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New Zealand Southern Alps

Skiing with Helicopters

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Lawrie looking remarkable.

We both got up early and drove up Mount Remarkable to the ski resort. This ski resort is about 30 minutes drive from our accommodation. In New Zealand there are no lodges or places to stay on the mountain so every morning you must drive up a mountain to ski.

It was a very beautiful, but quite tricky drive up the mountain as the road was gravel covered, at higher elevations, with ice. When we got up to the car park it was about 8:30 am and -6 c which made it very, very cold. We got our gear on and headed to the lifts for a day of skiing. The ski runs could have done with another meter of snow to cover up the grass and rocks but there was plenty of good skiing to be had; even some powder. It's been a poor ski season in New Zealand this year.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Lawrie looking at the Remarkables.

Lawrence and I got up early and drove to the Coronet Peak ski field. This is the second ski resort easily accessible from Queenstown. It turns out there are two ways to get to Coronet Peak from Queenstown the long way and the short way; we of course took the long way due to my miss guidance.

Still we arrived at the parking lot just as the lifts were starting and to a clear blue sky. The view from Coronet Peak of Queenstown and the Remarkables is just spectacular. That evening Fred arrived from Australia and joined us on our New Zealand skiing expedition.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Fred joined us from Melbourne.

This was a very exciting day for Lawrence and me as we went heliskiing! This involves, as you would imagine, the use of a helicopter to fly you to very remote mountain locations to ski with a guide on pristine powder snow.

Lawrie looking like we all felt during the avalanche briefing.

It was another beautiful sunny day this day and we had a perfect day of skiing. Heliskiing is extremely challenging and fun all at the same time. We were picked up by the guide and the other skiers about 9:00 am. We made a quick 15 minute drive to the Queenstown airport where we placed all of our gear in the helicopter hanger. Our guide then gave us each an avalanche radio which we all strapped to our bodies. He then instructed us on how to use them; what a thought!

Off we went.

He said you will need to use them if the guide were to be buried under an avalanche of snow or if we were buried under an avalanche of snow. I could not resist telling everyone that the radio devices enabled us to find and recover the dead frozen body of who ever got buried under the snow; it did get a worried laugh.

What a day we had. I am trying to find the words to describe how good it was to ski the backcountry of the New Zealand Alps.

Some of the skiing was breathtaking.

Challenging is the first word that comes to mind as we had to use skis we were not used to. They were fat, long, and heavy which made them very hard to handle. Beautiful is another word that comes to mind as we were placed on top of remote mountain ridges which gave us spectacular views of the New Zealand Alps. The helicopter took us up five times and we skied down five different routes each with variable snow conditions.

Sometimes you would be skiing very soft powder snow and other times you would encounter very hard windblown hard packed snow. One of our group, a young fellow, seriously injured himself after our first run down. He was going way too fast and simply lost control.

The serving skiers were very happy and very tiered.

We stopped for lunch after the second ski and ate our lunch at the bottom of one of the runs.

The food was brought in by the helicopter and was good. The sun was shining and we ate lunch in one of the most stunning locations I have ever seen. After the day of skiing was over we were both extremely tired. The excitement of being dropped off on mountain ridges by a helicopter, skiing on fat skis all day, and skiing extremely challenging runs finally took its toll on both of us. We slept well that night.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Fred and Lawrie about to go down the Super Pipe.

This day Lawrence, Fred, and I skied at the Treble Cone ski resort. It is a very large ski area and had the best snow coverage of all the resorts we had skied on the trip. Much fun was had by all. Fred's favorite run was called the Super Pipe.

This is a gully with steep walls on each side that ran for a kilometer or so. In the Super Pipe you can ski up and down the walls of the gully all the way down. At the end of this day of skiing Lawrence and I were completely skied out; we had nothing left in our legs and found it difficult to even walk let alone ski. We slept very well again this evening.


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