NEW ZEALAND SKI TOURING

September - October

New Zealand ski touring is like no where else in the world.  Where the Pacific Ocean joins the Southern Ocean there is a spine of mountains rising out of the sea.  The South Island of New Zealand strains the precipitation from the north and mixes it with antarctic air of the south.  Glaciers here run nearly to sea level and the unforgiving ruggedness of the land means that the mountains are not to be trifled with.  My tours are a mix of alpine huts, mountain hostels and secret stashes.  Weather calls the shots here but if you know where to go there is always an adventure around the corner.

Wanaka is located in the heart of the Southern Alps and has been my base for 30 years.  In early September the snow begins to settle into a stable spring pack and the high country touring starts.  The mountains are well filled in and the glaciers are mountain highways, strategically placed huts mean that touring equipment is kept to a minimum.  Many trips involve helicopter access but there are infinite possibilities from private huts to posh hotels.  You WILL be amazed.

Fox Glacier sunset

 12 day Itinerary

Day 1. Treble Cone Ski Area offers a one ride chairlift option to the top of their mountain which has to be the easiest way to begin a ski tour there is.  If you are coming from overseas this is a great way to find your ski legs and see some outstanding New Zealand Backcountry.  This area is famous for it’s views over Lake Wanaka and Mount Aspiring National Park.  Ski touring the famous Towers Ridge will be the perfect start to your trip. Night 1.  Lake Wanaka

Day 2. Fly into Centennial Hut at the head of the Franz Joseph Glacier.  Ski tour peaks near the hut and get familiar with glacier travel. Learn about glacier travel and a quick refresher on crevasse rescue. Night 2. Centennial Hut Franz Josef Glacier

Day 3. Ski tour to Mount Drummond.  Seeming to sit on the edge of the world, the views from Drummond are absolutely phenomenal.  The drop down into the Spenser Glacier with the Tasman seas in the background is awe inspiring. Night 3. Pioneer Hut Fox Glacier

Day 4. Since we have little food to carry, our packs are light for the tour across the Franz Joseph Glacier to the Fox Glacier and our destination Pioneer Hut.  The wide open expanse of these glaciers is so impressive that this is a World Heritage Area.  Night 4. Pioneer Hut Fox Glacier

Day 5. The touring from Pioneer Hut down to Chancellor Hut takes us through stunning crevasse field and ice falls.  How often do you have a day of skiing touring that is all downhill?  With a helicopter pickup at the hut we are transported back to our car and a welcome hot shower at the nights hotel.  Night 5. Fox Glacier

Day 6.  Driving north we come to Temple Basin Ski Area.  This is not your usual ski area, this is one of the famous New Zealand Club fields.  You will notice the difference right away when you start the 40min. climb from the car park to the base facilities.  Just because it is hard to get to does not mean that it is rough living.  Here the ski touring is from a lodge with excellent food, a well stocked bar, hot showers and magnificent views……you will understand why this is one of New Zealand’s jewels.  Using the rope tows to gain height there is a world of ski touring available. Night 6. Temple Basin Club Field

Day 7.  If the name Minga does not ring a bell, it will after a day in the steep sheltered bowls of this valley.  After a day exploring the back basins we return to our vehicle and relocate to the Alpine Club hut at Mount Cook Village. Night 7. Unwin Hut- Mount Cook Village

Day 8. After a big breakfast we are off to catch our airplane flight into the Murchison Glacier.  This area is very sheltered and is famous for its good quality snow.  The hut is located in a stunning position. With massive runs available you will be glad to be in top shape.  Night 8. Murchison Hut – Murchison Glacier

Day 9.  Mount Sydney King sits at the head of the Aida Glacier and astride the main divide of the South Island.  The long and winding approach is surrounded by 360 degrees of towering mountains.  Finding the ski run of a lifetime is like shooting fish in a barrel here.  Night 9. Murchison Hut – Murchison Glacier

Day 10. Travelling up and over the Murchison headwall takes onto the Tasman Glacier, New Zealand’s largest glacier, dropping our packs at Tasman Saddle Hut leaves us free to explore the upper glacier.  Hochsetter Dome provides 1500m runs right outside the door.  Night 10. Tasman Saddle Hut – Tasman Glacier

Day 11. Located on a stunning rock promontory Tasman Saddle Hut offers a sunrise that you will never forget.  The massive runs on Darwin Corner get warmed by the sun early so timing is everything.  This is spring touring you will never forget.  A gentle 10km ski down the lower Tasman Glacier gets us to our rendezvous with our helicopter ride back to the village.  Night 11. Ohau Lodge

Day 12.  After a night a beautiful Ohau Lodge we can use the chairlift at Ohau Ski Area to give us a jump into the backcountry.  This is big country and a drop down to Lake Dumbell with a tour back to the access road will leave you with your ski touring itch completely scratched.