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Oz/nz Trip, Aug 22 - Sep 7, 2007

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
OZ & NZ TRIP SUMMARY

Trip date: Aug 22 – Sep 7.

GENERAL COMMENT. These dates may have been too late in the season for good snow cover or maybe it was just unseasonably warm this year. As noted on many websites, NZ mountain weather can change quickly and wind can shut down parts of mountains without much notice. Since it can be quite a drive to most mountains from Queenstown or Christchurch (Methven is closer to Mt Hutt; Wanaka to Treble Cone and Cardrona), it can leave you bummed to go up based on what you read on the mountain’s website early morning only to arrive and find things shut down. A lot of flexibility required when selecting which mountain to visit on a particular day. If renting a car, include chains as this is often required to drive up and in only one place were there people willing to put them on for us. Since there are other reports on NZ skiing on this website, I’ll just comment on some of the logistics involved in our trip.

AUSTRALIA. Stopover in Sydney on the way out. Useful to get used to the time change and to see the city. Aim for something near Hyde Park (city center) as most of what is of interest is around this area. Apart from the sights, plenty of good restaurants and pubs (!!!). Nice beach drives to Manly and Bondi. TimeOut Sydney was a very useful guidebook for the area.

SKIING: THREDBO, SNOWY MOUNTAINS (NEW SOUTH WALES). It’s about 5-6 hours south of Sydney on a good highway which passes through the country’s capital, Canberra. It can take a lot longer depending on the time you are travelling (traffic out of Sydney and through Canberra). I couldn’t see doing it in less than 5 unless you are very familiar with the roads. There’s a town which is about 30 minutes from Thredbo called Jindabyne. It’s a collection of housing developments and two strip malls. We stayed there in a “lodge”, which was just a converted private house. Make sure you map clearly wherever you are going to stay in advance as no one knew the location of the lodge, even with the address, so if you arrive late you could find yourself unable to get to the property. There are a few places to go out in Jindabyne but I think two evenings is the max to stay there.

After seeing the base village for Thredbo, I would probably stay there on a future trip for convenience, but it’s a lot more expensive and usually you have to book two nights (including many places in Jindabyne). To get to Thredbo you drive into the Kosciuszko National Park and have to pay an entrance fee (c. A$27, I think). You then park at the base. The skiing (late spring conditions) itself was enjoyable for a day. Worth the trip, though we crammed it in based on our changing dates (drive down one day, go out in town in the evening, up early for the skiing, drive back to Sydney late the same day). Overall, a lot of driving for one day’s skiing. An alternative to driving is to fly to Cooma, a town about an hour from Jindabyne (so 1.5 hours drive from Thredbo), and then rent a car in Cooma, but the airport is small and I didn’t see any car rental places as we drove by.

If you have more time, it might be good to add an extra day so you can ski one of the other mountains in the area (e.g., Perisher Blue). Lift tickets and lodging in the area very pricy but Sydney prices were good (Hyde Park Plaza Suites; additional daily charge for parking) in comparison to US big cities. If internet access is important, check with the hotel in advance. There was no in-room internet in this hotel except a faint signal from someone else’s wireless router somewhere which we picked up and used occasionally. Decent fitness center in the hotel (pool as well) and the “City Gym” was not too far away. Good facilities at the latter.

NEW ZEALAND. Flew directly from Sydney to Christchurch. We opted to stay in Christchurch rather than Methven because there’s more nightlife in Christchurch. The attraction in this area is Mt. Hutt, which is operated by the same people who own Coronet Peak and the Remarkables in Queenstown so discounted multi-day/resort passes might be possible. We bought at the ticket windows in all places. Christchurch has some really good Asian food (Indian in particular). Some good pubs in the center of town and a stretch of café/restaurants along the river. Central cathedral is very nice and they have a boys’ choir performance most afternoons, which was a nice diversion from the skiing-pub crawl experience. Stayed in the Millennium Hotel right in the center of town. Good hotel and very good prices on their website. Best hotel of the whole trip. Drive to Mt. Hutt billed as “just over an hour” but it easily took about two. Beautiful countryside on the way there and some fantastic photos from the mountain access road to the surrounding plains.

SKIING: MT. HUTT. Apparently NZ has not been having a good year. Limited coverage and the perennial problem of rapidly changing weather and winds closing down parts of the mountain. Only a small part of Mt Hutt was skiable on the day we were there. I had read the drives were all scary but if you go slowly and let the speeders pass, it’s no problem. The access roads to all the mountains are generally unpaved and gravelly/muddy/very bumpy without side railings. Better to get a 4WD if you can afford it. There are shuttle buses from Christchurch up to the mountain but we drove.

SOUTH ISLAND DRIVE. One of the big things to do on the south island of NZ is to drive along the west coast. To do this from Christchurch, you drive west over to Arthur’s Pass (some small ski fields in the vicinity of Arthur’s Pass---no idea of the quality and we didn’t have time to stop) to cross the mountains (it’s about 250km) and get to the west coast, then head down the coastal highway until you get to Haast Pass (about 250km), turning back to the east and crossing the mountains again, coming first to Wanaka and then 100km further along, Queenstown. It’s a long drive! Due to time constraints we decided to do it all in one day. The Christchurch-Arthur’s Pass portion is Lord of the Rings type countryside. Very beautiful, roads mostly deserted and weather fine. However, once you cross the mountains, it’s more likely than not going to be raining. The weather and climate seem subtropical. Amazing vegetation (similar to Hawaii), some awesome bridges going over steep drops and great looking interior lakes and beaches (like a drive along the CA coastline between LA and SF). Mt Cook/Aoraki not visible due to cloud cover. Two big glaciers about halfway down the drive (Franz Joseph and Fox) are worth a visit but it’s often not easy to see much due to the low cloud cover. Lots of places to stop and eat along the way. Be sure to keep the car filled up because gas stations are not very frequent along certain stretches of this road. Turning back inland at Haast led back to the type of vegetation and mountain views seen before Arthur’s Pass (LOTR+). It’s very beautiful, especially along some of the lakes. However, we were pushing 11 hours at that point and basically just wanted to get to the hotel in Queenstown as it was starting to get dark. But the drive was worth it, even if tiring, though better over two days if possible.

QUEENSTOWN. It’s a small (growing) town set a pretty lake bordered by mountains on all sides. We stayed in the Crowne Plaza on Beach St. Not the best hotel (Sofitel looks much better) but okay overall. Big problem with internet (as in Christchurch). It’s outrageously expensive. NZ$33 per day. No way around this unless you go into town and use an internet café. At least there was free valet parking. Food pretty good in hotel and same excellent Asian Food around Queenstown as well as some fine drinking places. “Queenstown Gym” nearby is good for a visit. Wide range of equipment and you can sign up for short-term memberships to keep the costs down. Overall the town is fun. It’s getting bigger and the locals complain about that but we found it manageable. Skip the Maori cultural center performance up at the top of the mountain (reached via a gondola), but the mountain view itself is a good first-day experience. There are some lakes cruises we could have done but didn’t have the time. One is a very old coal-powered steamboat.

SKIING. The options from Queenstown are Coronet Peak (closest), Remarkables (next closest), Cardrona (next) and Treble Cone (furthest). There’s a fifth place called “Snowpark” near Cardrona. It was highly recommended by one local but we didn’t have time to try it out. I believe it’s more park and pipe and cross country skiing. All of the resorts involve some sort of lengthy drive up into the mountains with Coronet Peak being the easiest drive of all. If you want to avoid chains, get a 4WD. Shuttle services to all of the mountains with the possible exception of Treble Cone as it’s quite far away from Queenstown. In fact, if you are primarily interested in Treble Cone (the most difficult of the mountains), I suggest staying in Wanaka instead of Queenstown. Wanaka is well-situated for access to Cardrona and Treble Cone. Queenstown better for Coronet Peak and Remarkables. It’s clearly marked to get from Queenstown to all resorts except Treble Cone. For Treble Cone, follow the signs for Wanaka and then keep going beyond it. There were no signs that I could see until we got to the entrance. This drive up was the most challenging. You can actually exit Hwy 6 when you leave Queenstown and go towards Cardrona, and then just keep going and you will get to Wanaka. It’s a back road which is faster than the main highway. As at Mt Hutt, funky weather (very high winds) ended up closing half of Treble Cone (Saddle Basin) and what was open was slush and crowds fighting over it. These are things you can’t find out in advance. We had the highest hopes for Treble Cone and it was the most disappointing of the four mountains in the area we visited during our travel dates. I think things improved just as we were leaving, so it’s the luck of the draw. Cardrona had brief closures but overall was good as more opened up pretty quickly. Coronet Peak and Remarkables are billed as generally beginner/intermediate resorts but they had a fresh snow on Monday night so both places ended up being good fun with some off-piste skiing possible at Remarkables off the Shadow Basin chair.

SUMMARY. The unpredictability of the NZ weather means it’s a gamble as far as the skiing if you are only visiting for a fixed period of time and not spending the whole winter there. For the country itself, the trip was worth it because there’s a lot to see (nature, wineries, pubs) and do apart from skiing and the people are hospitable. Ditto for Australia. The skiing might have been better earlier in the season but I hear that the wind/weather problem is anytime so it probably cannot be avoided. Not sure if this is also a problem in Australia. If travel times to the mountains from Queenstown or Wanaka will put you off, or you’re going solely to focus on skiing as much as possible during the northern hemisphere summer, then I think South America might be a better bet. It would be good to hear about people’s experiences who have been to NZ in July or early August. We would definitely try to do it earlier in the season if we went back again.
post #2 of 17
Thank you! Will keep this for future reference.
post #3 of 17
Skiing Oz and Unzed can be a bit of a gamble and it is often the case that when Aus has a good season, Nz has a bad one and vica versa.

NZ has mountains, but being a smaller island can be effected by coastal conditions. Generally NZ is more reliable in late winter to spring (i.e. September) rather than early winter.

Aus suffers from a lack of mountains, Mount Kosciuszko, mainland Aus's highest mountian is only 2,228 metres high, with most alpine skiing occuring at around 1,800 metres. The best skiing in Aus is usually from mid July to mid August. Officially the ski season runs from mid June until the first weekend in October, but realistically the season is a six week period from late July to early September.

DC Ski, Thredbo has a fantastic snowmaking system that allows them to make snow at the drop of a hat (temperatures allowing), opening up the full 600+ metres vertical. When you were there, there had not been a decent snow fall since the beginning of August and the temperatures had been unseasonably warm. Mind you, there is some excellent BC skiing only a short hike from the top of Thredbo and if BC skiing is you thing, Aus has more skiable terrain than Switzerland.

Skiing infrastructure is generally better in Aus, with accoodation available on slope at most mountains. In NZ the only on mountain accomodation is at the club fields. When coditions are good, the club fields probably offer one of the best skiing expereinces.

Glad you had a good trip.
post #4 of 17
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the info, Taxman. We got some good feedback from epicski members before going which helped in the planning. Will bear in mind what you're saying for future travel. It may be better to focus on one country in a single trip based on the snow reports (if you can wait that long to book your flight). I would like to have spent more time in the Snowy Mountains. Julie NZ of this forum mentioned the ski clubs in NZ and I hope we'll be able to do that on a future trip. Fortunately there was enough outdoor and indoor stuff to do in all places to have a good time even when not skiing.
post #5 of 17
A pleasure to help out DC SKI. The fickled nature of the ski season in Aus and NZ has lead me to focus more on BC skiing and relying less on the resorts. Some of the results can bee seen here:

http://forums.ski.com.au/forums/ubbt...1#P ost259959

and here

http://forums.ski.com.au/forums/ubbt...3#P ost230096

If your are interested in skiing the club fields in NZ, there is an excellent WikiSki entry here

http://wikiski.com/wiki/index.php/Club_skiing_in_NZ
post #6 of 17
Thread Starter 
Great! Thanks a lot.
post #7 of 17
This year was not a good year for the club areas in Cantebury so you did not miss much, maybe next time
post #8 of 17
Yeah this year hasn't been such a great snow year over here. El Nino = better in oz, worse here; La Nina = better over here. It's been one of those years where the weather is yuck but it's not snowing. El Nino again, it means more warm, wet northerlies.

Agreed with taxman about time of year. I ski primarily Ruapehu in the North Island so dunno if it's the same in the South, but up here the best time of year is definitely late August/September when the base has built up and there are more blue days.

Don't bother with Snowpark unless you want terrain parks or cross-country.

Check school holiday dates before you come to avoid the crowds, and ski midweek. I guess that applies anywhere.
post #9 of 17
Thread Starter 
I've saved Julie NZ's info on the ski clubs for next time. We got a view of Ruapehu on the flight from ZQN to AKL. Looked really interesting, a volcano rising out of the middle of the north island. I think a good second trip would be Ruapehu, Wellington (friends) and maybe some of the ski clubs if weather good and then another attempt at Treble Cone. We've already decided any future trip will focus only on NZ or AUS (taxman's backcountry pictures looked great) but booking with miles in advance tends to lock you in before you know how the season will shape up.
post #10 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by nzbassist View Post
Yeah this year hasn't been such a great snow year over here. El Nino = better in oz, worse here; La Nina = better over here. It's been one of those years where the weather is yuck but it's not snowing. El Nino again, it means more warm, wet northerlies.
Just a correction, nzbassist, El Nino years are very bad for snow cover in Australia. The two worst years for snow cover since records began in the 1950s were 1982 and 2006, which were both strong El Nino years. The El Nino brings very strong high pressure systems that sit over the east coast of Australia and send the cold fronts south of the mountains in New South Wales and Victoria. Snowy Hydro has a website showing the snow depths from 1954 to 2007 at Spencers Creek (1830 metres elevation), Deep Creek (1620m) and Three Mile Dam (1460m) and you can see how bad 1982 and 2006 were in comparison to 1981, 1992 and 2000.
post #11 of 17
[teaser]

The "Kiwi tree skiing" was great last week...






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But you had to put up with all kinds of harsh stuff to get there...











If we stick out our thumbs, maybe someone will take us back to the top...




[/teaser]

Oh yeah, someone we know needs to work on their Bunburying technique for next year
post #12 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by rugbyskier View Post
Just a correction, nzbassist, El Nino years are very bad for snow cover in Australia. The two worst years for snow cover since records began in the 1950s were 1982 and 2006, which were both strong El Nino years. The El Nino brings very strong high pressure systems that sit over the east coast of Australia and send the cold fronts south of the mountains in New South Wales and Victoria. Snowy Hydro has a website showing the snow depths from 1954 to 2007 at Spencers Creek (1830 metres elevation), Deep Creek (1620m) and Three Mile Dam (1460m) and you can see how bad 1982 and 2006 were in comparison to 1981, 1992 and 2000.
Hmm yeah okay I'll admit I was basing that mostly on the observation that oz is usually good when NZ is bad, and that we're definitely better off with La Nina years... I still stand by the second bit heh

Perhaps I should respond that that explains why Oz is never better...
post #13 of 17
Thanks for the Spencer's Creek link. I had a spreadsheet of that data through 1996, which I can now update. Spencer's Creek is moderately favored by La Nina, about as much as Oregon or Steamboat, but not as much as Washington or some of the western Canadian areas. I got data from Coronet, Remarkables and Mt. Hutt on my NZ trip a year ago, and those areas are mostly neutral with respect to El Nino/La Nina.

My TR's and pics from NZ in late August 2006, as well as my 7 days in Chile earlier this month are here: http://www.firsttracksonline.com/boa...wforum.php?f=6 .

Saddle Basin is the best of Treble Cone and you were unlucky to miss it. Your schedule was tight. I recommend a flexible schedule in NZ to cherry pick good weather days. There are lots of activities to keep busy on down days in NZ. My 1982 and 1997 NZ trips did not have nearly as good skiing as last year. In July 1997 I had a one-day trip to Thredbo, somewhat similar to DC_SKI's experience. Base was thin, but it was cold and 2 days after a storm so surfaces were good.

South America gets more snow than NZ but is very volatile. We in western North America are spoiled for snow vs. nearly all other ski regions of the world. Advance planned southern trips should be scheduled for August for best odds.
post #14 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by spindrift View Post

Oh yeah, someone we know needs to work on their Bunburying technique for next year

..... sigh ....... I wish ....... never say never .....

you missed 20cm of freshies in the Saddle, or should I say 'we' missed 20cm of freshies on Monday, they are still closing this weekend. Cardrona got 10cm.

cool pics, wish I was there
post #15 of 17
Looks like Ruapehu's season is done and nothing to do with the whether:

"Mt Ruapehu has slumbered today after last night's eruption but experts are wary of saying the volcanic activity is over."

Full story here http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/1/...0465956&pnum=0
post #16 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by julie from nz View Post
..... sigh ....... I wish ....... never say never .....

you missed 20cm of freshies in the Saddle, or should I say 'we' missed 20cm of freshies on Monday, they are still closing this weekend. Cardrona got 10cm.
There's always next year

Yeah, we definitely noticed that snowfall! Looks like the mountains there are even due for some more snow tonight. Maybe the back country crowd can continue to have fun.

A super-sized TR will be forthcoming...
post #17 of 17
Official close of the ski season this weekend here in Oz, but still plenty of snow in the BC for a couple of weeks for those who earn their turns.
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