Nine things you should know about skiing the clubbies
By Emma Swaffield & Charlie Renzoni
Hailing from Whistler, Emma and Charlie lived out of their Prado while touring around the Southern Alps for winter 2017 with a Chill Season Pass.
This is a great read for anyone considering a season at the unique club ski areas of New Zealand.
1. Pack that probe, shovel, and beacon! (and map!)
The Clubbies have arguably the best lift-accessed backcountry in New Zealand. With a little boot-packing or a hop onto the skin track you’ll be finding fresh tracks for days after a big dump! Make sure to check out the steep and deep bowls north of Craigieburn, and the epic alpine terrain surrounding Temple and Olympus. It’s easy to hop between fields, and if you are up for a challenge you can take on the “Craigieburn Haute Route”. We recommend that you check the avalanche reports, ask the staff about local conditions, and bring along a DOC Topo map before heading into the backcountry!
Setting the skin track above Tarn Basin, south of Cheeseman
2. Master the nutcracker.
Yes, the nutcracker looks like a freaky kitchen utensil. No, the nutcracker is not hard to use! The harness, glove protector, and nutcracker were definitely new additions to our typical ski gear, and it did take a few “flip-and-misses” before we got the hang of it, but was it ever worth it! Try not to be intimidated, and definitely ask the pros to show you how it’s done!
If you’re hoping to ease into nutcracker use, Cheeseman has a friendly T-bar for warm up!
3. Pack some extra beers for nights at the (discount) lodges.
If the on-hill lodges just aren’t in your budget, there are plenty of affordable accommodation options that won’t disappoint. Forest Lodge is a backpacker style cabin half-way up the road to Cheeseman, is home to some of the friendliest staff and families in NZ, and is equipped with a self-serve industrial kitchen to feed crews of any size! The lodge is in a very convenient location, with easy access to the 4 clubs in the Craigieburn range.
Next on the list is the Bottom Hut at Mt. Olympus. A fantastic spot to crash after a big ski day - light up a bonfire, crack some Tui’s, and you are set. Bunk style yet again, and if you are lucky you may run into some local legends touring around athletes from Japan or NA. Finally, you can’t go wrong with the DOC huts that can be found just about anywhere. If there’s a lot of snow and you have warm sleeping bags, Bealey Spur Hut is a stellar overnight trip just north of the Craigieburns, and offers amazing views of Arthur’s Pass.
Steak and good company outside the bottom hut at Mt Olympus.
4. Seek out local intel.
Catching a few turns with the locals is the only way to find those secret stashes and chutes at the Clubbies. After meeting a local guide at the Bottom Hut of Mt Olympus, we were lucky to catch up with him all over the range and follow him down some steep and very deep runs, scoring some of our best days of the season! The local ski community is as friendly as it gets, the hospitality and energy that everyone shares is unmatched. Whether it be hanging and sharing drinks on the curling rink at the top of Olympus, or learning some new tricks from up and coming shredders, our skiing community became much bigger than the two of us.
The Dogtuckers staying hydrated for their curling tournament.
5. Don’t send your keys down the Temple goods lift!
Temple is worth the hike, especially when a Norwester blows in. The terrain is top notch, and the hiking opportunities are endless. The goods lift is a few hundred meters down the road from the trailhead, so make sure to drop your gear off to ease your load. Double check the times that the lift is running so you don’t miss it! We made the rookie mistake of sending our keys down with all of our gear when we were heading out, and ended up having to hitch a ride so we could get back into our car. Don’t do it, you’ve been warned!
6. Take full advantage of the Chill Pass!
The Chill Pass offers access to epic mountains that are definitely worth the stop beyond the Craigieburns. Fox Peak has expansive terrain, some of the largest open bowls, is fully operated by members, and also has budget accommodation. You are sure to get industry leading service: after getting locked behind a cattle gate on our way out, we had the President of the Fox Peak Ski Club on the phone and were set free in no time! Hanmer Springs is another fun stop, with a cozy lodge (included in your Chill Pass!), and a unique access road, it’s definitely a cool place to check out! Mt Lyford has a wicked rope tow that takes you up to some incredible views of the ocean! If you’re looking for a quick break from the rope tows, head over to Dobson for some nice groomers and a chairlift ride with the training World Cup Athletes!
7. Pack that pre-made toasty!
Craigieburn and Broken River are game changers for packed lunch. With panini presses in their lunch lodges, you can always treat yourself to a warm toasty (or 4!) to refuel after a morning out on the slopes. At Craigieburn on sunny days, you can sometimes snag burgers on the deck while scoping out your line for the afternoon. Broken River’s Palmer Lodge takes things to the next level, firing up pizzas every lunch and serving up their own BR lager! Some of the most dedicated ski families around can be found at BR, so don’t be surprised if a 5-year-old is sending it harder than you! If a packed lunch isn’t your thing, treat yourself to a 3 course lunch at Temple Basin, there really is nothing quite like it!
The view from Palmer Lodge
8. Earn your turns, share the stoke!
The club fields take you back to the basics, with long bumpy access roads, and most tows running on old tractor engines. As so many resorts turn into vacation destinations where skiing takes the back seat, it is refreshing and inspiring to be surrounded by people who love the sport and everything that goes with it. Whether it be taking in the many peaks of the Southern Alps after a scramble to the top of a chute, or getting face shot after face shot with your best new friends at your side; the Clubbies were constantly reminding us what skiing is all about. So thank you to all of the people we met along the way, we’re so grateful to have been a part of this incredible community.
Truck hopping at Mt Lyford
9. Don’t feed the keas!
NZ is home to some incredible wildlife; but if we’re not careful the Keas, Kiwis and more will be joining the late Moas, existing only in history books. Now more than ever we need to be advocates for the environment we all enjoy. Everyone can and should take responsibility for their actions in order to preserve the mountains and wildlife that make New Zealand so unique. If we continue at this rate, the unfortunate reality is that in years ahead we may not be able to experience the club fields as they are today. Make a trip to the Clubbies the top of your bucket list, you will not regret it!
Meet the Authors:
Emma and Charlie lived out of their Prado while touring around the Southern Alps for winter 2017. They grew up in Canada and call Whistler their home mountain, both working professionally as a ski instructor and an alpine ski coach. They live and breathe the outdoor adventure lifestyle, and are constantly inspired by exceptional communities like the NZ club fields.