Club Fields of New Zealand

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Avalanche conditions have not been friendly in the Craigieburn Range lately, so instead of backcountry skiing I’ve been sampling the goods at the various club fields around here. We have had some good dumps, and with the low crowds, it has made for epic powder days. I have been too busy skiing to take many pictures, but here are a few.

Mountain Manager Ben doing some avalanche control at Cheeseman

Mountain Manager Ben doing some avalanche control at Cheeseman

Club fields are run on a tight budget. Apparently tower pads aren't part of it.

Club fields are run on a tight budget. Apparently tower pads aren't part of it.

Mountain Manager Ben doing some avalanche control at Cheeseman

Ben continues his avalanche control work.

Cheeseman instructor Daniel and I went to a Temple Basin and Broken River for a few days. Epic powder was had.

Cheeseman instructor Daniel and I went to a Temple Basin and Broken River for a few days. Epic powder was had.

Most club fields here in New Zealand use “nutcracker” rope tows to get people up the hill. In case you haven’t heard of them, they are long, high speed rope tows, with the rope running through pulleys as it goes up the hill. You carry around a steel clamp that looks like a big nutcracker. The nutcracker grabs the rope and you hold on to the nutcracker as it rides through the pulleys, thus saving your hands from amputation. Check out the video. Don’t want to let your hand ride through those pulleys!

Nutcracker rope tows can be run in super high winds, and are really cheap to build and maintain. I am told it only costs about ten grand to put one in (with free labor). They are also hard to ride (I have fallen off more than a few times), so they tend to weed out lots of people, leaving more powder to the skiers who do brave the nutcracker. The only problem is that it is almost as tiring to get up the hill as it is to ride down. I am pretty sure something like this would never be allowed in the States (nor would the cell phone chatting skiers in their gondolas want it anyway!)

Comments

16 Responses to “Club Fields of New Zealand”

  1. Halsted August 11th, 2009 8:24 am

    It does my heart good to see that they still pad lift towers and such with old tires in New Zealand. In 1986 I first saw that, but I’d figure that they would stop doing that by now.

  2. Lou August 11th, 2009 8:58 am

    Enlightened recycling!

  3. Charlie August 11th, 2009 2:41 pm

    >> I am pretty sure something like this would never be allowed in the States

    There’s still a rope tow at Snoqualmie Pass. Fun folk, to be sure!

    http://www.meanylodge.org/

  4. Matt August 11th, 2009 2:45 pm

    Much as I hate to supply the first gear dweeb post on this thread, Louie, I am DYING for your review of those Coombacks. Especially now that you are so familiar with our NW “powder”. Debating between those and BD’s Justice as a midwinter near the road powder ski to complement some Baker SLs. And to help me look cool. Any thoughts would be appreciated, although it does look like you have better things to do than supply me with reviews.

  5. Lou August 11th, 2009 2:48 pm

    Matt, that is on tap and I’ve been bugging Louie about getting it. What’s a dad to do with these recalcitrant ski bums!?

  6. Dan August 11th, 2009 6:17 pm

    Is one permitted to just skin up rather than deal with the Kwi rope tow?

  7. Lou August 11th, 2009 8:00 pm

    :oops: :o :o :D :D :D

  8. Lou August 11th, 2009 8:06 pm

    Looks like I found a couple of :idea: plugins to give an emoticon menu :mrgreen: , just click on the one you want and it inserts the code 8) . Once you submit your comment, it’ll show the graphic… :D

  9. Jack August 11th, 2009 8:53 pm

    :D Thanks for the NZ powder report, Louie :!:

    I’m so :lol: with the emoticons.

  10. Joe August 11th, 2009 9:47 pm

    An enlightening nutcracker video there, Louie. Personally I find Hitting the “hard” rubber tire more comforting than hitting the steel pole… but not by much. :o

  11. FrameNZ August 12th, 2009 6:32 am

    Dan,
    You can skin up, but the rope tow isn’t that hard. The first morning or day you take the rope off the pulley’s as you freak out (drags on the snow), but soon after that you are fine and after a few days you are lifting the rope back onto the pulleys. Something not in the video is that before you hook the nutcracker on, you need to grip the rope with your hand so that you are travelling at the same speed as the rope to get the nutcracker in place. Tears your gloves to shreds, so you normally get a leather glove cover thing to protect. Another thing to watch out for is takeing a fall and landing on the metal nut cracker, which is stuck in your harness/belt on the ski down. But like Louie mentions, it keeps the crowds down and just be thankful you aren’t on a snowboard, heel side to the pulleys – that looks a real mare.

  12. Lou August 12th, 2009 6:57 am

    Oh yeah, I can play all morning :whistle: with emoticon sets. This one looks like a keeper… :angel:

  13. David August 12th, 2009 2:00 pm

    So whats the story on the Coombacks? …did I pull the trigger too fast on a 50% off pair of Coomba’s in May?

  14. Louie August 12th, 2009 7:29 pm

    Yeah, I couldn’t figure out how to hold the camera and get on the tow at the same time, so I didn’t get any video of the start.

    I didn’t know that Meany lodge had nutcrackers, that is pretty cool.

    The Coomback review is coming soon!

  15. bath mateus December 17th, 2009 2:03 pm

    Well that was really good posting. I liked it.
    Bathmate

  16. Nick Matyas January 2nd, 2010 3:21 pm

    Happy new year 2010. this is outstanding blog for comment. Awesome writing. Thanks!

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Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information opinion website and e magazine. Lou's passion for the past 45 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about backcountry skiing and is well known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners! Books and free back country news and information here, and tons of Randonnee rando telemark info.

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