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Before the Monsoon

  • 4 min read

Rollercoaster season. Rollerball season.

It's been a good one, but the snowpack is hurting something wicked after the ridiculous amount of rain we've just had. 

I’m writing this as I peer across my computer screen at yet another dismal webcam shot, a shocking image to behold knowing what was there previously. 

The snow will be back, and we’ll be back on for September. Surely. Anyway, here’s some of the goods I have got my mitts on since the start of August.

Monday 1 August: Wind Blown Powder Day at Craigieburn Valley

Free Refills

After a brief Sunday afternoon at Broken River sampling the last storm in July, Monday was lining up to be a good one with Craigieburn still yet to open. I made it to the carpark for a wait by the ticket queue for control work, and managed to nab first turns off the tows after a competitive sprint to the access ramp.

With Wind slab loading in the Middle Basin chutes they weren’t open, but everything else was, and the wind provided Free Refills.

Luke Gillespie finding the goods in the Middle Basin

Middle Basin open under the chutes, and plenty of snow to burn your legs on:

Windblown snow, refills every time, a great option.

Sunday 7 August: Monsoon Prep

With the reports not looking particularly enticing, we made the call to abandon the snow skis for water. 

Mitch Hobson Prepares to get Chill(y)

Like skiing fresh powder, except you can’t feel anything because it’s even colder. 

Tuesday 9th August: Winter Returns

With NZTA finally having started to do their job and actually opening the road in spite of some precipitation, James Russell and I headed off to Craigieburn again - the only field open from 9am, having stayed open throughout the storm on Monday.


With relatively few others we braved the slightly difficult visibility to score two fresh and bottomless runs down the Craigieburn side of The Remarkables, and multiple runs down Middle Basin. 

Great spot to take in the view on the top of The Remarkables - Ollie Hughes and co in the background.

Visibility could have been slightly better, still, great snow - P. Ollie Hughes. 

Finding some fresh at the bottom of The Remarkables, P. Ollie Hughes

Not being able to see was balanced by a smooth rain groomed base which was very stable too.

Last run down to Big Bend, P. Ollie Hughes

Wednesday 10th August: Freshies

Joined at Castle Hill on Tuesday Night by Sam Thomas and Remy Rae, we headed up to Broken River for Wednesday, to have one of my best days in New Zealand. Made it to the access platform by about 9am, enjoying having the gear shuttle to do the heavy lifting. I was soon up to the Main Tow. 

Light Jog to the Field - P. Remy Rae

This image brought to you courtesy of whoever stopped the Rugby Tow once I got above it, and left the main tow to all of the six people who were on it. 

Public Service Announcement: When the rope tows at The Clubbies get overloaded they can trip and turn off. You should listen to the staff when they say keep the 1 pulley spacing. If you don’t, you could well be one of the poor suckers who had the pleasure of watching from the access platform as myself and about 5 others made our mark on fresh snow on the main tow, while the Rugby Tow was reset. 

 P. Remy Rae

We soon ventured out to Avalanche basin.

Probably the best lift accessible slackcountry in the range, it was some of the best skiing I've ever had.

Remy Rae lets rip in Avalanche Basin, P. Julian Addington

Tracking out of bounds P. Remy Rae

With the main field open but the Ridge Tow out of action due to the excessive  snowfall on the towlibe and subsequent buried pulleys, Broken River staff set a bootpack up to open Margots and Downhill.


Main Basin at Midday P. Remy Rae

That’s how it was done in the old days. Even though its a super short walk, it meant there were plenty of fresh tracks available, down terrain that is usually tracked out within minutes. 

Sam Thomas and James Russell hiking the ridge to the top of Nervous Knob. P. Remy Rae.

Hadn't skied a completely fresh Margots Gulch before. Would recommend. P. Remy Rae.

First Flute Freshies. P. Remy Rae

After a pretty full day we took the backcountry route up to Hamilton Face (leaving Alan’s Basin for the next days’ patrons) and skied off the top right back to the car. 

Heading up Hamilton's Peak, P. Remy Rae

More great conditions. 

Tracks off Hamilton's. 

Sat/Sunday 13th and 14th August: Fun in the Sun at Craigieburn. 

With some fresh snow kicking about in the weekend, back to CV it was. A fully bluebird day and views as clear as can be, there were plenty of fresh turns to be had in the Middle Basin, and the Chutes were in great condition. 

James Russell in front of Middle Basin pre monsoon.

With a short term misplacement of my transceiver (later found beneath a car seat)  we stuck to the inbound terrain - but admired Katie Deans’ squiggles down Manson peak from afar. The Remarkables still held a heap of snow so we skied them too - but with warmer temperatures on the North facing aspect the sun was pillaging snow and sending it down the hill in the form of a few wet slides, so that was short lived.

Roller ball dodging, The Remarkables baking in the morning sun. 

Unfortunately, the snow has made way for rain for the time being, and we're into a Freeze Thaw cycle. 

One last pic of Craigieburn before the rain

While the rain has done some damage, there is still good skiing to be had and Mt Olympus has got the most snow by the sounds of things - that might be the best option for this weekend.