For anyone uninitiated to the rigors of commuting to a club field their first day will truly play out as an adventure. These are things old hands may take for granted, it is well refreshing to stand back and see the experience through a first timers fogged up goggles.
The drive up sets alarm bells ringing, the winding wheel tracks scratched into sides of mountains do not conjure up far fetched promises of high speed quad-chairs or gondolas rather “we must be lost” or “This is some kind of shortcut, surely” but no, alas our forefathers forever etched their determination to create these ski fields into the very roadsides we hold our breaths on today. Whether its the cliff above cliff below combo, the single lane blind corners, the snow and ice covered 3 point switchbacks or even the silent car park and goods lift cable disappearing into the sky. Every one of the club fields demand daily questioning ‘WHERE are we going?!’ Once the question of arriving is successfully played out greetings are made by a gang of ‘friendly’ keas. The idea of removing windshield wipers or covering your car with netting seems ridiculous, protection from a bunch of curious parrots? really!? Newbies are swiftly sussed out by the green team, who, as quickly as we disappear toward the tows will hop atop unprotected vehicles and attach themselves to any piece of rubber or plastic and tear it off, I think it’s the Kea’s little reminder we are visiting their mountains and they require a memento of our visit! Their wicked sense of humor ensuring the crime remains undiscovered until windshield wipers are required to see the aforementioned road on the way back down!
Upon leaving the Keas to chew your car to bits, the steep, tractor engine driven ropes running through whirring steel pulleys up snow covered mountains above, come into view. This is a turning point for any club field first timer. The do or don’t moment that quickly shoves any thoughts of riding the snow above firmly into the back of the mind as the altitude gaining task at hand requires full concentration. Once the basics are passed on by any number of ever helpful seasoned veterans the nut cracker system becomes easy game and clubbie initiation is acquired!
This is just a tiny example of the clubbie experience, there are many other facets of each field that makes them awesomely unique, people, weather, epic snowfall scores with a handful of like minded friends to name a few. The actual riding remains something to be savored by those willing to make the journey, a fine reward for exploring the adventure spoken about in hushed tones, the Clubbies.
Sometimes the things we eagerly wait for take an eternity to come to us. With a hearty appoaching easterly storm on the way it was an easy decision to pack the car and run for the hills to whet a previously snow craved appetite! We are uniquely lucky in NZ to be blessed with diverse a geographic layout, for those of us who love winter it opens up the opportunity to chase the snow as weather systems unload upon our club fields at differing stages pass over our country
First stop Ohau received a good 20 fresh cms overnight. It’d just be plain rude to drive past such a thing, the clouds parted and remained overcast giving a great window of visibility to explore the terrain on offer up there, no rush as usual the crowds were non existent and snow plentiful!
Overnight as the the storm continued tracking east it developed a southwest flow that unleashed upon the Craigeburn range with 15+ falling on top of a fresh 15 below giving a wicked top up and producing conditions not to be missed. I picked up ol mate Colin Boyd in Chch and we headed west toward the Craigeburn Range, it was a case of ‘you should have been here yesterday’ was being played around the lodge quite well that morning (we lost a day getting stuff done in chch). The new snow had warmed considerably and a elevated avalanche danger presented us with no chance of going for a splitboard explore that day. Instead we lapped the upper tows finding fun lines surfing super deep wet pow till our legs gave out and had a blast with the unique snow conditions.
Keeping in mind the warming trend the Craiges’ were going through we left the mountains alone for a day to let the snowpack do its thing and hopefully return to more stable condition with a good old freeze up, Colin shot back to Wanaka and left myself pondering where to go next.
Easy. Temple Basin, definitely high on my list of favourite places in the world to hang out, hike and ride endless lines, no matter what the conditions there’s always an area at Temple that guarantees good snow when you are prepared to find it. Getting to Temple is like having a wave of stress disappear into thin air as you wonder up the track taking in the silence immersing into the natural environment.
The team making this place tick are always right on to where the good snow is and it wasn’t long before I found myself staring down epic terrain once again. Weather forecasts are showing a northerly storm approaching today with freezing levels on this side of the divide low enough to let it unleash snow upon Temple Basin in the quantities its famous for from this direction.
For now I will happily stay put and wait out the storm, nothing like being in the right place at the right time, next week will be epic.
Keep an eye on those forecasts and put yourself on a collision course with the next storm rolling through!