The Clubbies are Firing!
With a few years of lackluster early snowfalls and slow starts to the season, Canterbury was first in line for a bumper early season. After a few collect calls to the snow gods and some tough negotiation, we managed to tee one up. I’ve been trying to get the best of it, and while there’s plenty more to come, here’s 5 days of goodness so far:
Hanmer Springs, Sat 24 June: Wind buffed novelty.
The typical early season east coast snowfall arrived, and after a spontaneous decision on Friday night, I headed to Amuri, for their 14th consecutive day open.
Even with clouds, the view from the top of the Poma is great out into the St James and Jack's/Jollies Pass regions above Hanmer.
I’d never been there before, but managed to find some good snow - the Poma is unique and it's a novelty having a smiling person pull a cord to release each seat and pass it to you. It’s not the fastest lift in the world, but it still beats walking or even skinning. From the top of the Poma there's a great view across the plains back to Christchurch, and the rope tow is a great one for learning how to flick your nutcracker, with a gentle gradient.
The Amuri rope tow is a great gradient if you're just getting into it.
Even with a beating delivered by the wind earlier in the week, there was still plenty of good snow to ski - more than enough to test the legs out and milk a few face shots in the wind.
Temple Basin, Wed 13th July: Foolishly Optimistic
Escaping Christchurch on Tuesday 12th July, through flooding on the plains and over (a completely snow free ) Porters pass, six of us stayed at Castle Hill and then made for Temple Basin on the 13th. Unfortunately our plans of having an epic powder day were scuttled by a freezing level so high it belonged in an Afroman song, coupled with a considerable amount of precipitation.
Jeremy Hunt leads the boys to water (Rain)
Being foolishly optimistic and having taken the day off work, we walked up regardless, and got soaked. After drying off over a few games of cards, then getting saturated once more trying to move in the soggy snow, we departed Temple at Midday, home by 3.
Drowned Rats - Tom Prier, Dan Cleland, Jeremy Hunt (L-R)
Total time on the mountain: 3 Hrs. At least skin is waterproof.
Craigieburn, Sat 16 July: More fun with your Mum.
Unfortunately I missed Broken River's opening, but heard it was a cracker of a day - so I made sure I made it to Craigieburn's. Leaving Christchurch at a leisurely 7am, we were on snow at 9am - no 5am start required.
The Cass looking good with a little inversion layer
The day was a pearler. Middle basin was skiing superbly with the Chutes especially so, and we lapped them all day.
Middle Basin offering up some smooth goodness.
Many cliffs are (still) barely even visible due to the huge amount of snow, and there was about 25cm of fresh in most places. A welcome change from our mid week drenching, and a great base to play on. After finishing the day lapping the Chutes with Simon Hewitt, I was proud of my legs for their valiant efforts getting me back to the lodge through a particularly firm middle basin bush track.
Porters, Sun 17 July: Blowing in the wind blown.
Heading to Portersthe next morning for a quick thrash on the groomers I was pleasantly surprised that the snow was skiing well, and managed to score plenty of laps down Julian's bowl, uninterrupted by queues. Unfortunately T3 was shut early due to wind - which means that I have not yet skied Big Mama this year. A pity as it’s absolutely loaded - hopefully this week's storm tops it up.
Riding with Remy while surveying the wild weather in the mountains from a safe distance.
With the weather not looking like improving, I ducked off at 1230 and instead watched the weather from a distance - spending the rest of the day Mountain Biking on the Port Hills.
Broken River, Fri 22 July: Head in the clouds, feet in the pow.
With the MFC coaching clinic readying to start on Saturday, myself, Tom Prier, Dan Cleland, and all 3 of the Murray Siblings (and an excessive volume of their gear) piled in and headed up to Broken River.
With the Tyndall Tramway due to be repaired this week, the gear shuttle took our gear up. In no time we were on the field scoring freshies with zero queues. Like the rest of the Craigieburn range, the field has filled in more than I’ve ever seen it, and the snow was epic.
While the visibility was a little intermittent, most of the day was pretty clear. We managed to score fresh tracks on the main basin and into the flutes - all places skiing superbly.
Here's a reel from the day:
Craigieburn and Broken River, Sat 23 July: Remarkable.
With more snow that I’ve ever seen at Broken River on Friday, we chose to ski Craigieburn on Saturday and sprinkle in a little hiking to unlock some of the best and steepest skiing in the Craigieburn Range: The Remarkables.
After a few laps sampling the good snow in Middle Basin and on Hamilton Face, Mitch Hobson and I skied the Craigieburn side of The Remarkables, finding fresh turns before the sun baked them - and there were a few others laying some turns down too.
Jamie Prebble opening up on the Craigieburn side of The Remarkables
Hiking The Remarkables from Craigieburn is one of the easiest, best value for effort hikes on the Chill pass. P: Remy Rae.
The view of Alan's Basin is epic from The Remarkables. P: Remy Rae
We then grabbed Remy and Jezza and again climbed The Remarkables, this time dropping in the completely untracked Broken River side. It was epic - the view alone was well worth the walk back up the Stairway to Heaven, the skiing terrific too.
Jeremy and I scoping out a route down the Broken River side of The Remarkables, - Broken River's Palmer lodge in the background. If you look closely on the left of the image you can also see the Cheeseman lodge too, just over the ridge of Mt Wall. P: Remy Rae.
Yours truly milking a turn, snapped by Remy Rae
Jezza and I skied a long chute down to Windy Corner, while Mitch and Remy linked some long figure 8s down a chute that opened out onto a wide face to the left of ours.
Mitch Hobson letting loose on the lower part of The Remarkables, P: Remy Rae
Fortunately for our egos, no-one crashed, important given most of the run was in full view of Palmer Lodge at BR.
Mitch Hobson opening up onto open face full of pow, snapped from Broken River by Richard Goldsbury
After walking the short hike to the field up stairway to heaven, we had a quick lunch watching MFC Coaches Charlie, Craig, Jamesa, Pascoe, and Kenji controlling a crowd of super talented kids intent on jumping a huge snow ramp in front of the lodge. Managed to catch up with the my parents and even score a lap down The Stash with Mum too.
A slightly slower walk back over to Hamilton Peak after a quick stop at the BR toastie machine - P: Remy Rae
With a thirst for more fresh snow we headed back up to Hamilton Peak. Scoring even more fresh turns off the peak, down to the Craigieburn carpark was a great way to finish a great day.
Thanks to the weather gods for their great contribution to this article, and thanks to Remy Rae for the Photos!