August 13, 2004 Features & Images » Feature Story

Chasing the endless winter 

What's going on Down Under in New Zealand.

Page 3 of 4

Backcountry Heli’s marketing manager, Harley Anderson, says the quality of the snow is often a big surprise to customers.

"There’s a common misperception that the snow we get at lower elevations is the same as what’s up here," Anderson says. "There are different weather systems hitting all these mountains, so there’s huge variation in snow depth and quality. We take people to where the best snow is on the day. These Locals Days help educate people about what is really available here."

And true to his word, the snow was fabulous – at last Ullr was there in full force. With the pink alpine glow starting to creep its way over the mountain-tops, our heli day was almost over, and the end of our southern ski mission. It might have been a time to wind down, but there was one more bit of excitement to come.

You see, before Backcountry Helicopters got into skiing, the company was into deer recovery, shooting wild deer thundering through the alps while hanging outside the chopper. Not for the faint hearted, and boy, these pilots can fly. So if you’re not ready to ski the steepest stuff yet, ask for Mango the pilot and chalk up some of the craziest yet probably safest flying you’ll ever do. Just don’t eat too much lunch first.

As for the 2004 season, this month we’ll be checking out the ski resorts in the central South Island – namely Mount Hutt, Mt. Cheeseman and Porter Heights, not to mention the rope-tow club fields of Temple Basin, Broken River and Craigieburn.

The latter holds the dubious honour of the steepest and fastest rope-tow in the southern hemisphere and some of the sickest terrain to boot. If there’s enough cash in pocket, another goal is the private high country farm of Mount Potts. It’s ski-cat access only terrain and apparently the best powder in the country. Hence it’s become a popular location for northern hemisphere ski and board companies to shoot their catalogues for the next season.

And last but not least, the big mother herself, Mount Cook or Aoaraki, is in our sights. We called in there during our last ski trip, and who did we meet on the tarmac waiting to fly into the backcountry huts for some multi-day touring but Helen Clark.

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