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Yoichi's take on Unofficial Networks' Top 5 NZ skifields

post #1 of 26
Thread Starter 
Unofficial Networks just posted a Top 5 listicle on NZ skifields, but there's some things they aren't telling you. I don't want to sound negative - I just want to add some details that I think are important.

Treble Cone
Treble Cone has a lot of vertical by Kiwi standards, and it has great terrain, but it only has a detachable six and a fixed quad, you must ride the six to reach the quad, and you must ride the quad to leave the basin it is in. Most of the best terrain is off the quad. This means early in the morning there are huge queues at the bottom of the six while everyone tries to get over to the quad. After that, there are typically large queues at the bottom of the quad for the rest of the day. Returning to the base from the quad means trying not to get killed by out of control intermediates on a fast and sometimes icy cat-track when the advanced slopes that allow a return to the six without riding the cat-track aren't open. (It is a resort field, make no mistake, so expect to be thoroughly gouged for anything you buy up the hill.)

The snowfall and depth figures are typically taken from the top of the quad, which is not representative of the rest of the field, due to the range in elevation and aspect. I've seen a 2.5m base on the summit slopes (top of the quad) but maybe 50cms of man made slush on the bottom 400ms of the six.

It really does have great terrain - when that terrain is open. One section of the field didn't open at all last season. When the snow is good, it really is one of the best places in the country to ski, but when the snow is middling or worse, there are better places to enjoy enjoy yourself.

It is 29kms from Wanaka, and the last 7kms of that are unsealed mountain road. Expect traffic to be incompetent and congested at that stage. There is no on-field accommodation. If you are traveling with someone who is a beginner or intermediate, they will likely not enjoy TC much as there is almost no beginner terrain and very little good intermediate terrain.


Cragieburn
Cragieburn is one and a half hours from Christchurch in good conditions (roughly 110kms), and generally you'll want to stay in the lodge there overnight or longer. Lodging means bringing your own bedding and helping out with general lodge duties. Lodging fees include breakfast and tea (dinner) but not lunch although you can buy it up there. Bear in mind you're in essentially in the arse end of nowhere so there will be no quick trips to the local dairy (7Eleven) for anything you don't bring with you. Like many smaller fields, this is not resort skiing - you'll get out what you put in.


Remarkables
Last year they added a detachable six, the first detachable on the hill. It has three quads plus some conveyors for beginners. The base building is being replaced and will hopefully be done in time for the start of this season. Like Treble Cone, it suffers from queues; more lifts (three are accessible from base) help offset the hordes of punters visiting Queenstown - Remarkables is only 15kms from Frankton and is one of the five main resort fields in the South Island (Wanaka: Treble Cone & Cardrona, Queenstown: Coronet Peak & Remarkables, Christchurch: Mt. Hutt). The road is better graded and maintained than TC, but the typical driver is even worse. Parking space is limited (given the number of skiers) although they're trying to mitigate this with an extra parking area down the road a bit combined with a shuttle.

The terrain park is good, but with the exception of the Stash (rock and log features, etc) the one at Cardrona is better (better jump lines, in particular).

It doesn't have a lot of vertical so if you hate short runs, this is not the place for you, but there is a surprising variety of terrain for all abilities and most tastes there. Like Treble Cone, there is no on-field accommodation.


Mt. Olympus
Mt. Olympus is a great place run by great people but it has the worst access road of any skifield in NZ, clubbie or otherwise. It is about 130km from Christchurch. Like Cragieburn, you'll want to lodge on the field, and it works the same way. All three meals are provided with lodging fees. The Blister Gear Review guys have been raving about it the last year or two so I expect it to become more popular the more people talk about it.


Broken River
Broken River is about 100kms out of Christchurch, and again, like Cragieburn and Mt. Olympus, it's more practical if you go for more than one day and lodge there. Lodging is either self catered or can include breakfast and tea. Either way, bring your own lunch.


All three Arthur's Pass fields mentioned (Cragieburn, Mt. Olympus, Broken River) can get unpredictable but huge storm deposits. That can mean great skiing once you've finished helping dig the facilities out. It can also mean rain if the weather doesn't work out the way you'd like it to. Whether you can ski to the fields from the lodges depends on the field and the conditions but if you're afraid of a 5 minute hike you won't get the most out of these places anyway.

All five fields, as is common in NZ, are quite rocky and skiing them benefits from good coverage or blatant disregard for the well-being of your edges and bases. All five fields also have great touring and hiking options.

Last but not least, there are other great places to ski down under, so don't forget to shop around. The Chill pass can get you access to a whole bunch of non-resort fields, plus a couple of days at TC if you want it. There's also the North Island - no real clubbies to speak of (sorry, Taranaki), generally more ice and riming, more people (most of NZ lives in the north), but bigger fields, better spring skiing, and the dubious novelty of skiing on volcanoes without Japan's oodles of pow.

Update:
As suggested in another thread by @dustyfog, I have made a custom google map. It has pins for active skifields but not heli/cat operations. Invincible is not a heliski operation - it is merely accessible only by chopper. I have marked the Snow Park despite it recently closure because it was only closed in the last couple of years and there is some slight hope it might open again.

Screenshot of the map:

Edited by Yoichi - 6/13/15 at 1:53pm
post #2 of 26

Its funny how subjective "lists" can be.  I have never been to Australia so I have no input but I like how you describe these mountains. 

post #3 of 26

fwiw, "2.5m base" doesn't mean ish to an American.

 

:)

post #4 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by Trekchick View Post
 

Its funny how subjective "lists" can be.  I have never been to Australia so I have no input but I like how you describe these mountains. 

um, @Trekchick, the poster is from NEW ZEALAND and is commenting on NEW ZEALAND snow fields.

 

Australia is an entirely different country. 

 

:0

post #5 of 26

@Yoichi: nice write-up, btw.  

post #6 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by dookey67 View Post
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Trekchick View Post
 

Its funny how subjective "lists" can be.  I have never been to Australia so I have no input but I like how you describe these mountains. 

um, @Trekchick, the poster is from NEW ZEALAND and is commenting on NEW ZEALAND snow fields.

 

Australia is an entirely different country. 

 

:0


Well that works because I haven't been to New Zealand either.  Where was that cool dude from that we chatted with in the Aframe at A-basin? 

post #7 of 26

New Zealand. 

Dennis, I believe his name was/is.

post #8 of 26
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Trekchick View Post

Its funny how subjective "lists" can be.  I have never been to Australia so I have no input but I like how you describe these mountains. 
To be honest, I think Top X lists don't have much value because they are so subjective, especially when the writer doesn't list their aims or goals, but I wrote my wee spiel because I think whomever wrote the original list ought to have provided more details and could have given a more balanced view of the fields they picked.
Quote:
Originally Posted by dookey67 View Post

fwiw, "2.5m base" doesn't mean ish to an American.
Oh, I'm well aware how little snowfall we get compared to... well, anywhere worth skiing in the northern hemisphere. Or was that commentary on metric units? wink.gif

I ski the clubfields for the culture, the resorts when I'm short on time, and everywhere for the scenery, but without much expectation of great snow conditions. That's reserved for going overseas during our summer biggrin.gif
Quote:
Originally Posted by dookey67 View Post

um, @Trekchick
, the poster is from NEW ZEALAND and is commenting on NEW ZEALAND snow fields.

Australia is an entirely different country.
I know some of us are a bit touchy about that, like some Canadians are about being mistaken for being from the U.S... but it's no big deal, at least to me.
The difference is easy to tell in person though - if six sounds like seeks, you've found an Australian, but if six sounds closer to sucks, it's a Kiwi.
Quote:
Originally Posted by dookey67 View Post

@Yoichi
: nice write-up, btw.
Thanks smile.gif
post #9 of 26
Great timing of the post for me since I will be in New Zealand in two weeks. Unfortunately, we are leaving before Treble Cone is scheduled to open and that is where I most wanted to ski. Probably will ski Cornet Peak and perhaps Cadrona or the Remarkables ( Mt Hutt is a remote possibility). Since it it early season we don't have high expectations but want to check it out. The main motivation. the point of the trip is to see New Zealand generallly. Skiing is just one activity.

For anyone who has skied both,what would be the deciding factor between Coronet or Cadrona? Family consists all competent to really good skiers. Older kids like park skiing if there is no off trail to be had.
post #10 of 26

I have skied in New Zealand in 4 different seasons, and unfortunately I must agree with Yoichi's take on snow reliability.  Only my late August 2006 trip had consistently good snow conditions.  Therefore for advance planned trips stick to peak season of August/early September to maximize coverage.  This is especially true for the club fields which have no snowmaking. 

 

My last trip in mid-July 2010 violated my own advice because I was in the South Pacific for a solar eclipse cruise and an extension to NZ was cheap.  Nonetheless I got to ski 4 areas in varied conditions, including Mt. Olympus and Broken River.  Cragieburn is the steepest club field and my host said coverage was not yet adequate there.  My feature article about that trip: http://www.firsttracksonline.com/2011/06/17/new-zealand-skiing-snowboarding-canterbury-hutt-olympus-broken-river-porters/

 

So in response to SB77, June in NZ is not like December in the US, more like November.  Coronet Peak has perhaps the best snowmaking system in the Southern Hemisphere, so that's probably where you should go.  It also has the only paved ski area access road on South Island.   Cardrona has the highest base elevation in the Southern Lakes District and mostly mellow terrain, so that's what might help it a bit in early season vs. other places.  Mt. Hutt has snowmaking in its central bowl. 

 

You will need to be very lucky for any advanced terrain to be covered. Wind is also an issue in stripping early snow from exposed areas, which are many due to no trees. Skiing will likely be just a few snowmaking groomers.  Coronet has fun rolling terrain that is covered by tussocks, a thick local grass, so you may be able to get away with thin snow cover better there than in a more rocky place like the Remarkables or Treble Cone.  Do not take skis on this trip.  You might not be skiing at all, and you can demo good quality skis in NZ, as I did in 1997, 2006 and 2010.

post #11 of 26
Thanks Tony--good advice as always. Our expectations are not high. We are just looking to have some fun.

As I have been looking into Cadrona and Coronet, they seem like bigger versions of Dollar Mountain at Sun Valley. If that is anything close to reality, we will have a good time.
post #12 of 26
Thread Starter 
Coronet will open next week, Cardrona and Remarkables the following week. I expect all of them to open with limited terrain. June is the bare bones beginning of our season. Fortunately we had one good storm to get us started last week and it's stayed cold thus far.

Coronet and Cardona both have fairly mellow terrain, and both have good snow making, with Coronet being by far away the best in as regards snow making (Cardrona is probably in the running for second place, though). Neither need as much base to open as Remarkables or Treble Cone because they are not as rocky. The Coronet road is fully sealed and is the closest ski area to a major town. Cardrona has a gravel road but it is a nice gradient and well maintained - as far as gravel access roads go it is pain free. (Note that the Remarkables road is now partially sealed, by the way, but the Cardrona road is still an easier drive). If you're staying in Queenstown, Coronet has the easiest access by far - 15kms (~10 miles) from town to the base building. If you're staying in Wanaka, Cardrona is a pretty easy drive (about 20 miles, most of it flat), but if you're in Queenstown you have to go over the Crown Range (narrow but sealed mountain road - terrible drivers will be the biggest issue) before you go up the access road.

I think there will be little if any ski-able black at Cardrona on opening day, because their black runs are off-piste, but they may have some decent park features ready. In contrast Coronet has snowmaking on some black groomers (although their standard for black is pretty low IMO), but if it opens with any park features they will be barely worth the name unless something special is being made for festival week (Coronet hasn't had a decent park for years). Coronet is pretty easy to make your own fun at because of the rolling terrain, Cardrona has slicker laps IMO.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony Crocker View Post

You will need to be very lucky for any advanced terrain to be covered. Wind is also an issue in stripping early snow from exposed areas, which are many due to no trees. Skiing will likely be just a few snowmaking groomers. Coronet has fun rolling terrain that is covered by tussocks, a thick local grass, so you may be able to get away with thin snow cover better there than in a more rocky place like the Remarkables or Treble Cone. Do not take skis on this trip. You might not be skiing at all, and you can demo good quality skis in NZ, as I did in 1997, 2006 and 2010.
Great advice. Also, wind stripping is an issue on all NZ fields almost the entire season, but parts of Mt. Hutt are particularly prone to it.

In summary:
This is very early season for us, don't expect too much.
Cardrona: Easily accessible from Wanaka, moderately accessible from Queenstown. Expect to be lapping manmade snow on blue groomers, maybe some quality park features.
Coronet: Very easily accessible from Queenstown, not worth the time from Wanaka. Expect to be lapping manmade snow on blue/black groomers, and if you're lucky there will be a modestly proportioned jump somewhere
post #13 of 26

Great summary Yoichi - agree with all you said. It always intrigues me how they come up with the choices that they do, especially when it comes to clubs in the Craigieburns (and they never go further west than Cragieburn). We've given Southern Lakes skiing a miss for the last few years because we are restricted to school holidays and it has gotten beyond insane with our hoildays coinciding with the Aussie holidays.

 

For those of you interested in what club fields are like, both with respect to skiing and other facilities - here's a good video from the volkl international team a couple of years ago at Temple Basin which is further along State Highway 73 than Broken River and Cragieburn. For those interested in touring, SH73 is our low-tech version of the I70 - there are 4 fields including Cragieburn and Broken River (or six if you add Olympus) that are commonly (or used to be) toured between. There's also some good footage of the Kea, our mountain parrot in action (they love eating rubber and gloves etc) and the Temple Basin Goods Lift, and rope tows. Oh and some local music (sorry, couldn't work out how to embed - the video is labelled private but plays fine for me).

 

https://vimeo.com/groups/newschoolers/videos/16072982

 

SB77 the deciding factor will probably be snow coverage. At the moment Cardrona is looking better and from the webcam (main basin right hand side) you can see the terrain park which looks like it will be ready for opening day. There are also half pipes but they usually open later. Cardrona is the home mountain of Jossi, Byron, Beau James and Jackson - so although the ski field might be small by international standards the park is not - it's big. At this stage I'd say that there is very little chance of off-piste at either. Oh and Cardrona now has snowmaking installed.

 

If you are driving from Queenstown to Christchurch, the inland scenic route is much nicer and not much longer in terms if driving time (about 20 minutes max). If you do take this route then stop at the Stavely Store for coffee and something to eat - it's really good.

post #14 of 26

Again, what Yoichi said, must have been posting at the same time

post #15 of 26
Thread Starter 
I dunno what it is with the clubbies - it's like the people writing most news articles just stop driving any further once they hit Cragieburn most of the time. Can't blame anyone re. Southern Lakes in Aussie holiday season - I love some of the terrain easily available down here but the crowds are the utter bane of my life.

Great video btw, Temple Basin is awesome... it ought to get more love in my opinion. Good to see some local Wanaka icons too.
I've dug up the Blister Gear Review links I mentioned earlier for anyone who's interested: 2013 & 2014 First one is a trip report, second one is just a teaser.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ski Kiwi View Post

If you are driving from Queenstown to Christchurch, the inland scenic route is much nicer and not much longer in terms if driving time (about 20 minutes max). If you do take this route then stop at the Stavely Store for coffee and something to eat - it's really good.
I wholeheartedly second this. Although if there is a big snowstorm in the forecast, be aware that part of SH8 goes through a mountain pass. Worst case a truck driver jack-knifes his B-train and the pass gets blocked for a day or so. Improbable, but it has happened.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ski Kiwi View Post

Again, what Yoichi said, must have been posting at the same time
Looks like it wink.gif Great minds think alike.

Also, webcams!
Cardrona (dark at the moment, try the time lapse)
Coronet Peak
post #16 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by Yoichi View Post


I know some of us are a bit touchy about that, like some Canadians are about being mistaken for being from the U.S... but it's no big deal, at least to me.
The difference is easy to tell in person though - if six sounds like seeks, you've found an Australian, but if six sounds closer to sucks, it's a Kiwi.
Thanks smile.gif

 

Can be a bit frightening the first time a Kiwi tells you about having a BBQ on his deck. Or how he sanded his deck.

post #17 of 26
Quote:
We've given Southern Lakes skiing a miss for the last few years because we are restricted to school holidays and it has gotten beyond insane with our hoildays coinciding with the Aussie holidays.

Since those school holidays are in the first half of July and the second half of September, that should not affect foreign visitors trying for optimal snow conditions.  This is in contrast to the Euro school holidays right in the sweet spot for expected snow conditions.

 

Quote:
It always intrigues me how they come up with the choices that they do, especially when it comes to clubs in the Craigieburns (and they never go further west than Cragieburn).

My guess is that it's because Temple Basin has a 45-minute hike from parking to ski slope, as Broken River did before its funicular could handle people as well as goods.  I have not been there, but Temple Basin supposedly has sunny exposure.  It was not open during my 2010 trip.

 

I should also mention that the Porters public field is also in that Arthur's Pass region.  It had the best skiing of my 2010 trip in corn snow on Big Mama.

 

Quote:
wind stripping is an issue on all NZ fields almost the entire season, but parts of Mt. Hutt are particularly prone to it.

Mt. Hutt was well-covered during my 2010 trip from a big June storm, but all of its steeps were closed due to subsequent rain and wind icing the snow.

 

Hopefully SB77 has a rental car and some schedule flexibility in case he gets lucky with the weather/snow.  That is key to planning an NZ ski trip IMHO.  You will almost certainly experience some weather shutdowns, but there are lots of other things to do there besides ski.  Use your best weather day to see Milford Sound, as I did in 1982 and 1997.  In 2006 I was on a press trip and the trip to Milford was on the only bad weather day.


Edited by Tony Crocker - 6/1/15 at 8:49am
post #18 of 26

Thanks to all of you for the advice and information. 

 

Quote:
 SB77 the deciding factor will probably be snow coverage. At the moment Cardrona is looking better and from the webcam (main basin right hand side) you can see the terrain park which looks like it will be ready for opening day.

 

We will play it by ear between Coronet and Cadrona.  I know my oldest son will vote for Cadrona due to the park stuff but I think Coronet will be better for my wife/youngest son.  It would probably be an easier decision if Coronet had a few more (or any) park features.  But as Yoichi points out, the Cadrona webcam currently paints a prettier picture on the conditions.

 

Quote:
 Hopefully SB77 has a rental car and some schedule flexibility

We have both and, like you suggest, we are trying to use the best weather day for Milford Sound.  We have reserved a 4wd with chains.

 

Quote:
 
If you are driving from Queenstown to Christchurch, the inland scenic route is much nicer and not much longer in terms if driving time (about 20 minutes max). If you do take this route then stop at the Stavely Store for coffee and something to eat - it's really good.
I wholeheartedly second this. Although if there is a big snowstorm in the forecast, be aware that part of SH8 goes through a mountain pass. Worst case a truck driver jack-knifes his B-train and the pass gets blocked for a day or so. Improbable, but it has happened.

 

We have a couple of alternative routes to Christchurch.  The good weather option is over Haast Pass and up the West Coast and back over Arthur's Pass.  The second option goes over Lindis Pass and by Mt. Cook, Lake Tekapo etc (I really want to go to Mount Cook even if we don't go back this way so I am thinking about driving over from Queenstown for a day).  We were planning to do the inland scenic route and will remember to stop by the Stavely Store.  The poor weather option (if we can't get over Lindis) is to head down to Omaramu and up the coast.

post #19 of 26
Thread Starter 
Quote:
We have both and, like you suggest, we are trying to use the best weather day for Milford Sound.  We have reserved a 4wd with chains.
So long as the road as passable, Milford can actually be pretty spectacular in bad weather too, if the cloud isn't in too low. Of course the ideal situation is to go during good weather just after heavy rain.
Quote:
We have a couple of alternative routes to Christchurch.  The good weather option is over Haast Pass and up the West Coast and back over Arthur's Pass.  The second option goes over Lindis Pass and by Mt. Cook, Lake Tekapo etc (I really want to go to Mount Cook even if we don't go back this way so I am thinking about driving over from Queenstown for a day).  We were planning to do the inland scenic route and will remember to stop by the Stavely Store.  The poor weather option (if we can't get over Lindis) is to head down to Omaramu and up the coast.
Sounds like you've got it all sorted smile.gif Enjoy.
post #20 of 26
Quote:
It would probably be an easier decision if Coronet had a few more (or any) park features.

The rolling hills of tussocks are like a natural terrain park.  You could argue that an artificial one is unnecessary there.

Quote:
Of course the ideal situation is to go to Milford during good weather just after heavy rain.

That was the first trip in 1982.  That was the most impressed I've ever been by natural scenery.  

Quote:

Milford can actually be pretty spectacular in bad weather too, if the cloud isn't in too low.

It was about 500 feet above the water in 2006, plus it was raining.  I kept my mouth shut about how spectacular it was in 1982.

 

Liz and I hiked the Milford Track in November 2012.  Supposedly we were among only 10% of groups not to get rained upon during the hike.  At the end Milford Sound was very different that time, very few ribbon waterfalls and the sea water was not opaque from runoff; you could see 20-30 feet down.

post #21 of 26
Thread Starter 
@SB77 Cardrona has just confirmed they're opening a week early.

We have had a couple of warm days recently, and some rain, and although I'm not sure how the snow is holding up it can't be too bad if Cardrona are still going ahead with opening a week early. There's a an occluded front still hanging around, and a chance of snow tonight. More rain expected next week, not sure if it'll be cold enough to snow yet. I'll try to post some updates about conditions.
EDIT: It's just after midday and temps have dropped enough for the rain to turn to snow around 1100m. (Coronet base is about 1150m, Cardona base around 1650m). Prospects are good for tonight. Local wind patterns are pretty messed up in this storm, not sure which fields will benefit from this the most yet,
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony Crocker View Post

The rolling hills of tussocks are like a natural terrain park.  You could argue that an artificial one is unnecessary there.
You can certainly have a hell of a lot of fun with the rolls at Coronet, but it works better if off-piste isn't 90% bare tussock. Which it can be very early season.
Quote:
It was about 500 feet above the water in 2006, plus it was raining.  I kept my mouth shut about how spectacular it was in 1982.

Liz and I hiked the Milford Track in November 2012.  Supposedly we were among only 10% of groups not to get rained upon during the hike.  At the end Milford Sound was very different that time, very few ribbon waterfalls and the sea water was not opaque from runoff; you could see 20-30 feet down.
Sounds like you've seen Milford at its best then smile.gif It's almost a whole different place depending on conditions. And yes, if you walk the Milford Track it is fairly unusual to make it through without getting rained on at all, seeing as it rains about three days in every four there and it takes four days to walk the track.

If you're back again, you like to paddle, and you haven't already done it, I would thoroughly recommend kayaking Dusky Sound or Doubtful Sound as well.
Edited by Yoichi - 6/2/15 at 5:45pm
post #22 of 26

We took the Lake Manapouri to Doubtful Sound trip on the good weather day in 1997.  Along with the impressive scenery, a pod of dolphins chases the tour boat in Doubtful Sound.

post #23 of 26
Thread Starter 
Custom google map added with all the fields.
post #24 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by Yoichi View Post

Custom google map added with all the fields.

Too cool for school, thanks Yo.

post #25 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by Yoichi View Post

Custom google map added with all the fields.


Very nice!

 

Screen shot just to give an idea of the details.  In the actual webpage, can scroll down to see the rest of the names in the other colors.

 

post #26 of 26
Thread Starter 
Oh, that's very sensible. I've added a similar screenshot to the original post smile.gif
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