South Island New Zealand is home to not only a bunch of big ski resorts, but some small commercial fields and some even smaller club fields. Club fields are open to the public, frequently have on snow accommodation but rarely have chairlifts. It's usually either T-bars or rope tows, using the aptly named nutcracker, to get you to the top of the hill. But there's no crowds, no queues and the slopes are not churned up. Meaning skiing powder all day long!
I purchased a midweek Chill pass, which allows me access to 11 club and small commercial fields between Monday and Friday. All I have to do is turn up to a ski field of my choice, pick up a day pass and I'm away. Longest queue of the day: picking up the day pass!
Day one was spent at Porters, the closest ski field to Christchurch. I only had a half day here due to the afore-mentioned snow chain debacle, but with heavy cloud and poor visibility only clearing in the afternoon it ended up the better part of the day on the mountain.
Porters has 3 T-bars and a platter tow for the learners' area. The first tow takes you up to some pretty easy groomed runs down to the carpark. To get you into off-piste terrain you need to head up T2, where you have a few more options, but the real stuff happens off the third T-bar which takes you up to the top of the mountain and some lovely views. T3 wasn't open on my first day, which was also Porters' opening day, and my legs weren't up to the task of skiing difficult off-piste yet, so some sweet turns in Julian's Bowl sufficed.
Day 2 saw me taking the snowy drive to Mt Cheeseman. Definitely need chains to get up this mountain.
Cheeseman is a wonderful club field. Friendly locals, absolutely no queues, you have to load yourself onto the T-bars (there are two), and the cafe sells great cheap food. Oh, and awesome dry powder on the shady Cockayne bowl. I went up and down that run until my poor legs gave out and I was falling over on the groomers. Which meant it was time to go home!
|View from the Mt Cheeseman carpark|
There's a massive traverse track that allows you access to a huge amount of terrain, much of it open bowls full of very nice snow. The sunny sides had some icy crusts on them, but as they softened there were some nice runs to be had as my legs began to do what they are supposed to do.
My final run of the day was the traverse right across to Bluff Face. The descent is straight down, the snow was soft and dry and I made it top to bottom with only two rest stops. To give you some idea how long this run is, here's a couple of photos. The small speck in the middle of the first photo is a skier.
|Can you see the traverse track right up the top?|
|Zoomed in shot of the top half of Bluff Face, see the boarder lower left?|
My thighs were burning, I'd conquered a long steep run, and I had a date with the Mountain Designs outlet store in Christchurch for a new pair of snow boots.
We'll finish off with the footage of my Bluff Face descent. Enjoy!!