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It ain't over: cheap R/T airfare to New Zealand!


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I arranged airfare to NZ through Sky Auction last summer and will do it again this year. New Zealand offers great exchange rates, beautiful country, adventuresome people, and affordable heliboarding. As a bonus, you can do a stopover in Tahiti, Fiji, Cook Islands, or Hawaii.

Is the riding epic? Sometimes. Is it worth a trip? Definitely!

Bring all of your own hardboot gear as it's nearly impossible to find alpine gear (and parts) in NZ.

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It was a pleasure to arrange travel through SkyAuction. They were quick, cordial, and totally professional.

I flew with Air Tahiti Nui, which I also highly recommend. Air Tahiti provided outstanding service and surprisingly good food, spankin' new Airbus planes (the ones with the personal video monitors in each seat). They cheerfully accomodated my request for a bulkhead seat and a last-minute, unscheduled change in my travel dates at no additional charge (Frontier airlines charged me 1/3 the price of my flight for a similar adjustment).

And, best of all, you can choose an extended stopover in Tahiti. Good medicine for winterized riders.


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I've been to NZ a couple of times and I can vouch for the authenticity of these photos - they're pretty representative of the views you get from NZ resorts.

Virtually all the riding there is above the tree-line, and you usually get great views of lakes and green fields in one direction, and endless snowy peaks in the other direction. But being above the tree-line can mean that bad weather tends to be very bad.

Anybody been to Mt Hutt? I remember an old interview with 70s skiing star Ingemar Stenmark where he was asked what the scariest moment in his skiing career was. His answer -

"The road to Mt Hutt in New Zealand."

That road is truly memorable - unpaved, steep, winding, narrow, one lane each way, with steep cliffs on both sides and no guard rail or safety fence.

This is Mt Hutt (yes, there is a resort with chairlifts in there):

<img src="http://www.snow.co.nz/Areas/images/mthutt.jpg">

My other advice is to avoid NZ school holidays!

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Another Heli-tip:

If possible, book the entire chopper with similarly skilled riders. This ensures you aren't shackled by a less-able rider obliging you to ride easier slopes. If your entire group has the skills, your guides will bring you to exciting steep slopes that will challenge your abilities.

For budget minded travelers, the NZ exchange rate (1 USD = 1.60 NZD) make heli-boarding a very viable option.

NZ Rocks. Go if you can.

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I've done the Mt Hutt road a few times and I can vouch for Baka. We took a guy up there who wasn't good with heights and he spent the entire hour with his eyes closed and swallowing really hard.

You forgot to mention the tooth-loosening ruts that develop from all the chains on the switchbacks. Do not take a nice car up there. You will have no suspension at the end of it.

That's the only problem with the NZ ski resorts, is the drive up there. Most of them it's like an hour up a steep, windy, rutty gravel road to get to the base. And then you get the a**holes in rented campervans (RV's) that can't drive and STOP in the middle of the road when it's icy ...

I'm really spoiled here in Calgary, only a few hours from 14 good ski resorts all with good access roads. AND we still have snow - I'm going to Sunshine this weekend.

:cool: :cool: :cool:

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Guest snowyarse

The road up Mt Hutt is truly scary - A few years ago at Mt Hutt a car was literally blown off the road by a gust.

Also check out the road up the Remarkables in Queenstown - not as windy but a breathtaking drop on the NW side - best not to look !

Fortunately both these resorts are mediocre for carving, allthough each winter Mt Hutt is packed with Japanese on Racing boards

A day of Heliboarding here is around $500-$600 - I've never done it but.....one day....

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Guest snowyarse

Best resorts for carving are Whakapapa and Turoa in the north Island, and Cardrona and Treble Cone in the South Island

Whakapapa (pronounced faka-papa) and Turoa are on Mt Ruapehu a 3000m high volcano. They are NZ's largest ski fields allthough not big by other standards. Both feature wide groomed slopes and a great deal of very carveable off piste terrain which is accessible if the weather is good - probably twice as much off piste as on. The weather is less certain in the NI and the mountain can be very icy. Think spring conditions.

Cardrona in the SI is smaller but has the most dependable weather and snow conditions. Think early spring conditions. There is less off piste but the groomers are wide, less crowded and very good. Easily the best place to learn in NZ but possibly a bit limited for advanced riders. It just aint steep enough. On the plus side Cardrona has a new quad express opening in June

Treble Cone is steeper and does not get as much snow. It does have a six seater express chair and on a fresh snow day is the dog's bollocks.

Other resorts are Coronet Peak(concrete peak). Crowded, crap snow. good facilities.

Mt Hutt - Mt Shutt

The Remarkables- a bit limited but with some good off piste if you are good

In general NZ skifields are small underdeveloped affairs but on a good day they are as good as anywhere. A bit like the whole country . The snow conditions here suit carving boards as in eight years of snowboarding 10 to 15 days a season I think I can remember four powder days. Why then are hordes of NZ snowboarders using gear designed for powder?

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Here' s what you get at Ruapehu ...

On a good day, the entire population of the North Island on a ski hill. An hour to park the car, half an hour to get your pass, and another 45 minutes in every lift line. And the hill is like an LA freeway in rush hour. Seriously. And on a bad day, which from what I remember is half the season, Turoa is like concrete. Whakapapa's a little better but tends to get less snow. Then to make things really exciting, Ruapehu is an active volcano and it likes to vent a lot. Back in 96/97? it blew it's top two years in a row. Ash is really good for bases and edges, and those refrigerator sized rocks raining down from the sky were apparently quite something!

The South Island is much better especially if you can go midweek. Yes, the fields are tiny and underdeveloped, although they don't sound much worse than some of the fields you guys have ! (more vertical anyways).:) The approach roads are a lesson in driving, long and tedious, but the views are amazing and the snow is generally OK. In a good season it's really good, in a so-so one it can be a bit marginal.

Best carving resorts - Cardrona (Captains Basin) and Treble Cone (good steeps and varied terrain). Mt Shutt is a good name for Mt Hutt, and it's always crowded with weekday school groups and stuff, as is Coronet Peak. The Remarkables, if they're having a good season, are as good as anywhere. If you want some cheap thrills some of the club fields can be fun, Porter Heights, Rainbow, Ohau.

If you're going to travel do so in July and August (don't count on good spring skiing as the seasons are getting shorter and shorter) and base yourself in Otago - Queenstown is really expensive, Cromwell's not and the transit time to Cardrona/TC is about the same.

I miss my annual ten days in Queenstown ...


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I worked at the Remarkables for a season and can attest to the drive to and from the area being the most exciting aspect of the day. By far. It is an amazing experience!

Cliffs. No guard rails. Huge exposure. Sometimes icy/slick roads. I remember the staff bus becomes ominously silent whenever the bus loses traction on the slick spots. In the afternoon, you would sometimes look down, straight down, on the tops of commercial jets as they made their final approach to Queenstown airport.

Don't remember hearing about anyone driving off into the abyss while I was there, however.

Haven't done the Mt Hutt drive yet but I heard it is even more exposed than the drive to the Remarks.

I'm looking forward to it!

The most interesting riding at the Remarks is in the chutes accessed by hiking above the lifts. Here's a view from the ridge, hiking above Shadow Bowl. Escalator Chute is in the foreground, Sugar Bowl and the lines above it, are in the background. If there's good snow, the riding is some of the best in NZ.


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