Here comes the snow…

Its been about two weeks since i last went splitboarding.

Terrible I know, A large number of factors attributed to this, I’m a great procrastinator is one of them. One of the largest snow storms this country has seen in a while is another. I also had a little bit of man flu, weak I know!

Its been quite a storm for some parts of the country, most parts besides here in Queenstown. A change from the usual, this storm came in from the eastern quarter putting us out of its reach somewhat. It seemed as if everywhere around us got heavy snow and we escaped! Well at least down here in suburbia anyway, at altitude there was plenty of it.

During the past few weeks I also bought my other half a splitboard from the lovely folks at Firstlight Snowboards. Finding a womens specific splitboard (or even a smaller mens) proved quite difficult, I suppose most girls that snowboard arent exactly that stoked on climbing for hours up hill to slide down it for a few minutes.

As the storm encroached and airports and highways and nearly every accessible route into Queenstown was systematically shut down we wondered if the board would arrive intime for us to go ride on her days off. Thankfully we had a knock on the door from DHL on friday afternoon!

Saturday morning and everything wasnt looking too exciting. It was actually snowing in town after two days of promised snow showers, low cloud was everywhere and the visibility seemed terrible. Excitement prevailed and after some snow chain fitting we were up the 13km of dirt road to the Remarkables ski area. Due to the relatively high snow line in New Zealand, access is usually the biggest issue, and ski areas usually provide the easiest access. Thankfully most are public lands and designated as recreation reserves so uphill traffic is allowed.

High avalanche risk, bad light, snow and a newcomer to the sport meant we wouldnt be riding anything very exciting. On leaving the ski area boundary we met a friendly telemark skier who asked if he could tag along.

My lovely other half leaves the ski area behind

My lovely other half leaves the ski area behind

As i was trying to be a good teacher on the way up, it was actually rather eventful as the variable conditions meant that we came across a lot of tell tale signs for avalanches on steeper slopes. Wumphing, stiff snow, crust, wind slab was all encountered on the way up.

Change over time! Wye Dome and Double Cone in the background

Change over time! Wye Dome and Double Cone in the background

One quick ride down on some very nice cold dry powder, a little wind affected but 15-20cm deep in places, a quick change over and we were on our way up. Our telemarker got offered a ride home and quickly made a beeline for the car park. as we made our way up we decided to eat and then dig a pit just to have a look at what was going on beneath our feet.

Pretending i know what im doing

Pretending i know what im doing

Snow was a little lean where we dug which wasnt too bad as i didnt really feel like digging a massive hole. The layers were still all there and it was pretty obvious that things would move. Luckily the snow that fell before my previous trip has consolidated well albiet with a bit of a rain crust on top now.

The vis cleared up a bit and we had one last run down, this time back into the ski area and to the car and then off to the hot pools for a nice long soak. Best of all i know have a new buddy to go riding with who is just as excited as i am!

Day 2

The weekend saw plenty of rain. My driveway was replaced by a river. Luckily however, at altitude this meant plenty of snow. Plenty is a bit of an understatement.

The norm here in Queenstown is that Coronet Peak opens first, usually first in the southern hemisphere (Although El Colorado in Chile have taken that title this year) because of a large snow making system. The storm left coronet for dead at one point but everyone was surprised to see it extremely white on Monday morning, which just happened to be a public holiday so the place was tracked out in mere hours. Coronet peak’s higher,gnarlier sibling, The Remarkables was spared this mass early season powder day.

I woke up late, had a leisurely breakfast and drove up expecting to be left with tracked out crud. It was a glorious bluebird day today and very cold temps over night meant that the snow was keeping nice and dry.

Did I mention I had the place to myself?

2 cars and a skidoo pulled up while i was putting my boots on but went another direction to me. I was feeling pretty fast skinning today until i ventured away from the skidoo tracks and snow making of the ski hill.

Snow drifts. The “wind packed powder” is a staple of skiing here in NZ and it was everywhere. I was wallowing pretty bad, breaking my own trail in what would have been thigh deep snow had I not been on my split. My original planned zone for the day was wind swept so i looked to a small out crop below Wye dome. Mellow enough to be safe riding by myself but still fun enough.

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Wye Dome 2050m to the Left Double Cone 2319m at Center

After the hard slog to the top I changed to ride mode and dropped into a wide, wind loaded slope dotted with schist outcrops. The snow was a little sun affected on top but mostly dry and very fun to ride but a little be strange as I’m still getting back into riding and trying to get used to the new board. As I neared the bottom a few cheers rang out and I noticed a large group of snowboarders walking towards me. It just so happened to be the guys who film Diaries downunder.
I watched them huck a few tricks for a while before setting a new track up near my previous line, It was stupidly hard but got up quick enough besides an embarrassing fall whilst trying to do a kick turn. Second run was a little better but I was a bit tired and hit a small patch of rocks which slowed me down a bit.

First 2 runs of the day

First 2 runs of the day

A quick lunch and watching the guys do some amazing tricks (double back flips anyone?) I got my A into G and ascended up my now nicely packed out skin track. I was filled with energy after lunch but after noticing the impact of the sun on the snow due to the slopes north facing aspect I decided higher was better.

Wye col East

Wye col East

Wye Col East (or north) is a gateway to some fantastic touring. Its usually my main access for getting out into either the Wye Valley or into the Doolans Catchment. Its also a fun ride and fairly easy to set a skin track up. Its also around 2000m high and almost always windy! I took a few happy snaps at the top and changed over. A little bit more energetic I was really amped for the long ride down. I think I did better than I had expected. Suddenly the new board felt great. REALLY great. turns were easy and the ride was super responsive. I was getting pretty stoked with every turn whilst always looking out for sharks teeth lurking below the surface. I missed most of the rocks and had one of the better runs of the last 12 months.

Skin track and my swiggles!

Skin track and my swiggles!

It Begins…

The trouble with having new gear is simple. You buy it, it sits in eye view. You want to use it, NOW. Sadly the trouble with early winter is that their isn’t always enough snow on the ground. And new bases and New Zealands infamous shark teeth dont really go hand in hand.

Yesterday morning it rained. A lot. It stopped about 11. My new splitboard stared at me from the couch. Screw it, lets check the webcams. Success!

Blue sky above coronet peak. A few who had time off earlier in the week after the storm had told me conditions at coronet were pretty average, fresh mixed with man made. 9 inch breakable crust made its way into conversations. Sounds shit. Good thing about rain is it makes all these inconsistencies a little bit more soft.

The car was packed, i was on my way. It was still raining, only lightly. After ignoring the bewildered stares of tourists in the carpark i was on my way. Holy shit am i unfit. The climb to the same altitude as the beginners lift was riddled with stops for breath. The good news? Skinning on my new board was so much nicer. its hard to tell what the difference is, New skins, new board, the only thing remaining from my old setup was my Volie light rail bindings.

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Brow Peak 1454m

A Quick change over and a few snaps and i was on my way down. It was soft, but variable, Fast natural snow, very slow man made. Did i mention i was unfit? More of a hanging on for life than a nice run. The board handled well, better than expected actually. Small drops were nice to land, it had nice pop, turned a lot quicker than expected of a 167cm.

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The elusive splitboard in its natural environment

This weekend sees a large system track in, And sunshine on Wednesday my day off. Until then ill be watching these.Image

Old and the New

Two days ago i sold the first split board i owned. A 2011/2012 K2 Panoramic 168 i bought during the 2011 winter season. A hell of a lot of money to drop on something I wasn’t sure if i was going to enjoy. Skiing uphill, People enjoy that? I had been XC skiing before and enjoyed it, but this seemed like hard work.

The first day out

A huge “southerly outbreak” as the metservice refers to it, had left a hell of a lot of snow all around Queenstown, and even more up in the Remarkables. A quicker than usual climb had me standing on the summit of a peak above the Remarkables ski area, Known on maps as Pt 2035 or locally as Centurion. An awesome ride down on some creamy fresh snow. It wasn’t the last time i used the panoramic.

However it wasn’t all that i wanted, and now, 2 years later i turned my attention to finding something a bit more directional, a bit less freestyle, because in part I’ve accepted that I’m just some average Joe snowboarder who is never going to be throwing huge spins in the back country, but also because i LOVE shiny new gear.

Rossignol XV Magtek Split 167cm

Rossignol XV Magtek Split 167cm

The first serious snowfall of the season was just 3 days ago but today it is raining at most altitudes. I cant wait to take this out for a test ride.