Reminiscent of last winter in Interior British Columbia (epic skiing photos here), New Zealand is getting dumped on bigger than any time in memory. Near Wanaka on the South Island, heliskiers have been able to ride from the summits of peaks all the way to the valley bottoms for the first time in over 30 years.
The above shot is going deep in the Cariboos, March 2011. For globe-trotting skiers and snowboarders, With New Zealand now going off, 2011 is shaping up to be the best skiing in a generation.
The blog for Wanaka-based Harris Mountains Heli-Ski describes the unusual season much the same as the way the 2010-2011 season started at the CMH areas in Western Canada. It reads: “Mother nature held off and held off, but last week she dumped like no other season we can remember.”
At the beginning of the 2010-2011 season, CMH was forced to delay the opening of one of the lodges because of a lack of snow in Western Canada in early December. By Christmas it started snowing and never really stopped for more than a few days until after the CMH ski season ended in May.
This week is also the beginning of the World Heli Challenge in Wanaka, a two week snowsport competition and lifestyle event, and one of the only helicopter-based freeride events on the planet. As of this weekend, the forecast called for snow all the way to sea level in parts of the South Island, including Wellington which typically receives no snow.
Two weeks are scheduled for the event to allow for weather and conditions, but two days are the heart of the action. One will be a freeride competition in a natural terrain park, and the other will be a Big Mountain competition on the steepest terrain in the area.
Both events will feature 60 of the world’s best ski and snowboard athletes and, with the deep snowpack combined with the Kiwi level of risk acceptance, the Big Mountain day scheduled for the end of this week promises some of the more outrageous lines ever ridden in an organized event.
Are you skiing in New Zealand right now? What's it like out there?