7am Saturday. I’m up and moving, not fast but moving. No time for breakfast, but that’s ok today is my split shift where i do laundry, clean the house and do all the other things i don’t get done throughout the week. There was no thought to the heap of wet ski gear piled in the corner the day before knowing it won’t be used for another couple of days.
7.30 I’m now at work, with customers already lined up outside the door, all of them picking up freshly tuned skis from the workshop because it looks like it might be a blue bird day. Work is normal that morning, not really busy, but steady setting up people with rental gear out of Racers Edge Wanaka.
9.00 A colleague and I are cleaning up the back part of the shop during a lull, and are talking about where we are going to do our next ski tour out the back of Treble Cone. Somehow we get on to the topic of NZ first heli ski death the day before, which sparked interest in the avalanche danger. Upon flicking over the internet to a few pages, we finally find the danger for the Southern Lakes, it didn’t look good with no transportation in the high country, and no avalanche control. Pretty much at that moment, my boss asks me what shift i am working, to which i reply “split”, (starting at 7.30 working till 10.30am and starting again at 4pm working till close which is around 7.30 to 8pm). “Why?” i enquire thinking I am going to be heading home early – especially due to the fact that i am playing on the internet. Somehow though luck was on my side and i am given a response i would have never expected.. “ Do you want to go on a heli ski today?”. I hadn’t really prepped my answer to this question in advance, so i responded with uuh YEAH! Within seconds I am in my car and on my way home to collect my gear- from work, to home, back to work, within 8min.
10.38. Back at work to meet the guides with HMH (Hairs Mountain Heli) the company I am flying with. We then drive up the Matukituki Valley past Treble Cone ski area to the base of the North Buchannan Mountains.
11am. I am standing on top of a mountain I would of never of thought of skiing that day or that year even! There is not a drop of wind and not a cloud in the sky, and endless powder ahead of me. Because of the avalanche danger created by the 3 day storm dumping up to 40cm in places we are unable to ski some of the steeper terrain. However the places we get to go are amazing; long rolling fields of powder, steep bits, and lots of local NZ natural terrain.
1pm. i realise i have not eaten or brought any food with me and my gear that began wet was now frozen solid. Right then that our guide pulls out some hot soup and a fully catered lunch from the chopper. Myself and others stand in the sun with not another person within miles of us enjoying our lunch among the mountains.
2pm. The afternoon is as great as the morning, with the steeper slopes becoming a bit more stable and our group becoming more confident. The only limiting factor to our day is daylight, the light is starting to get flat and everything is beginning to look like powder including the ice and bumps, which is not ideal.
3pm. So the skiing ends but the helicopter ride down out of the mountains was as thrilling as the entire day.
It was my first time in a chopper and jumping in and out on ridge lines in thigh deep powder was an experience of its own. Just as soon as this experience began it ended, somehow, before i knew it i was back at work, helping people into and out of soaking wet rental boots. Looking back that evening it almost seemed like a dream.