New Zealand's Southern Alps
It was another beautiful sunny day in the
New Zealand Southern Alps. The mountains were
covered with snow and the sky was a radiant blue.
skiing was on the agenda today and it was something
completely new. It is true that New Zealand is full of
sheep, but what you might not know is that it has some
of the best summertime skiing in the world. Summertime
for us in the northern hemisphere that is. (See my
articles on skiing in
Australia) The Southern Alps run down the western
coast of the South Island of New Zealand. The highest
Aoraki (Mount Cook) which is at 12,320 feet.
Eagerness changed quickly to trepidation
After a quick 15 minute drive from
Queenstown to the airport our group of eager skiers
were getting impatient. All of the ski gear was spread
about the helicopter hanger. Soon the guide handed out
avalanche transceiver to everyone. Eagerness changed
quickly to trepidation. The devices were strapped to our
bodies. He instructed us on how to use them. The radio
devices enable the dead frozen body of who ever got
buried under the snow to be recovered. Heli skiing is
extremely challenging and fun all at the same time.
A very expensive ski lift
Challenging is the correct word to describe it. One
must use extra wide and heavy skis to ski the powder
snow on these remote mountain peaks. The skis are very
hard to handle. However, stunning is another word that
comes to mind as the helicopter places you on top of a
remote mountain ridge. From here you are given
spectacular views of one of the most beautiful lands in
all the world.
Five times the helicopter went up to five different
peaks. And five different routes were skied each with
variable snow conditions. Sometimes the snow would be
very soft powder and other times it would be windblown
and hard packed.
The view from the top of the world
One young fellow in the group had a serious fall and
injured himself after the first run. He was going way
too fast and simply lost control. The remote mountains
of New Zealand is no place for false bravado or excess
Food was brought in by the helicopter and was good.
The sun was shining on steep snow covered cliffs and
ridges that sparkled like diamonds. It was a stunning
location to eat lunch. After the day of skiing was over
we were extremely tired, frightened, exhilarated, and
filled with life. The excitement of being dropped off on
mountain ridges by a helicopter, skiing on fat skis all
day, and skiing extremely challenging runs took its
toll, but the price was worth paying.
Heli skiing in New Zealand's Southern Alps
New Zealand has so much to offer as a travel
destination and heli skiing is only one, but a really
cool one. I will present many more reasons to visit New
Zealand in subsequent articles.
For more info:
New Zealand Southern Alps
Aoraki (Mount Cook)