When I first told people in Australia I was heading to New Zealand in mid August, a lot of folks asked if that wasn't a bit too late. Having skied here a few seasons now, that didn't occur to me at all. But I guess if you're used to Canada or North America then I suppose turning up in the last month of winter is a bit strange.
Not so in New Zealand. Admittedly, I've only been here a few years, but in my experience the month that usually turns out the best skiing is September - and that's not just spring corn. September regularly brings good dumps of quality powder and the bluebird conditions that follow those storms mean that often there's good skiing for days (especially with some local knowledge).
This year was no different. There was a bit of powder skiing in mid August, but things didn't really fire up until a month later. Mid September had a epic midweek powder day in the Craigieburns, followed by more snow for the weekend, then some warm unsettled weather and a few more powder days to bring us into October. A bunch of club fields shut up shop after the extended period of high pressure we had during August and early September and conditions were so good they rounded up their staff and reopened.
The real suprise story for the winter was Rainbow - a little commercial field near Nelson at the top of the South Island. Even in a bad winter, there's always one field that seems to deliver. Last year it was Ohau. Everyone else was madly shovelling snow onto their tow lines to stay open and Ohau was racking up days and days of powder skiing. This year it was Rainbow. Most of the storms that hit elsewhere were too warm, starting with rain and then changing to snow (or just staying with rain, if the universe was feeling particularly sour). Rainbow, on the other hand, just kept getting snow. At the start of October Broken River got maybe 20mm of rain with 7cm of snow on top (which, I should point out, skied pretty well). Rainbow decided to keep things simple and somehow arranged for 45cm of dry pow. I don't know what the locals were all doing on Saturday, but when I arrived on Sunday and there were still a bunch of untracked lines.
The warm, sunny October days have prompted most people to turn their minds to other things, so the season here is drawing to a close. There's still snow up high, but the weather at the moment is alternating between warm clear days and furious storms (the Mt Cook area got 1.5m of snow at altitude in 48 hours last week). With any luck that will fill in the glaciers for some ski touring, but it makes for some difficult conditions right now.
I'll be hoping to sneak up some peaks in the next few weeks before I head back to Australia and then on to Japan. Still looking forward to getting the Kingswood into some seriously deep snow. And tree skiing! And ramen!
Hope to see you guys over there!