Hidden Gems

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By Sam Masters

Time is your most precious resource… It can’t be bought, sold, rented or financed. Seconds count during that portion of your life lived in good health and good humour.

Regrettably, time flies when you’re having fun! That’s why the best way to make your winter holiday feel three times as long, is to give up smoking the day you hit the slopes. The other way to make the most out of your vacation is to smash Chill’s carefully-vetted hidden gems:


Black Diamond Safaris  
It takes a few trips to get the hang of your average club field. There are a number of traps for young players, including hairy access roads, overheating on the hike to the lifts, or ill-fitting snow chains. A lack of preparation can ruin your day.

The best introduction to club fields is with an experienced outfit like Black Diamond Safaris. You’ll arrive in style, be shown the ropes (literally, given most club fields have rope tows) and taken straight to the secret stashes.  

It took me a long, long time to dial-in my nutcracker technique, favoured snow tyre manufacturer, ideal pit zip length, and a comfortable position in the nappy vs. tow belt debate. I still get caught out by an unexpected hot tub temperature at Mt Olympus, or by pressing the wrong button in the Tindall Tramway at Broken River.

Black Diamond Safaris sidesteps this tedium and points you straight to the goods with the minimum of fuss, even on the snowiest of days. They’re highly-recommended for those starting out at club fields, or for people who’d rather someone else does the hard yards.


Ski In, Ski Out: Staying On-Mountain 
Most skiers and snowboarders in New Zealand begin their day with a drive. The early alarm, the race for the mountain and the wait for tickets can dampen even the deepest of powder days.

Bust out of the hamster wheel by staying in on-mountain accommodation available at many Chill Mountains. It’s even better if you can time it so you arrive just before a storm and get a ‘lock in’. Some club fields will open the tows before they clear the road of snow - surely winter’s best window of opportunity! 


Haute Route: Craigieburn Range 
‘I’m not racist but’… I think Europeans are the world’s worst queue jumpers. They’re also relentless show-offs; with their effortless mastery of several languages, and sophisticated appreciation of fashion, music and cuisine. How pleasant it is then, that we don’t have to go the Alps to experience the dubious pleasures of European hospitality on the Haute Route (pronounced ‘hot rut’ in Spanish): we have the Craigieburn Haute Route!

Experienced guide Anna Keeling leads four-day missions from the Craigieburn Valley Ski Area to Mt Olympus; deep into the secret delights of the Craigieburn range. Along the way you can track out hidden bowls and chutes you‘ve always noted, along the drive past Castle Hill Village. 


Neon PomPom Freeski Academy
A ‘greatest hits’ package of Cantabrian winter-sports action! They’ll tailor your itinerary to wring the last ounce of goodness from the vagaries of weather, snow, fitness, ability and enthusiasm.

Canterbury lacked a fully-optioned, luxury winter-sports smorgasbord until Simon and Tom took flight like the Haast’s Eagle of old; soaring over the Canterbury Plains in the endless quest for awesome. This is as close as you can get to stepping straight into a best-of Kiwi winter experience… You soak up the good times, they deal with everything else!  www.neonpompom.co.nz  


Ski The Tasman                                                                                                 
High alpine terrain is jealously guarded by the experienced, the elite and the granite-jawed mountain folk who make it their playground. The backbone of the New Zealand Alps is, rightly, an intimidating and spectacular environment; certainly no place for average skiers. Or at least that’s the way it used to be, until the ‘Ski The Tasman’ experience started flying in the 1970’s. 

The Tasman Glacier hugs the sky-popping gnar of New Zealand’s highest peaks , providing mellow runs which make the glacier the ultimate real-mountain experience; a bucket-list buster for average and above-average skiers alike.


Black Peak Hut - Aspiring Guides 
Backcountry touring powder perfection,with access made easy. Black Peak is a five to seven-hour skin or snowshoe from the summit of Treble Cone Ski Area, or a 10-minute helicopter flight from the valley floor.

At 1725 metres, you’ll stay in a private hut which sleeps six… And slay the surrounding terrain with your private guide. You’ll carry just a light day pack, plus sleeping bags, cooking equipment, good lighting and an outside toilet are supplied.


Anyone with a lazy grand in their back pocket needs to ask the question: what exactly is money for? Heliskiing is many things but mainly, as my grandmother used to say, ‘an investment in living’.

For those on a strict budget, it takes some justification to blow the cost of a season pass on a day in the mountains. For the time-poor, wallet-heavy and heightened-experience junkie, heli time makes a lot of sense. Not all heliskiing is created equal. High, varied, glaciated and geographically diverse terrain is crucial to ensure the best snow on any given day.

Hidden Gems