It’s ‘all systems snow’ in New Zealand’s Mt Cook Mackenzie region which is rolling out the white carpet for the start of the ski season.
Jake Koia, Robbie Walker and Nick Brown enjoying fresh tracks at Alpure Peaks last season
Mt. Dobson got the party started early last weekend – fantastic snow conditions saw the ski field open three weeks ahead of schedule, celebrating its 30th birthday with a hugely popular free skiing day. The mountain will open every weekend between 13 June and 4 July, when it will open seven days a week through to October.
All other ski areas in the region will open with a bang in time for school holidays. Snow fun ranges from three family-friendly ski fields and a new snow tubing park, to catskiing, wilderness heliskiing and Tasman Glacier skiing for the more adventurous.
Ohau ski field will be the next to open on Saturday 27 June. Its laidback, friendly atmosphere is particularly popular with southerners who often book a dinner, bed and breakfast package at Ohau Lodge and enjoy a great social day up the mountain.
An eagerly awaited snow tubing park launches in Lake Tekapo on Saturday 4 July. Alpine Springs/Spa & Winter Park is opening a state-of-the-art snow tubing slope which will complement its popular outdoor hot pools, boutique day spa, and international size ice skating, ice hockey and curling rink.
Roundhill ski field also opens the same day. Renowned for its excellent learner and intermediate terrain and wide open trails, this year the newly developed ‘Central Park’ offers kickers, tables, boxes, rails, rollers, jumps and two massive sculpted earth ‘platforms’ for more advanced skiers and boarders.
Serious powderhounds can enjoy the ultimate in backcountry skiing and boarding with unique Southern Alps adventures including catskiing, glacier skiing and heliskiing.
Alpine Guides is the ‘big mountain’ skiing and boarding specialist. The only company with a concession to heliski within the spectacular Aoraki Mount Cook National Park and World Heritage Area, it offers exclusive access to the Southern Alps and Aoraki Mt Cook, New Zealand’s highest mountain.
Operations are scheduled to start on 1 July but are likely to be earlier due to fantastic snow conditions – in May alone the Main Divide received an estimated 15m of new snow.
Small groups of intermediate and advanced skiers and boarders can also take an unforgettable journey down New Zealand’s longest glacier with Southern Alps Guiding or Alpine Guides. At 27km long, the Tasman Glacier offers up plenty of opportunities to explore ice caves and seracs, amazing ice features sculpted by the elements.
For guaranteed fresh tracks, deep powder and no queues, Alpure Peaks has more than 2,600 hectares of private land near Fox Peak ski field. Opening from 1 July, the terrain boasts spectacular views of the Southern Alps, and huge untouched bowls between Fox and Butlers Saddle, a 2,220m peak with vertical 650m run and a huge area in which to ski, board, snowshoe and telemark.
In essence, catskiing offers access to terrain similar to heliskiing but is with a cheaper price tag and unusual transportation. Alpure Peaks offers an exhilarating ride on a Hagglund and Snowcat all-terrain vehicles and non-skiers are also welcome to come for a joyride.
Destination Mt Cook Mackenzie General Manager Phil Brownie believes the variety of snow options is a great drawcard for visitors.
“We’re fast becoming one of New Zealand’s most popular winter holiday destinations because people love the range of affordable on and off-the-snow fun as well as the stunning scenery and our laidback, friendly high country hospitality.
“I’m delighted we’ll be able to offer snow tubing as well this year because it will add another dimension to our on-snow activities, particularly for families.
“Hopefully we’re on track for a bumper winter season.”
For more information about winter holidays in the Mt Cook Mackenzie region visit mackenziewinter.co.nz