CHILL FEATURE: THE WAITING GAME
Ollie and Ben play the waiting game during the longest dry spell of the season so far, eventually finding familiar ground in 50cm of fresh.
Words and images by Ollie Hunt and Ben Hume. Thanks for the header picture Tim Clark.
There’s something about the skiing culture in New Zealand that you just don’t find anywhere else in the world. Your average snow sports enthusiast overseas enjoys their time on snow, don’t get me wrong, but as a born and bred Kiwi skier I can safely say we have fun and lots more of it (on a per capita basis that is of course). Here is why:
Ben: Having had a pow day every weekend of the Chill season so far the prospect of a hard pack weekend in combination with a Soaked Oats concert the night before had me a little reluctant to head to the hills. It’s not often I’m at all hesitant to go skiing, but the spoils of weekends past were barely at the back of my mind and I knew it would be hard to live it to those dreamy turns. Mount Olympus: As it turns out the snow was still in prime condition and by lunch time I had ticked off Little Alaska with Nick Pascoe and the boys had built a kicker at the top of frozen waves. As always seems to happen when testosterone is involved things escalated very quickly towards double backflip (attempts) from myself, Nick Pascoe and James Sheehan. All with as much luck as you’d expect with the bouncers on a Foundry Thursday.
Ollie: Fast forward one week and we were back at Olympus on this past Saturday, making use of the good weather before another storm. We made good use of the 5-10cms of fresh on top of a breakable crust and skied till about three at Mt Olympus. With incoming weather rearing its head about the tops and winds ramping up, we headed home, following a few mandatory beverages during our final runs.
Come Sunday and following a long session riding bikes down the downhill tracks in town Pierce Mccrerey, Sophie Juno, Charlie Murray and I decided to head for Temple Basin early on the Monday.
Leaving Christchurch later than planned due to road closures, we made it (through snow from Springfield) to the goods lift at 10:30am. Arriving at the field at 11:30 we were pumped having just walked through freshies the whole way up. We donned our gear and headed up to downhill tow to get our share of the good stuff. Fortunately, being a Monday, the field was not packed so there was plenty for all.
To finish the day we watched Charlie and Ryan Taylor ski off into the cloud around the Mingha towards the upper deception hut, hoping to climb and ski Mt Franklin on Tuesday.
Monday night saw a few of us have a few beverages and as a result started slowly on Tuesday. Pierce McCrerey, Sophie Juno and myself made the trek to Downhill tow and found that small overnight rain had created a tiny crust, but this meant nothing more than an interesting sound, and the following the cold air had dried the snow out below it.
We hiked elevator into upper bills as soon as it had opened, and scored fresh tracks off the ridge. We made our way through face shots down Cassidy chute to lunch, after which we made our way into the Mingha. The snow was epic with a little bit of the aforementioned crust and some massive cornices in the central ridge. Skinning out was a bit of a mission, especially since we had skied to the 3rd flat and it was Sophie’s first time skinning. After what seemed like infinite kick turns up the first pitch, we managed to hook into some snowboarder’s skin tracks and extend them up to within 5 metres of the ridge.
Skiing upper bills at 3:30pm involved some interesting leg work, with the solar aspects becoming thicker and harder to ski throughout the day. We finished the day running down the track and after Sophie had a run up to the goods lift to get her car keys from her jacket, we were on our way.
Ben: Although I didn’t manage to make it as far as Temple Basin I most definitely didn’t miss out on a good time. Leaving the Christchurch at around 7am my Flatmates and I headed west toward the porters pass (yet to decide where we would spend the day). After much (actually very little) deliberation we decided to hit up Craigieburn as we hadn’t skied there yet this season. We were treated to around 40 cm’s of mostly (“We were kind of open yesterday but kind of closed” - JP the patroller) untouched powder and blue skies to boot.
By mid-morning Craigieburn Valley had sold over 240 lift tickets so in an effort to maximize our fresh turns I hiked up past the top two shed to the Kia chutes with Jamesa Hampton and Jeremy Holland. The snow we found fluctuated from the best and worst turns of the day, the best lying in the shade and worst in the strong sunlight. So strong in fact that it managed to trigger 3 separate wet slides down the remarkable at 12 o’clock on the dot.
As the wind picked up towards the end of the day we found epic wind buffed snow to the skier’s left of the access tow topped off by a playful kicker at the bottom.