“Beginner Slopes? Er . . . None” Published in Ski and Board. Storm powder skiing at Craigieburn club resort in New Zealand.
Powder Skiing Fanatic
From high in the atmosphere perfect stellar flake falls through the night sky. It is not tumbled by wind — the front has already passed by. It is falling from the quiet heart of the storm along with a million others. Except this one is special. It falls through the uppermost spindles of an ancient tree. Throughout the Alpine Woods, its companions also creep through the branches. They are not the first. Everything in sight is already cloaked with a thick blanket of sparkling whiteness.
The snowflake drifts onto a thick branch, triggering a creaking death knell within the tree. The flake’s delicate kiss has struck a final treacherous bloke. The branch is ripped from its trunk; routes are wrenched out of the thin mountain soil. The tree’s scream tears through the woods, easily penetrating the cabin’s window, striking me into startled wakefulness.
I wait, unsure of the direction or the distance the sound has traveled. What was it? How close? Should I brace myself for the crushing impact of cascading snow?
I can’t hear the rumblings of approaching avalanche. But my relief is short lived, as more splintering howls rend the woods like artillery fire. The trees! I shuffle to the end of the bed. My fast breath makes clouds, frosting the window. I wipe it. Fat snowflakes are choking the air. The trees bow down, heavily laden but thankfully I can’t see any that might fall on the cabin, so lie back onto the wooden bunk and snuggle into my sleeping bag.
I wonder at my vanity, two days previously, deciding to chase the storm across New Zealand and up Arthur’s pass to Craigieburn ski area, ignoring the warnings that the resort was about to close and anyone who had to be anywhere in the next few days should escape the mountain . . .
Craigieburn, New Zealand Facts
Craigieburn is a small, not-for-profit club field in the Southern Alps. Every hard-core Kiwi I’d met had told me I must ski there. I liked the concept: basic facilities with everyone staying on the hill, a maximum of 65 people, helping with cleaning, cutting vegetables and washing-up. The nearest town was more than 60 miles away. Everyone eats, sleeps and parties together in this outpost on the grass-roots frontier of skiing. It’s a very kiwi experience, with an “It’ll be all right” and duct-tape attitude. The lifts are three tractor powered rope tows and there is no grooming. With 500 metres vertical, plus whatever you hike, it’s freeride heaven with a reputation for awesome terrain
To me, as far as powder skiing is concerned, its one of my favorite New Zealand attractions.