Snow Report 24 December 2012 - Japan and France


Hakuba 19 December [Source: Happo FB page]
It snowed in both Niigata and Nagano through Thursday, persisting around Hakuba on Friday.

Rain and mild temperatures hit some areas on Saturday, before the colder temperatures returned on Sunday night into Monday. Parts of Niigata were reporting up to half a metre of new snow on Christmas Eve!


It began snowing around Hakuba on Thursday (20cms up high) with a repeat on Friday. After clearing a little at the weekend, heavy snow returned to Hakuba on Sunday night:

Happo One: 160/60cms

Happo Tree Run Area [Source: Happo FB page]
It seems Hakuba is finally making some concessions to the demands of overseas skiers (especially Australians) keen to explore more off-piste.

Other ski areas around Japan already have adopted a more relaxed approach to tree runs and sidecountry. The photo alongside shows the (new?) tree run area at Happo.


At Myokokogen it returned to snowy conditions on Thursday as the first week of the season kicked off. 
Unfortunately, rain returned again on Saturday, but by Sunday a winter storm had arrived and the temperatures got much colder:
Akakura Onsen ski area - 140cms

Nearby Nozawa Onsen has been transformed with a healthy base for so early in the season:

Nozawa Onsen ski area - 200/60cms

Around and about the Echigo-Yuzawa area of Niigata, including Kagura and Naeba, there was snow on Thursday (10-30cms), but it became mild and even a little bit rainy on Saturday.

Fortunately this changed back to snow on Sunday morning and it began dumping overnight and into Monday:

Naeba ski area - 90cms
Kagura ski area- 200cms


Zao Onsen - no snow, but no rain either! Zao only managed sprinklings of snow through the weekend to refresh the slopes:

Zao Onsen - 70/40cms


Orelle 21 December [Source: 3Vallees FB page]
The Northern Alps, well parts of them, scored the most snow in the past week, with the Southern and Pyrenees missing out. However, good starts to the season across France have delivered a fantastic white Christmas!


At Espace Killy, which includes Tignes and Val D'Isere, there is 240cms of snow at 2500m altitude, and 123cms on the ground at the beautiful Val D'Isere village (1850m).

Les Arcs:
@1600m - 105cms
@2000m - 137cms

L'Alpe D'Huez 18 December [Source: Alpe D'Huez FB page]
Les Trois Vallees:
@1450m - 100cms
@2300m - 140cms

Les 2 Alpes - no change in snowdepth since last week, but the high altitude areas would have kept the quality:
@1650m - 100cms
@2600m - 140cms


The Southern Alps are certainly doing well, but little new snowfall in the past week. So many sunny days would be pleasant, however!

La Mongie 22 December [Source: Grand Tourmalet FB page]
All lifts and pistes are open at Isola 2000, with 170cms of snow covering its upper slopes, and 120cms at 2000 metres.

L'Espace Lumiere, centred around Val D'Allos:
@1800m - 110cms
@2600m - 180cms


In the Pyrenees a sunny spell has held off much improvement in snow depths, with the sun melting a little snow.

The Grand Tourmalet area now has 80cms of snow at 1800 metres altitude, and 100cms @ 2500m.

@1850m - 100cms
@2400m - 135cms


Snow Report 18 December 2012 - Japan


It has been a frustrating, mixed seven or so days for ski weather in central Honshu. The snow continued to fall early last week in much of the style that we are accustomed to in this part of Japan, and then the skies cleared for a few days of sensational clear-day skiing and riding.

But this weekend the rain has been persistent, niggly, and inescapable as the temperatures warmed.

Happo One 9 December [Source: Happo FB page]
In some cases the rain spoiled the great opening to the season slightly, especially as for some areas this weekend was the opening day.

Most ski areas lost a lot of snow, especially around the base areas and in the villages.

But still, lets keep our spirits up - its still early days with December usually touch-and-go in Japan until the weather really changes at the end of this month.

The weather forecast - thankfully - is for colder temperatures and hopefully some renewed heavy snowfalls this weekend. That would be more like it!


Easy come, easy go, it seems. Hakuba got some great early snowfalls during the early part of last week ... but then the rain pounded the region's ski areas during this past weekend.

Happo One 16 December [Source: Happo FB page]
Although it was only for a short period, the damage was significant after the incredible start to the season.

Happo lost half a metre in the rain, and snow conditions deteriorated significantly.

Check out the change in the two pictures of Happo ... the second showing the rain damage.

Here's looking ahead for better news as we welcome a return to cooler weather:

Happo One: 150/30cms


This past weekend saw Myokokogen open most of its many ski areas, normally a cause for celebration ...

... but then the rain arrived and it cleared the snow from the streets at village level:

Nozawa Onsen 12 December [Source: Nozawa Onsen FB page]
Akakura Onsen ski area - 80/0cms

At Nozawa Onsen the powder that fell in volume earlier in the week settled and then rain on the lower slopes has resulted in a loss of up to half a metre in places.

Still, the snow depths and the great cover around the upper slopes are pretty good for so early in the season:

Nozawa Onsen ski area - 115/20cms

Not too far from the hot springs town of Echigo-Yuzawa, at Kagura and Naeba, there was rain down low but light snowfalls have continued on and off. Not quite the drenching that some areas have received:

Naeba ski area - 90cms
Kagura ski area- 200cms

Zao Onsen 16th December [Source: Zao FB page]

Zao Onsen - the snow continued to fall well into the middle of the week up at Zao, which is several hundred kilometres northeast of Nagano Prefecture and the major Honshu ski areas.

There was light snow almost up until Thursday morning.

But its location didn't save Zao Onsen from the rain that arrived on Sunday, although in smaller amounts than further south:

Zao Onsen - 80/30cms


Snow Report 16 December 2012 - France


France has had a fantastic start to the new snow season, with snow depths reminiscent of what you might expect in late January already at many ski resorts. During this past week, some midweek snow led into some fine and photogenic conditions.

This weekend the snow is returning again at many areas, making for great powder conditions up high. It should be great for Christmas visitors!

Les Arcs 13th December [Source: Les Arcs FB page]

At Espace Killy, which includes Tignes and Val D'Isere, 76% of the 155 pistes are now open. At Val D'Isere there is 185cms of snow at 2500m altitude, and 90cms on the ground at the beautiful Val D'Isere village (1850m).

Les Arcs has now decided to open a week early, no doubt due to the fantastic abundance of white stuff:
@1600m - 76cms
@2000m - 102cms

Meribel 13th December [Source: 3Vallees FB page]
The huge Les Trois Vallees area of interconnected ski resorts has a massive amount of skiing available for this time of year:
@1450m - 90cms
@2300m - 150cms

Les 2 Alpes:
@1650m - 100cms
@2600m - 140cms


The Southern Alps are certainly doing as well, if not better, than the northern resorts.

All lifts and pistes are open at Isola 2000, with 175cms of snow covering its upper slopes, and 115cms at 2000 metres.

Further west is the fantastic value linked area known as L'Espace Lumiere, centred around Val D'Allos:
@1800m - 140cms
@2600m - 200cms

Cauterets 9th December [Source: Cauterets FB page]

In the Pyrenees a sunny spell has arrived.

The Grand Tourmalet area now has 90cms of snow at 1800 metres altitude, and 110cms @ 2500m.

@1850m - 125cms
@2400m - 150cms


Snow Report 10 December 2012 - Japan


The new season is truly beginning to swing into life as many of the Japanese ski resorts officially opened this weekend. Most of the majors have some lifts running ... while many are digging them out after the massive snowfalls of the past few days!

Good snowfalls last weekend were followed by a mixed week: Nozawa Onsen and the Yuzawa area of Niigata had rain and a little snow during the week, while to the south and north there were better midweek snowfalls (Hakuba, Gifu and Zao).

Happo One 9 December 2012 [Source: Happo Facebook page]
This weekend coincided with a major storm bringing lots of snow. Some areas felt the power early on, while for others the inevitable was just delayed a bit. Happy days now all round!

Happo One (Hakuba)

The Hakuba region has done particularly well since rain turned to snow midweek. On Friday a storm arrived and dumped 30-40cms of new snow ... and the same again the following day and night. By Sunday morning there was 180cms up high at Happo One, to around 70-100cms on the middle slopes, while the base areas at the bottom of the lifts are now white with 20-30cms of cover.

Nozawa Onsen

Nozawa strangely missed out on much snow this week and even the storm that hit nearby Hakuba this weekend seemed to pass by rather than dumping snow on the slopes above the onsen town. But on Sunday things started happening as Nozawa Onsen added about 70cms of snow in only 24 hours at Yamabiko, and about 40cms around town and on the lower slopes. Thats the kind of snowfalls Nozawa Onsen is known for as winter kicks in!

Nozawa Onsen 2 December 2012 [Source: Nozawa Facebook page]

Last Sunday 30cms fell at Naeba, followed by a little more snow during the week. This weekend saw lift openings, but not as much snow as expected. Up high there is a massive amount of snow - as much as 2 metres already at the top of the linked Kagura area - and in 24 hours only we have seen more than 80cms fall at the base area at Naeba. Nearby Yuzawa town is suddenly very white and being cleared of snow.

Zao Onsen

Zao held its traditional opening ceremony on Saturday 8th December in the midst of a snowstorm! The middle slopes and lifts are operating this weekend, with more set to follow. While there were a few small snowfalls during the week, Saturday was the start of the main event and by Sunday morning there was another foot of snow. Zao now has 60cms up high and 30cms at the base.


Snow Report 2 December 2012 - France & Japan

Its that time again - so, WELCOME to Season 2012-2013! May the festive season bring massive dumps of powder for everyone, whether they be skiing or riding in Europe or Japan.

The last week has brought good snowfalls to both these parts of the world, so lets see how a few of the key mountains in Japan and France fared in their preparations for opening ...


Snowfalls in the past week have painted the mountain tops white, and even helped some resorts begin lift operations. Many of the ski resorts in the central part of Japan have half a metre of snow above about 1,000 metres, but the base areas - being quite close to sea-level - at most have a sprinkling.

As we move through the first few weeks of December, the ski resorts on Honshu will progressively open up (snow permitting of course!).

Happo Upper Slopes 30 November [Source: Happo Website]
Happo One (Hakuba)

Happo One, the most extensive of the ski stations in the Hakuba area of Nagano Prefecture, opened in late November this year.

There is now 50cms on the upper slopes. Happo is OPEN for limited skiing and riding!

Nozawa Onsen

Just across a few valleys in the southern part of Niigata, the beautiful village of Nozawa Onsen welcomed 60cms of snow falling on its upper slopes.

The Yamabiko area at the very top of the resort is known for its deep powder tree runs. However, there is little snow at the base and in the village ... yet!

Akakura Onsen (Myoko Kogen)

Still in Niigata Prefecture - but back towards Hakuba - is Myoko Kogen, possibly one of the snowiest ski areas in Japan.

Despite this top billing, and some snow after falls this week, there are no lifts open yet at the various ski areas that cluster around the base of Mount Myoko.

Zao Middle Slopes 30 November [Source: Zao Website]

This area has special interest this season as I will be reporting from Myoko after a trip there next month. Something to look forward to!


The massive linked resorts of Naeba, Tashiro and Kagura are around two hours on a shinkansen from Tokyo. Little snow at the bottom yet - but already there is lots of snow cover at the top of both Naeba and Kagura ski areas.

Zao Onsen

Much further northeast in Yamagata Prefecture is Zao Onsen. Zao currently has limited skiing on several runs with full opening scheduled for the weekend of 8 December.


Some good snowfalls across parts of France have helped preparations for December openings. Early news follows from a selection of ski resorts in the different areas of France.

Northern Alps

About one quarter to a third of the huge Espace Killy is already open as of this weekend, centred around Val D'Isere (50cms snowdepth up high to around 30cms at the base).

Other opening areas include the higher altitude ski stations like Les Deux Alpes (90-40cms) and Alpe D'Huez (120-48cms).

Other openings are planned as follows:
Serre Chevalier, Chamonix, Isola 2000, and Trois Vallees/Courchevel (79-29cms) - 8 December
Les Arcs - 15 December

Isola 2000 1 December [Source: Isola 2000 Webcam]
Southern Alps

Magnificent Isola 2000, perched high above the Mediterranean Sea in the Southern Alps, already has 100cms of snow covering its upper slopes, and 80cms at 2000 metres. Isola 2000 will open on 8 December 2012.


The Grand Tourmalet area is the largest connected ski area in the French Pyrenees. About 40cms of snow fell this week at 1800 metres altitude - the Grand Tourmalet ski stations plan to open on 6 December 2012.


Mt Dobson New Zealand 2012 - A Closer Look


In this article I take a closer look at one of my favourite skifields from the 2012 season and post some extra pictures in addition to those in the New Zealand trip report.

Name - Mount Dobson
Location - Canterbury, South Island, New Zealand.
Closest town - Fairlie and Lake Tekapo.
Closest airport - Christchurch Airport (Domestic and International) is about two and a half hour's drive away.

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Fresh snow on Mt Dobson - 21 September 2012
2012 Season Snow Cover

While 2010 was a year notable for a fantastic early start to the season in June, 2012 had some great skiing, particularly in August and September at Mt Dobson.

By mid-August, Mt Dobson had two metres of snow cover across the skifield. It was to stay this way well into September and there was still 1.5m in early October despite a run of sunny, warm days.

For our two visits there on this trip, the last section of Mt Dobson's long mountain road was surrounded by a spectacular white mountain landscape with no tussock or rocks in sight.

All in all a great year in 2012, and the fine and  fair weather in September meant fewer closed days than on previous visits in other years.

Lifts & Altitude

Mt Dobson is one of the higher altitude skifields on the South Island. The base area and ticket office at the Dobson car park is at 1725 metres. This is higher than the top of Coronet Peak and just about level with the top of the Home Basin six-seater at Treble Cone.

Dobson T-bar and Shirt Front - 29 September 2012
The highest lifted point is 2030 metres, accessed from a T-bar, while the other high point is accessed by a three-seater chairlift that loads just below the car park.

Usually when you arrive nice and early at Dobson the T-bar is running providing access to the main valley first.

The chairlift then opens up the West Valley, and a platter or poma drag lift provides learner and beginner terrain. The T-bar and poma are often self-service.

The three lifts together give access to a lot of terrain, and a little hiking can open up significantly more.

The Runs

Taking the T-bar up the centre of the main valley, you can offload early for cruisey, short blue runs - known as the M1 - down the front of the valley. This is where most of the few groomed runs are.

Taking the T-bar all the way up to 2030m brings you to a ridge with narrow cat tracks in either direction.

The East Trail can take you all the way back to the base area, or you can launch into some steeper off-piste at any point around the bowl.

When the snow cover is good, this bowl offers lots of fun, rolling terrain of varying steepness. In freeze-thaw conditions, the Sunny Run is the first to soften in the sunshine.

When there is fresh snow or powder, the first runs are typically straight down the Shirt Front from the top of the T-bar, as in the video. The 21st September was one such day - freshies all day!

West Valley with options out wide - 21 September 2012
The West Trail provides access to some black off-piste runs and another way into the West Valley.

West Valley has gentle, rolling terrain for intermediates, as well as a nice natural halfpipe under the chairlift.

Going out wide gives a taste of what is accessible with a little hiking. There are lots of options if you traverse this way, and you can even ski below the chairlift and walk back up.

On a good day Dobson is a lot of fun, uncrowded and good value for money with stunning views over the surrounding mountains and to lake Tekapo.


Mt Hutt New Zealand 2012 - A Closer Look


In this article I take a closer look at one of my favourite skifields from the 2012 season and post some extra pictures in addition to those in the New Zealand trip report.

Name - Mount Hutt
Location - Canterbury, South Island, New Zealand.
Closest town - Methven
Closest airport - Christchurch Airport (Domestic and International) is about one hour's drive away.

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Mt Hutt from Methven
2012 Season Snow Cover

It has been a great year for Mt Hutt, particularly towards the end of the season.

At the beginning of August 2012, Mt Hutt had less than a metre of snow, but even then it had better conditions than many other South Island ski areas. By the middle of that month the measured depth had almost doubled with the heavy August snowfalls.

By late August, Hutt was sitting on 2m-plus snowdepth, and that was how it was to remain until October with regular top-up snowfalls.

The reality at the skifield was certainly reflected up high during our September visit with fantastic off-piste cover across the upper mountain.

However, the cover at the bottom of the Towers Triple Chair was getting dodgy at the end of September due to a warmer season with snowfalls only at higher levels.

The 2012 season was a vast improvement on 2011, where snowdepth failed to top 1 metre. It was somewhat similar to the good season in 2010, but great promotions (half-price lift tickets on weekdays in September) capped some fantastic visits.

Lifts & Altitude

The Summit Six and Virgin Mile Ridge - 16 September 2012
The Mt Hutt base area and car park is at 1620m. A brilliant high-speed six-seater chairlift rockets you to 2086m. All of the ski area and backcountry can be accessed from here - the easier terrain is down the middle, and the ridges, chutes and backcountry are accessed from the sides.

A slower four-seater chairlift accesses the terrain parks, halfpipe and easy slopes from the base area.

A three-seater, the Towers Triple Chair, extends Mt Hutt's terrain below the base area to 1438m. This provides a fantastic total vertical, as well as making more varied terrain available.

The Runs

A wide easy green run is accessed from the Quad Chair, as well as Broadway for developing intermediates. These are good runs for progression, but then its up to the top if you want more variety.

Virgin Mile Ridge - Platter Splatter and Bob's Knob groomed - 19 September 2012
The blue runs from the top of the Summit Six are accessed from a cat track that can be a little busy. But the views over the Canterbury plains to Christchurch and the Pacific Ocean are well worth it!

Grooming was fantastic at Hutt in September 2012 and the runs down the middle were wide corduroy for fast turns on nice snow. The key runs Morning Glory and Fascination are always a great way to start the day.

Hubers is a little steeper in sections and adds some variety while you wait for other areas of the mountain to open up.

The steep, short and fast Race Hill is worth a go at this time, but can become slick quickly.Virgin Mile Ridge with Platter Splatter and Bob's Knob groomed - 19 September 2012

In Spring, International usually opens next and you can link the runs from the top of the Summit Six all the way down to the very bottom of the lifted ski area. The temperature difference can be noticeable!

Towers, International & South Face - 19 September 2012
The Virgin Mile track takes you from the top of the Summit Six along a ridge that provides a wealth of launching pads on powder days.

In previous years there have been few groomed options from the Virgin Mile, but this year there was some great grooming - High Dive, Platter Splatter, and Bobs Knob were groomed, and there was off-piste, advanced skiing all the way across at The Bluff's.

Towers, and the other areas either side of International make for interesting and diverse off-piste, whether its the narrow and fun Log Chute or making your own runs by going wide to the right from Towers and taking a line down towards International again.

Thanks for the great Spring days Hutt!


Ski New Zealand 2012 - Part 2

Lake Tekapo
After a great day's skiing in the Mackenzie region the top apres-ski activity - at least the best one I can think of - is to soak away the evening in the hot springs at Tekapo Hot Pools.

The three huge hot outdoor pools have varying temperatures and they are divine. Mmmm ...hmmm!

The sun sets over the snow-capped mountains. From the pools you can spy where we were skiing above the clouds at Mt Dobson earlier that day.

The stars come out one by one ... what a way to end a day of powder skiing!

Refreshed and invigorated the next morning, we leave the pretty village at Tekapo and head towards the South.

Lake Pukaki and Mt Cook
The road bucks and bends through the Mackenzie region ... twisting one way then the next as it skirts lakes and rises up and down the steep glacial moraines.

The second great lake in The Mackenzie is Pukaki, and its is a stunner, a bit of a crowd-pleaser, you'll not see a better lake than this! Views of Mt Cook are the icing on this aqua blue cake.

A little further along from Lake Pukaki we arrive at the turn-off to our skifield for the day - don't forget what we're here for - pretty little Ohau.

Like Mt Dobson, Ohau was having a great year in 2012, although it rarely disappoints in any year to be honest. Ohau picks up a bit of snow in most weather systems situated as it is between the Canterbury and Southern Lakes skifields.

Ohau is very remote as South Island ski areas go, far from the populated or tourist areas, but so reliable every year and well worth the visit to anyone doing this trip.

Ohau 22 September 2012
The snow cover was fantastic, especially up high, and the views over Lake Ohau are just magnificent.

This year's visit to Ohau was on a very warm day, and this made the snow spring-like, it was softening as the sun moved around in the sky. We started on one side of the mountain where the still fresh snow softened up for fun turns.

This was probably the best day we've had at Ohau over the many years we have been visiting, the good snow cover in 2012 opening up some areas we hadn't skied before.

Back on the road after Ohau, a few hours drive brought us to our next destination ... beautiful Wanaka. So great to be back! Oh so good to be back in this beautiful town.

Treble Cone 27 September 2012
We had only decided to come down to Wanaka a few days before as we were scheming away in Methven, and I can't believe that we had even considered giving it a miss. I don't think that it was seriously an option - once you get over the Tasman you just have to go to Wanaka!

Wanaka is the smaller of the two great South Island, New Zealand adventure capitals. Less brash, ostentatious and hectic than its neighbour, Queenstown.

While both towns have stunning natural settings, what Queenstown has in terms of cosmopolitan drinking and eating, Wanaka makes up for in terms of a serious, uncompromising focus on outdoor pursuits and lifestyle.

A half an hour drive from Wanaka is the skifield at Treble Cone. An overnight snowfall had delivered a 20cms fresh dump across the upper mountain.

Wanaka 27 September 2012
The sun warmed the snow and the morning gave way to a packed lunch overlooking the lake and the township of Wanaka.

A quick drive down, a change, and then we were walking along the lake in t-shirts in the sun, the sparkling water shimmering and the mountain peaks - where we had been skiing that morning - framing the beautiful landscape.

We usually stay in privately rented accommodation like holiday homes when we're in New Zealand, but this year we made an exception in Wanaka staying at the Oakridge Resort just outside of the township. It was a bit of a gamble as we like our peace and quiet, but the resort was not too busy, the apartments were fantastic, and the views lovely.

Oakridge Resort Wanaka
The hot pools at the centre of the resort were a favourite every day ... a place to soak and swim after a hard day's skiing as the sun goes down, a glass of warmed cider in hand.

As well as nearby Treble Cone, the skifield at Cardrona is also only a 30-minute drive away. We had two great days at Cardies during our extended stay at Wanaka.

The snow at Cardrona was Spring-style, firm to start and then softening across the mountain. We've been coming here so many years that we know where to pick up the best snow during the day ... and were frankly a little amazed at the lack of local knowledge. We just loved the empty runs in the Last Shot Bowl and Powder Keg this year.

Spring Snow Dragon at Cardrona
Eventually - there's only so much soaking you can do in hot pools - we decided to make our way back to Canterbury again. The lakes in the Mackenzie were looking fantastic in the sparkly early Spring sunshine ... so much so that we decided to stay a night at a motel overlooking the lake. What a wake-up call!

This also gave us the opportunity to hit Mt Dobson again for the second time this trip! While the conditions weren't quite a great as the earlier visit, we did manage to find some fresh turns in the softening snow before heading down to pretty Geraldine for the night.

Geraldine is a great base for walks, or tramping as it is known in NZ. For something different on a couple of windy days in the mountains we hiked around the Peel Forest and near Mt Somers. Beautiful!

Then we made our way back to Methven to finish off our trip with a few more days at brilliant Mt Hutt. The skiing was still great ... fun, some fresh ... and it was October!

Til next year NZ!


Ski New Zealand 2012 - Part 1

Spring is a great time to ski in New Zealand. The snow season starts a little later than in Australia, and finishes a touch later as well. A few days before I wrote this post, the brilliant skifield at Mt Hutt reported a 30cms dump!

Amazingly, my first sight of New Zealand from the airplane was an unique view of the summit and ski lifts at Mt Hutt rising out of the cloud that had blanketed the land and sea all the way across on the short flight from Melbourne to Christchurch.

In two and a half weeks we drove between Christchurch and Wanaka (and back) and skied all but a handful of days. The map below, if you play with it a bit and click and enlarge it, shows all the locations of the different skifields mentioned in this and the follow-up post.

View New Zealand Ski Trip 2012 in a larger map

After picking up the 4WD hire car and stocking up with food, mucho cheese and bueno cider at a Pak 'N' Save supermarket, we drove the short distance from Christchurch Airport down the highway to Methven, a resort town at the base of Mt Hutt on the Canterbury plains.

We spent our first five nights in New Zealand at a perfect little apartment in Methven that had everything we needed for a comfortable stay.

Two of those five days we skied at nearby Mt Hutt, which had been having a very good snow season with a couple of metres snowdepth.

Mt Hutt 16 September 2012
This Methven stay was the only accommodation we had booked in advance this year as the skifields down south around Queenstown had been struggling a bit and we wanted to keep our options open.

The snow cover at Mt Hutt was as good as I can remember it in the last six or seven years. There were areas of the mountain open and runs groomed that I have never seen open before. For those who know the place, The Bluffs was being skied and Bob's Knob was groomed. Thanks Bob!

On another day we went to Porters, which is a highly recommended scenic drive from Methven on a gravel road that eventually skirts along the side of an eerie, misty lake. It appeared like sea fog and, coincidentally, it was International Talk Like A Pirate Day so I expected a ghost ship from Scooby Doo at any moment!

Porters 17 September 2012
The snow at Porters was good up at the top, but the bottom was rocky as always around this time of year. The problem with Porters is that it takes three T-bars to get up to the good stuff! Compare that to the Mt Hutt six-seater that rockets to the top of the mountain, 2000m above sea level.

The view to Christchurch from the top of Porters is great though, and there was some nice skiing up high.

Entree over ... the main course on this year's NZ trip was a first heliskiing experience!

YEP, the big ski adventure in New Zealand for all you serious skiers. One of us had been very unhappy about the helicopter idea ... but I'm glad to say those fears quickly evaporated and were overtaken by the thrills, the realities, and the sheer beauty of the mountain landscapes. Only a few moments of terror! Just a few ...

Methven Heliskiing's base at Glenfalloch Station
Methven Heliskiing's base is at a working sheep farm station in the mountain ranges behind Mt Hutt towards the Divide, about 40 minutes drive from Methven. The setting is stunning. You get the feeling that there is nothing but wilderness for miles around this property.

The helipad is basically a raised mound in a paddock ... albeit with a lovely farmhouse setting looking out on the mountains. Before you get to go anywhere near the helicopter you are provided with avalanche beacons that you must wear, instruction on how to use them, as well as a crash course on how to find and extricate people buried in an avalanche.

The helicopter ride was fantastic, really fantastic - so much more smooth and gentle than I had expected. A calmness descended in the midst of the wild mountain landscapes ... until we realised where we were going to land!

Heliskiing - First Landing - 18 September 2012
This first landing was a total surprise. I'm not sure what I had expected our landing would be like ... a big H in a circle perhaps! Not this though ... no, not this.

The helicopter hardly hovered before it perched on the mountain ridge line, effectively a narrow snow-covered cornice. No ski lifts, no people, no ski patrol ... nothing ...

You unload the ski gear from the carriers, keep your heads down, hold onto the gear as the helicopter leaves and suddenly ... silence.

As you stand up to see where you are you look over the edge on one side and find a sheer snow-covered drop of hundreds of metres. Your guide takes a deep breath of the mountain air to encourage you! All around you are mountain peaks, virgin snow, and blue skies. It would be invigorating if it wasn't a little terrifying .... you feel yourself wobble.

Heliskiing - Pickup - 18 September 2012
This heliskiing operation has hundreds of named runs they use in many ranges of mountains, but they cycle around them so that they are always untracked by skiers and riders.

The first run was a bit tricky for us! Grippy, deep, snow and steep, combined with some nerves, and we didn't do so well. The thing with heliskiing is suddenly you're at the bottom of the class again! At least that's how it felt for the first half of the first run.

The second half of the run felt much more like .... woohoooooooooooooo! Gliding across the fresh snow, taking whatever lines we felt like, nobody there except your four friends and your guide. More of that please! More!

Heliskiing - Looking back at our first run - 18 September 2012
The helicopter picks you up and you're heading back up to a new summit ... the helicopter is basically your ski lift but the passengers are the only ones to ski that terrain that day.

It takes some getting used to ... being left with your gear at the top of a mountain with no prepared way down to the bottom. But there's your guide and your fellow passengers ... and once you let go and get going, the experience is just amazing!

To get an idea of what its like in the heli from pickup to dropoff, take a look at this video.

After five fun days in Methven including the heliskiing adventure  we drove the few hours south to Lake Tekapo, stopping at pretty little Geraldine to stock up with more food, cheese, and NZ vino at the supermarche!

Busy Morning at Mt Dobson - 21 September 2012
Tekapo village sits on the beach of a stunning turquoise glacial lake in the Mackenzie high country. We stayed two nights in this pretty little spot in a lovely, tiny, new cottage that had all the mod cons.

The first morning in this new base we made the short trip back the way we had come to visit Mt Dobson, a private family-owned skifield between Lake Tekapo and Fairlie.

A few years earlier we had had a stunning fresh snow day at Mt Dobson with our friends ... this year was so similar!

One of the two bowls at Mt Dobson - 21 September 2012
It was almost like deja-vu, so much so that I couldn't resist texting our friends from the previous trip when we got back to the Tekapo cottage that evening and ate our homemade pizzas!

A good fall of snow in the preceding days reflected a great season for Mt Dobson in 2012. The Friday we visited was a sunny day, no wind, no people, fresh lines all day!

This part of the South Island is fairly quiet for tourists in September and is not really close enough to any major town centres to attract too many locals.

What this means is that when the skifields here in the Mackenzie open on week days you can get fresh tracks all day ... something that is in great contrast to those skifields around Wanaka, Queenstown and Christchurch, even on a week day.

Clouds in the valley at Mt Dobson - 21 September 2012
Mt Dobson sits high above the Mackenzie and the whole area was bright, pristine white under the sun but with fresh winter snow to start the day. We shared the two bowls with a few dozen other skiers and riders.

The ski area is very intermediate-friendly, the wide bowls giving access to whatever lines you might want to take down. Off-piste is the way to go here as there are only four or five groomed runs, but the terrain is nice and rolling so that you can pick your lines and steepness and work your way up to the more challenging stuff.  Its easy to hike a little to get access to a lot more lines also,even if you're lazy like us! A great day! What will the Mackenzie bring next in 2012?


Snow Report 12 September 2012 - Australia & New Zealand


Here we are in the middle of September and who would have thought the Australian ski resorts would still have over 1m to 1.5m of snow! It has been a long time since it has been this good. Far too long!

So glad, so glad to have been there at the season peak snowdepths for all resorts - I hope you were there too! Great skiing has been had with fresh snowfalls during the week and clearing or sunny weekends through season 2012.

There is still some great skiing to be had across Victoria until the end of the school holidays. I think the resorts will be open for skiing until early October this year. Spring is a great time to learn to ride in soft, forgiving snow and warm temperatures.
Falls Creek - The Ys Groomed

Mt Hotham
Natural Snow Depth: 156-203cms
We hit Hotham's Blue Ribbon area at is peak and you'll need to get up there soon before it gets too warm. So much fun early! Over at The Orchard conditions have been fantastic over the last month. I'm not going to talk about Lower Playground as I was so chuffed to play around here for the first time ever, and its probably all over now! Your loss!

Falls Creek
Natural Snow Depth: 153-169cms
It must be a record for Falls with all lifts open and all terrain open for such a long period of the season. The bottom of The Maze might be a little iffy, but who cares when you can cruise around the open spaces and find your favourites. Let me know if you see The Ys groomed again ... ever!

Mt Buller
Natural Snow Depth: 83cms
Hit Buller only once this year, and although it lost out a little this season, it was damn fine when I was up there and Buller is a fantastic mountain if you know how to make your way around it. May next year bring a bumper year!


New Zealand has decided to hold winter in late August and early September this year! It was looking pretty rubbish across the Southern Lakes for most of the NZ winter. The north of the South Island provided some promise with some great conditions ... and then the past few weeks have turned it on for some brilliant late season skiing all the way across the South Island.

North Canterbury and Nelson

While Rainbow has recovered nicely for some good Spring skiing (50-110cms), Hanmer Springs sadly had to give up under the warm August temperatures. Mt Lyford (126-165cms) is going strong but could do with some cold blasts to stay open for the rest of the month.

Ohau 12 September [Source: Ohau Facebook page]

The weather to date has favoured the Canterbury skifields this year. Porters (150-70cms) continues to look nice, while Mt Hutt is sitting pretty (205-205cms) after recent snowfalls.

The Mackenzie

Ohau (220-100cms) is having a cracking year and is highly recommended for anyone heading over at this time of year. Roundhill and Dobson are keeping up interest in the Mackenzie ski fields.


Treble Cone has welcomed a late burst that has finally covered the Home Basin (216-44cms) and is looking exceptionally promising over this coming weekend. Cardrona opened the Valley View lift again just today to trigger some fantastic skiing across this lovely ski field (115-70cms). Lots more to come in Wanaka this weekend.


Falls Creek/Mt Hotham Ski Report - 1/2 September 2012

Falls Creek Village from Zipper on 1 September 2012
Yet another week in ski season 2012 saw a good, strong Thursday to Friday storm bringing snow to the Australian skifields. What a great season it has been!

And its not over yet. There is heaps of snow for fun, spring skiing throughout September and into the school holidays.

The weekend of 1st/2nd September was clear skies and gloriously sunny after moderate snowfalls on Thursday and Friday. Conditions were fantastic, indeed they were at their peak, with Falls Creek sitting on about 180 centimetres snowdepth and Mt Hotham topping 2 metres.

The Summit at Falls from the Ys on 1 September 2012
We went up to Falls Creek on Saturday and cruised around the entire mountain enjoying the brilliant snow conditions. The jinky Milky Way was finally open; the fully-covered Summit was glorious; and The Maze was a great place to explore.

The runs known as the Ys (because they appear to be a Y-shape on top of a Y-shape) had been groomed - sacrilege some might say as they're usually for keen short-turn skiing! The first time I've ever seen one of them groomed. We went down a couple of the Ys - a groomed one and an ungroomed Y - to get the ungroomed effect also!

Blue Ribbon at Mt Hotham on 2 September
There were even some untouched lines around left over from the snowfalls on Friday out the back of Ruined Castle. Plenty of people were seen hiking for some powder.

On Sunday the drive up to Mt Hotham was fantastic on a crisp, sunny morning. What a view across to Mt Feathertop with snow cover low down and banked up alongside the road!

In the warming, morning sun, the Blue Ribbon area was softening very quickly and we headed there first. The slopes were groomed on both sides of Blue Ribbon lift, and there was as much snow cover down there as I have seen. Boondoo/Roaring Forties was fun. Some years Blue Ribbon doesn't even open all season - this year we've skied it several times.

The Orchard at Mt Hotham on 2 September
Late in the morning we did a few laps of Lower Playground - somewhere at Hotham where we've never skied before. There's not usually enough snow cover, but this year there was enough to groom this black run beautifully. Nice first time for us. Hardly any other people seemed to be aware of the terrain available there.

But in a good snow year you can't go past the fun to be had out at The Orchard on a sunny, warm day.

All the runs were in beautiful condition, with lots of snow to let you ski through the snow gums. In fact, I've never seen the branches of the gums disappear so much under the snow. Well, that's what 2 metres of snow does!


Mt Buller Ski Report - 25/26 August 2012

Mt Buller - Little Buller Spur - 25 August
We made our way up to Mount Buller for the first time this snow season on the weekend of 25 and 26 August.

Its no secret that Buller has sadly struggled this year while Falls Creek and Mt Hotham have had bumper snowfalls.

A lot of the weather systems this year have dropped snow but only to higher altitudes, and Buller missed out on a number of opportunities and got rain instead.

A few stronger weather systems over the past few weeks have really kicked off Mt Buller's season. More lifts started turning and lots more runs were available away from the snowmaking areas, i.e. natural snow cover.

Mt Buller - View from Summit Chair - 26 August

We stayed for the weekend in a cottage near Mansfield overlooking part of the Eildon lakes with views around the surrounding countryside. The lovely cottages at Burnt Creek Cottages are pretty special to come back to with the fire roaring and the huge spa bubbling while your dinner is cooking away.

I love a log fire and got to work getting that going in the evenings! At only a bit over two hours from Essendon the comparatively short drive made a nice change from the drive up to Hotham.

Saturday was fairly cloudy and there was a little drizzle around early, but it cleared later. Sunday was a lovely, sunny day.

We were keen to check out the new Bonza Chair to see what the lift's installation has done to the Burnt Hut area.

While there is no new terrain there, the realignment has made it easier to see the lines and runs that can be taken through the trees in the Telecom area. Quite a lot of different ways down can be taken, even by starting out at the top of Chalet Creek. Good fun!

The Summit was pretty icy in the mornings, but Standard and Wombat were a good place to start each day. As the mountain softened up, people would move to different areas, with Wood Run being very popular.