It's opening weekend at some of the NZ club fields! If you're heading over for some turns this winter, be warned that the club fields have a few extra logistical quirks compared to a regular ski holiday.
There are no ski towns like you'd find in North America or Europe. Each club field is usually just a some weird lifts and few simple hut/lodge style buildings at the top of a sketchy dirt road. Temple Basin doesn't even have a road. That means that you want to have a few things squared away before you arrive.
- Bring snacks, and maybe lunch. All of the main club fields (BR, Temple, Olympus and Craigiburn) provide catered accommodation, but at Broken River and Craigieburn you need to sort your own lunch. Both places sell lunch food but it's nothing to write home about. BR has really good kitchen facilities you can use on the mountain, Craigieburn doesn't. No matter where you go, take heaps of snacks - whether you're skiing hard or shut down by terrible weather, snacks will make life better.
- You should probably bring booze, but check first. All the club fields are licensed and sell beer, wine and spirits, but they're not cheap. Back in the day, you could take your own booze anywhere. Some fields (Olympus and Craigieburn are the strictest at this stage) are starting to frown on BYO stuff to keep their licenses/make money. You should definitely bring your own booze to Broken River and Temple Basin, and it wouldn't hurt to ask Craigiburn and Mt Olympus about it when you email them to make a booking.
- There's no rental gear. I mentioned this in the last post, so get your gear sorted in advance. There are rental shops in Darfield and Christchurch (on the way to the clubbies).
- Buy Kinco gloves and/or glove protectors. As mentioned in the last post, the rope tows will destroy your gloves. You'll see damage after a single ride, and they'll put holes in most gloves in a day. Just buy Kincos and then you don't have to worry about it. They're usually about $55 NZD. You can buy them at some of the ski fields and any decent ski shop in town.
- You'll need a nutcracker and a towbelt. You can borrow/rent these at the ski fields (I think it's usually $5 NZD per day). A simple rock climbing harness is usually more comfortable, and you can buy a nutcracker to use with it for about $45 NZD. Nutcrackers are usually available at the ski fields or again, any ski shop worth its sald.
- Bring your own wax and p-tex. There's usually somewhere to do repairs and the steady supply of sharp rocks means you'll want some p-tex handy.
- Bring your sleeping bag. Yes, the ski fields usually provide linen for a fee, but for that to happen someone at the ski field needs remember you need linen, the washing machine needs to be working, and you'll need a staff member to find the linen and give it to you. None of this is straightforward or guaranteed in the club field universe.
- Bring earplugs. Most of the beds are in bunkrooms and snoring is a possibility. BR and Craigieburn both have private rooms (they cost more), I'm not sure about Olympus and Temple.
- Bring sunscreen. NZ is conveniently placed under a whopping big hole in the ozone layer, and if the sun's out you'll burn.
- Bring avvy gear. You're going to want to ski out of bounds, so bring a beacon, shovel and probe and know how to use them. Your shovel will probably come in handy for all kinds of other, non-avalanche related digging.
- Know when to arrive. Most of the club ski fields' roads don't go all the way to their accommodation lodges. Craigieburn is the exception, but at Temple it's a 50 minute-ish walk up a steep track, Broken River has a 20 minute walk, and at Olympus you have to ride up their access rope-tow lift to get to the lodge. Temple has a goods lift that runs in the morning and afternoon and BR has a passenger lift that allows you to skip the walk but also runs at limited times. If you show up outside those times, you'll have to haul your gear up the track and it won't be fun. Check the office and goods lift times for wherever you're staying.
Each club field is loaded with ideosyncracies that seem perfectly normal to the people who run the club, and inexplicable to outsiders. You're pretty much guaranteed to commit some kind of faux pas the first time you ski there - everybody does. The good news is that the locals probably won't care and will be happy to help. If you get your car stuck on an access road someone will just pull you out with a bulldozer. If you arrive without some vital piece of ski equipment someone will just rummage around under a building and find you a perfectly servicable replacement from the 1980s. These places were built with a culture of pitching in and making do and it's very much alive today. That's what makes them great.
Please don't take that as an excuse to be a dick. Skiing at the clubbies is more like being a guest someone's holiday house than being a customer at a flash resort. These are not businesses, and the usual commercial system of "host provides good service in exchange for guest's money" doesn't really apply. Each club was set up to provide skiing and socialising to its community. Anything beyond that (like making money) is a bit of an afterthought. The staff and locals won't be too impressed if you're expecting to be waited on, but if you're happy to help out and be a good sport about the inevitable craziness of club field life you'll find a welcoming community of great people and awesome skiing.