International (Europe/Japan/NZ/Au) New Zealand 2019 Trip Report

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by Mattadvproject, Jun 6, 2019.

  1. Mattadvproject

    Mattadvproject Love that powder! Pugski Sponsor

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    Time for the next adventure! It's been a month and a half since returning from Georgia (one of my favorite trips ever) and soon it's time for second winter to start. This summer I'll be hitting up New Zealand and then Chile. It will be my first time in NZ and this trip has been a longtime coming.

    I have a couple of friends coming with me and we are heading to the South Island to check out the clubfields in the Canterbury region. I leave on the 18th of July from Denver. I have 2 nights in Christchurch staring on the 20th July and then we head north-west to stay at a sheep station and accommodation center called Flock Hill. We will be staying there for 9 nights and then we have 2 more nights back in Christchurch. We leave on the 2nd August.

    There are several small, independent ski areas (called clubfields) that are close to where we are staying. There are 5 clubfields (Porter Heights, Temple Basin, Cragieburn, Broken River and Mt. Cheeseman) that we can visit during the trip. I've been told that the clubbies should give us the quintessential NZ experience, I can't wait. We have our own van so we can get out and about.

    Hopefully we'll have some decent snow so we can really explore the terrain. They just got a decent dump a few days ago so they are off to a good start. It's very early season so plenty of time for it to fill in more. Fingers crossed. I'll be writing a full report here, so please follow along. Please feel free to ask any questions, always happy to answer them. I'll be back with another update soon.

    - Matt
     
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    Mattadvproject

    Mattadvproject Love that powder! Pugski Sponsor

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    I've been doing a lot more research on the resorts we will be visiting. Hopefully with our schedule, we can get in a couple of days, at the resorts we like. Most of the clubfields have very rudimentary facilities and the roads leading to the resorts are a bit sketchy but what they might lack in amenities, they make up for in terms of terrain, lack of crowds and affordability. The more I research this trip, the more excited I am becoming. Some of the terrain looks amazing, I can't wait to hit it. For those that are interested, here are the trail maps for all the fields we will be hitting:

    Broken-River-Trail-Map.jpg
    Broken River - 3 main nutcracker rope tows, plus a goods lift to get you up to the lodges (3) and a short walk to get to the bottom tow. They have two basic rope tows (non-nutcracker) where we might get a little practice in before hitting the proper nutcracker rope tows.

    trail-map-med.jpg
    Cheeseman - 2 x T-bars, quite the luxury resort! A little mellower than Porters and more protected from the weather, this might be a nice change if we are struggling with all the nutcracker tows.


    TrailMap.png Cragieburn - 3 nutcrackers and some of the steepest inbounds terrain around. Plenty of sidecountry options. Apparently the nutcrackers here are fast and steep, so we might warm-up at Broken River first, so we don't look like complete newbies when we get here.....


    Trail-Map.jpg Porters (previously known as Porter Heights) - This is becoming a proper little ski area and might not be considered a clubfield anymore? It has the biggest day lodge and boasts a quad chair and then 3 t-bars, so almost like a basic resort. Hopefully they get some decent snow when we are there, but there is some great sidecountry and touring potential (as do all of these clubfields).


    temple-basin-trail-map2.jpg

    Temple Basin - Here you have to hike 45 minutes (approx) to get to the start of the lifts, so that will be a great warm-up. You put all of your gear in a goods lift (take your poles with you for the hike) and then you meet that at the top of the walking track. The views are supposed to be pretty good on the way up. That should keep the crowds away hopefully! You grab your gear and go put it on in the shelter, then you hit the tows.

    - Matt
     
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  3. NZRob

    NZRob Skiing the Rock Skier

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    You're going to have a great time, those club fields are a unique experience. Fantastic skiing at all those places, like it used to be prior to massive commercialisation.

    My grandfather was an early member at Temple Basin, he used to make his own skis out of hickory and head up there when he wasn't out hunting or fishing.
     
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    Mattadvproject

    Mattadvproject Love that powder! Pugski Sponsor

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    Thanks NZRob, that's exactly what we are looking for! Unique ski experiences and genuine people. Can't wait! Thank you for commenting.

    - Matt
     
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    Mattadvproject

    Mattadvproject Love that powder! Pugski Sponsor

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    I've been referring a lot to the "nutcracker" rope tows. If you've not seen or heard of them before, you might be wondering what they are? Basically you have a rope tow to get you up the mountain, but to make it a little easier, you wear either a belt or a harness and then attached to that is a metal "nut-cracker" that looks literally like a giant walnut cracker. That goes over the rope and you clasp together the ends so that the device grabs hold of the rope. It then pulls you up to the top. You let go of the nutcracker at the top and it releases from the rope. Then off you go.

    Here's a video that show's you exactly what I am trying to describe.....



    So, that should be fun to learn. I have to admit I am a little nervous about the prospect of riding one of these things for the first time, but it's something I'm going to have to get used to. I'm sure it will be ok. I think the thing that makes me most nervous is when the nutcracker passes over/through the guide wheels. That just looks so dangerous? I hope I come back with all my digits! If any of the NZ crew is reading this, what are your experiences of using the nutcrackers? Is it easier than it looks? I'll definitely have to document my first time, could be some comedy and/or carnage!

    - Matt
     


  6. NZRob

    NZRob Skiing the Rock Skier

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    Yep, so they are quite intimidating to use for the first time, and they really are an anachronism in our health & safety conscious age.....but like most things after a few goes you'll be fine. The most intimidating part is flicking it underneath the rope at the start when the rope is whirring by, and like you say, when the rope goes through the guide wheels and your hands are relatively close to said wheels. Spend a few minutes watching the latch-on process at the bottom of the rope tow your first time, and I'm sure if you ask you'll get some friendly advice on best techniques.

    Once you are on the main thing is just to try and relax and not fight it otherwise you'll get sore arms and shoulders. And just grimace and marvel as the nutcracker goes through the pulleys inches from your hands :)

    Oh, and when you're skiing, move the nutcracker a few centimetres off your hip - landing on your hip on them if you fall is not pleasant.
     
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  7. peterm

    peterm Getting on the lift Skier

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    Perhaps someone more knowledgable than I could fill us in on the "Plakes Mistake" run at Craigieburn?

    Also, @Mattadvproject if you want a (very) gentle warmup before hitting the good stuff then you could always overnight in Auckland and get a couple hours in at Snowplanet.
     
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  8. geepers

    geepers Out on the slopes Skier

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    Wow. Haven't used those things since I was a teenager when there was a rope tow with wheels at Cabramurra (around 1970).

    It's not that difficult - we had young kids (pre-teen) riding that tow.

    A couple of points I remember:
    • Make sure you do not have anything loose fitting/dangling that could tangle around the rope.
    • Watch the way they start moving by holding the rope with a hand, then they flip the cracker over and get a grip. A gentle start is preferable to being yanked out of your ski boots by suddenly closing the cracker from a stationary position. Or grabbing the rope hard - I notice there's some sort of over-piece to allow sliding the rope through the glove without wearing it out - that's an innovation from my day.
    • Once mobile allow the belt around your waist to take the load. Doesn't need a death grip on the cracker.
    • Use the hand closest to the rope to hold the cracker handle. (Or use both hands if there's room.) Keeps the free hand from accidentally getting caught between the wheels and the rope.
    • Pay attention for the whole ride and doubly so near the wheels. This is not an inherently safe system.
     
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  9. RNZ

    RNZ aka Ski Kiwi Skier

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    The clubs are great, all of my formative skiing was at some of these club fields and a small commercial ski field, Erewhon Park, which is sadly now closed http://mtpotts.co.nz/history/ , http://sillybilliesreturn.blogspot.com/2015/09/wedding-anniversary.html .

    The fields (the Cragieburn fields are not resorts - people will defintely look at you funny if you talk about resorts) go in a gradient of how developed they are from East to West. Porters is the only commercial field (operated as a for profit ski field - as opposed to the clubs which are run by member committees who take responsibility for hiring staff etc - with a club breaking even is good, building reserves is better). The closest I could think of in the US or Canada that would describe the vide of the Cragieburn fields would be A Basin, or Red Mountain in BC, pretty laid back and friendly.

    Porters and Cheeseman have the most infrastructure and are the only two that have anything other than a rope tow and the only ones where you can drive to the lodge. Both are probably one day fields. At Porters if there is enough coverage Big Mama, Dome face and Bluff face are both fun, except if there is a whiteout. All of the skiing in the Cragieburns is above the tree line so white out conditions mean that you will have no reference points, meaning that if you are traversing to some of the side runs it is easy to traverse right out of the ski field.

    Cheeseman is similar to Porters, head up high to Cokayne and A Basin (the A is for Avalanche) and Gun Barrel for what I think are the best bits. There is touring / back country in Tarn Basin and it does come out at a bend in the access road - but it is not patrolled or controlled). Sunny Face is good, but usually doesn't have enough coverage.

    If you skate and can grab some hire skates, and there is ice there is a small open air ice rink in the bush near Forest Lodge.

    Broken River, you used to put your stuff on a goods lift and walk up a short walk, but now they have converted the goods lift into the Tyndall Tram https://brokenriver.co.nz/about-br/mountain/facilities/#alpine_rail . Broken River has great terrain and a great deck, and I understand that they even have craft beer on tap now. BR would be an ideal place to get used to using a rope tow.

    I haven't skied Cragieburn I don't think, but can shed some light on Plake's mistake:

    SRWA: While on the subject of local skiing, there’s also a run in the Craigieburn Ranges, New Zealand, called ‘Plake’s Mistake’. You’ve skied out there – are you the reason behind it?

    Glen Plake: Yeah – I think so. The run is actually a narrow little chute over in middle basin. In those days we were skiing on 215 / 220 cm straight skis, which were longer than the chute was wide. It wasn’t a mistake as such to enter the chute, and I certainly didn’t mess it up; but what did happen – and thus the name – was that the tips and tails of my skis were touching the walls of the chute, which made it a bit awkward, and impeded my jump turns. I ended up just pointing the skis and straight-lining it like a bat out of hell *laughs*. I think the run was named by the old resort president. Wasn’t a biggy, but it is nice to have a funny legacy in a place I truly love to ski.

    Copied from here https://snowriderswa.com/2016/12/23/glen-plake-more-than-a-just-mo-hawk-part-i/


    Temple Basin I have spent a lot of time at, a long time ago. The trail map doesn't do it justice - it is bigger and steeper than it looks. Do walk around to downhiill i it is open, and come back through Bill's and through the chutes like Steve's Folly.

    Side country - touring, there are routes that link Cragieburn, BR and Cheeseman https://media.newzealand.com/en/story-ideas/introducing-the-craigieburn-haute-route/

    Logistics:
    Rope tows with nutcrackers are brilliant once you get the hang of them. There are a few tricks that make it easier and more comfortable. Frstly, hire a climbing harness type belt rather than the old school belts that some places may still have. Either Chill HQ in Christchurch https://www.chillout.co.nz/alpine/ or gnomes in Darfield https://gnomes.co.nz/ hire and sell them.

    Gloves - rope tows shred gloves (and will rub and/or leave marks on your ski clothing). You can use glove protectors, and bring some pairs of Kinco gloves with you, they are the go to gloves for rope tows but they are $70 NZD per pair. If you have left overs at the end of your trip they make great koha (a recognition and acknowledgement of hospitality). You want to take the weight with your hips, not your waist or arms. This means that you want the length of the cord that attaches the nutcracker to the harness to be short enough at full stretch that your arm remains slightly bent - if it is longer then your arms take the weight. Counter-intuative though it is don't lean away from the rope when you approach a pulley (the wheels), you'll pull the rope off which is not cool at all. When you grip the rope at the start it is a bit like braking in a car - slow and smooth - you will quickly get faster and more confident.

    The van - get snow chains and know how to fit them. but some cheep overalls or a mat because it will be muddy if you have to put them on. You will need chains, if you are renting and they try and give you snow socks insist on chains. Springfield and Arthur's Pass are your optons for petrol (gas) and be prepared for sticker shock.

    Be prepared to damage the bases of your skis. The substrate of the Cragieburn ski fields is scree - you will hit rocks.

    On your way from Christchurch stop for pies at the Sheffield Pie shop http://openhost.sheffieldpieshop.co.nz/
     
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  10. James

    James Skiing the powder Instructor

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    Yikes.
    Which ones?
    IMG_6548.jpg
    IMG_6549.jpg
     
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    Mattadvproject

    Mattadvproject Love that powder! Pugski Sponsor

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    That's $70 NZD James, so the gloves for $49.99 USD would be about the same price with the current exchange rate..... I looked at the Gnomes website and they have the full leather Kinco gloves on sale for $64.90 NZD, so inline with the online prices you are showing above.

    - Matt
     
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    Mattadvproject

    Mattadvproject Love that powder! Pugski Sponsor

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    Thanks peterm, sadly no plans to stop in at Auckland. I have to jump straight on the flight to Christchurch so no time for that unfortunately. It will have only been a couple of months since I last skied, so not too worried about needing a warmup. Good suggestion though, thanks for that.

    - Matt
     
  13. James

    James Skiing the powder Instructor

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    That's $50 for two pair!
     
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    Mattadvproject

    Mattadvproject Love that powder! Pugski Sponsor

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    Great info everyone, thank you so much!

    Thanks to everyone (@RNZ @geepers @peterm and @NZRob ) for all the friendly advice, it is greatly appreciated. There's some really great info in there and I hope all of this can be of use to other people as well. It's definitely useful for me putting this trip together. It's nice to hear from the locals and hear their thoughts. One of my main motivations for visiting the clubfields was to get that quintessential Kiwi experience. There's plenty of "mainstream" resorts in NZ and it would have been easy to go and check them out but I think it would be a different experience and not quite the one I am looking for.....

    In my opinion, I think the real Kiwi ski experience will come from the clubfields and so far, people seem to be supportive of that. I don't care that the clubbies are small and maybe the amenities more basic, that doesn't worry me at all. The appeal comes from meeting the down to earth people there, sharing their mountains and experiencing the amazing terrain that they offer. My "home" mountain here in Colorado is A-Basin (not that I get to ski it much as I'm running trips around the world for most of the season) and I like it because it's pretty laid back too. It's a fun resort with down-to-earth people and decent terrain, so if I like that, then I'm sure I'll enjoy the clubfields.

    There's been a lot of planning going on behind the scenes that I haven't written about here and a plan has been in place for a while. I chose to stay at Flock Hill Lodge, an active sheep farming station in the heart of the Cragieburn range with affordable accommodation and a nice restaurant (we are including dinners with our accommodation); it's well positioned to allow access to all of the 5 clubfields that RNZ mentions above (Craigieburn, Broken River, Mt. Cheeseman, Temple Basin and Porters). We have our own AWD van (with chains) that we are renting from a nice gent in Christchurch (well actually he's in Methven but he's bringing the van up to the city for me, which is very nice - big shout out to Tony Wood, owner of Penny Rentals! Cheers Tony!).

    I meet the rest of the crew on the 22nd July (day after the school holidays are over) and then we head up to Flock Hill. We'll stop in Darfield on the way for supplies and we'll be heading into Gnomes ski shop to meet the folks there. I've spoken to Alistair who runs the show there and I'll say g'day to him. All my guys have harnesses already (good to know that they are more serviceable than the belts that some clubfields provide,I was wondering about that) but I'd like to get some of the glove protectors (I have a glove sponsor so I have to use their gloves, can't use the good 'ol Kinco's!). I have a 12 inch sling and a couple of non-locking carabiners (might only need the sling) that I was looking at attaching to my harness and the nutcracker, that should work hopefully.

    I'd done some research on the tows at the different fields and I think that as much as I'd like to start at Craigieburn, I think an easier start for us will be at Broken River. From what I've read, they have 2 beginner (non-nutcracker) rope tows that we might be able to practice on first and then graduate over to the regular nutcrackers. That might be the easiest transition for the group (we are 3 skiers and 1 snowboarder, I might be overthinking all of this, but I think that will be an easier start). There are 3 of those for us to use. Broken River has some great inbounds and sidecountry access, so we should have plenty of decent skiing to keep us entertained (all of this is weather and snow permitting, of course) and hopefully we can become proficient on the tows. From what I've read, Craigieburn's 3 nutcrackers are fast and go up some pretty steep terrain so Broken River should be a kinder introduction. Once we are nutcracker ninjas, then hopefully the clubfield world is our oyster and we can go anywhere. Then it's just a question of seeing where the best conditions will be and going there.

    I know that if we want a break from riding the nutcrackers, then we have the option of skiing Cheeseman where they have 2 t-bars and then Porters (the most commercial of all the clubfields) with a quad chair and 3 t-bars. I hope the guys are up for the hike to Temple Basin, it looks like an amazing place to ride. The beauty of this trip is that we can ski most of the areas twice, so we can choose our favorite ones and visit again. Originally I had put this trip together to include the Lake Tekapo area as well, but I changed that plan to focus on the Craigieburn range and get to know those clubfields a bit better and I think there is enough here to keep us more than happy for 9 days of skiing. We'll look at Tekapo as a trip for 2021. If the snowpack is low-tide, I will be bringing out my rockhopper touring skis. I have to save the current skis for Chile when I get back (although they have some super-sharp volcanic rock too).

    Now all we need is some more snow...... at least southern Chile has a ton already! Cheers everyone, keeps the ideas and comments coming! Getting more and more excited for this trip.

    - Matt
     
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    Mattadvproject

    Mattadvproject Love that powder! Pugski Sponsor

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    Ah, well there you go, that's a much better deal. Kinco USA for the win! I will have to buy some of those 2 packs and sell them on the black market in NZ and make a mint! Free trip to NZ for me!

    - Matt
     
  16. Jenny

    Jenny Out on the slopes Skier

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    I have to laugh at myself - the nutcracker tow isn’t at all what I was expecting. Thought you all were referring to something that had the potential to damage a tender part of the male anatomy!

    Looking forward to reading all about this and seeing the pics!
     
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  17. NZRob

    NZRob Skiing the Rock Skier

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    Oh yes, get ready to be fully assaulted by the ludicrous cost of everything in NZ...
     
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  18. Thread Starter
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    Mattadvproject

    Mattadvproject Love that powder! Pugski Sponsor

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    I think that potential might still exist! We'll see how it all goes..... travel insurance will definitely be obtained!
     
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  19. geepers

    geepers Out on the slopes Skier

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    Also keep in mind that in Australia and NZ when the sticker price says $70 that's what you pay. Not $70 plus this tax and that tax.
     
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  20. James

    James Skiing the powder Instructor

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    Don't forget those weird birds that eat the rubber off cars and steal gloves!
     

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