeks, we found fresh snow in steep chutes to shred.  Most of it’s blind terrain from the top so an obvious tracked out chute was the first to go.  At the bottom,  I scoped out the hidden lines and found entries for FT’s for two more laps.


Steep veins through the rocks.

Fresh tracks...

Weather rolled in the next day and snowed in town.  We rallied our rental car and limped up the access road with snow chains held on by heli ski straps to The Remarks.  Rental cars are crap down there and chains don’t last on the long access roads. We had main link break and loose ends all over.  Thanks to the ski straps and zip ties we made it work. Windy, flat light and snow white outs made it a sketchy drive, but got deep cold pow to play in.  My trip was extended by three long days due to a heavy storm by NZ standards.  30cms shuts down the roads.  They aren’t prepared for snow.  My flight was cancelled on Tuesday and so were prior Sunday’s and Monday’s flights.  It was a mess in Queenstown.  No flights until Monday so I spent the day figuring out my flight plans home.  Next day made an 8hr drive to Christchurch with friendly Kiwis who were stranded as well, spent the night at the airport hotel and 3rd day flew out of NZ.  My last night turned out to be a good ender to the trip.  Ian from Atomic NZ and his wife Anna finally (almost 2 weeks late) had their baby girl.  It was really cool to hang with them, grab some dinner and meet Jordi. 

I can’t wait to get home to my wife and kids.  Now time to grab some shut eye on the time machine to SFO.

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