It’s been quite some time since I crossed the ditch for a ski.
1994 in fact. Year 10 and Year 12 school trips to Mt Hutt, specifically.
I remember the 1992 trip well. New Zealand played beautifully to the stereotypes – within 100m of the airport exit we saw a paddock full of sheep, and soon after that evening while ordering fast food it was near-impossible to suppress the sniggers when we heard the 150kg All Black lookalike behind the counter talk about ‘Fush’ and ‘Chups’ and charging us ‘Suxty Sunts’. We were in juvenile teen schoolboy heaven.
Bus rides with Nirvana’s Nevermind blaring, my bright yellow Quiksilver suit, Oakley Frogskins and equally garish K2 Extremes, of Glen Plake fame. I was the shit – you can imagine the excitement and validation when the Frogskins and Extremes were re-released over the last couple of years.
Fast forward to 1994 – The yellow Quiksilver had become a Lime Green Spyder, the Frogskins upgraded to M-Frames and my beloved Extremes did not survive the non-season of 1993 at Buller so were replaced by some K2 TNCs. The memory of this trip however is a little hazy due to some cool teachers turning a blind eye to the duty free booze that made it into our bags…..
Since those fun times my Southern Hemisphere skiing was confined to the Oz resorts – as an APSI candidate and then employee I was fortunate enough to get around to all the resorts for various courses and exams, but NZ was never really an option for work reasons.
I’ve never really been taken by the concept of NZ resort skiing either, to be honest. I coached for a number of years alongside a well-travelled Kiwi native who didn’t really think much of his home resorts, and preferred life at Mt Buller. I’m not sure if his motives were 100% explained but I took it on board.
Regardless of whether it’s the USA, NZ, Europe or wherever, I’m drifting further and further from traditional resort skiing anyway. Buller each weekend serves its purpose to keep the legs moving and keep the skills up for overseas adventures, but it’s been the places such as Snowbird, Jackson, and recently Chamonix that have caught my eye. Large, wild ski areas, huge lifts to the top, and minimal human intervention on the way down.
So with that in mind, the NZ Club Fields entered the equation. No chairlifts, no grooming, no problems. Nutcracker lifts, open terrain, powder and steeps. Perfect.
Back in the ’90′s, when we all wore fluoro and Glen Plake was ‘da man’ I remember reading that he loved skiing in Craigieburn. That tidbit stuck fast in my mind, and remained tucked away for over 15 years. Fast forward to 2009, when well-plied at a wedding, a group of us were discussing what the next ski adventure should be, and in a moment of self-proclaimed brilliance I declared “NZ Club Field & Heli Trip. Stealth group of 4, no chairlifts, no skis under 100mm allowed”. It was sealed then and there.
The next few months were spent researching and planning, we’ll fly over during the last week in July, we’ve got a house rented at Castle Hill Village which is below the famed Craigieburn and Broken River Club Fields, and Kevin from Methven Heliski has been most helpful in suggesting an itinerary.
Extremes and bright suits have made way for Gotamas and Avvie Beacons – we can’t wait. We’ll need a little luck from the weather gods, but we’ve an open itinerary so each morning will present itself and hopefully we make the correct decision. The prospect of nutcrackers is daunting and exciting at the same time – god bless Youtube for showing us how.
I’ll continue to post about our trip, and depending on if we have decent broadband at our lodging I will put up some pics while we’re away.