Skiing (and tree climbing) The Baker Backcountry — Also, New Zealand?

Post by blogger | February 25, 2009      

Hi all! A few shots of our adventures up here in the wild Baker BC. I used my VIO helmet cam for everything in the vid, it works well but is a bit heavy.

Hey, anyone know of any good summer (winter) jobs in New Zealand? I could use some advice if any of you ski bums have ever been down there working or just bumming.

(Guest blogger Louie Dawson is the progeny. He is attending university in Bellingham, Washington. Somehow, despite a major having been declared, said university still seems to allow three days a week for outdoor adventures.)


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32 Responses to “Skiing (and tree climbing) The Baker Backcountry — Also, New Zealand?”

  1. Sam Reese February 25th, 2009 10:37 am

    To teach skiing in NZ, they really want you to have the equivalent of PSIAA Level 2, which is their entry level professional ski instructor’s thingie. Best of luck suffering through all that droning on about only one turn.

    They have a pretty stringent guide service, but perhaps you could sign on as an assistant… dunno

    That said, if you work for a resort, the rumor I heard was that they either do fund matching, or give you an allowance for new gear, which is fair, because gear is expensive there.

  2. Lynn February 25th, 2009 11:59 am

    Nice work Louie, is that Jason skiing switch on the wildsnow?

  3. Todd Goertzen February 25th, 2009 12:22 pm

    Hi Louie –

    Have Jason give you my contact info or FB. I have an old friend living in NZ who might be able to give you some advice.

  4. eric February 25th, 2009 1:05 pm

    i worked down there a couple of seasons. give me a shout. i can give you some info.

  5. Matt Wibby February 25th, 2009 1:36 pm

    Winter has returned to Mt. Baker..snowing hard in the hills.

  6. ed February 25th, 2009 3:31 pm

    iIs all good down there. too good in fact. Try to get something in Wanaka, its beautiful. visit the paradiso theatre). Wanaka is close to everything and chilled. A very cool alternative to Queenstown(too busy), and on the door-step to mt. Aspiring Nat. Park. + closer to Mt. Cook. or you could try basing out of Christchurch and sample the cool club skiing in Arthurs Pass & the other pass North of there near Hamner Springs for the BC feel. tons of other options & all up to you! enjoy…

  7. Louie Dawson February 25th, 2009 4:40 pm

    I have looked at Wanaka a bit, it looks pretty sweet. Can you get jobs at the club ski areas, or are they run by volunteers?

  8. Dave February 25th, 2009 4:40 pm

    Your question could not have come at a better time. I was granted my NZ Working Holiday Visa today and I only applied five days ago. I would suggest you get one. They are free and it gives you the opportunity to work legitimately in NZ. More then likely you will qualify. I am planning on staying in Wanaka. Shoot me an email if you have any questions.

    Check it out:

  9. rob stokes February 25th, 2009 7:40 pm

    as someone close to your own age i would suggest getting work in the evening. wash pots.
    you get food.
    you work at night.
    and, most importantly, you don’t have to talk to tourists.

    i’m in whistler at the moment working for ski school, but used to wash some pots(underwater ceramic technician) in france. its good.

    you will get work whatever though. the key is to arrive early, and aim low.

    p.s. i read this blog every day. i like it, and i liked that from you louie…..switch powder, its all a bit of fun isn’t it?

  10. rob stokes February 25th, 2009 7:40 pm

  11. Louie Dawson February 25th, 2009 7:53 pm

    I was thinking that ski tuning would be a pretty sweet job, since it is in the evening and all that, and might be a bit more fun than a dishwasher. Does anyone know of any good ski shops in Wanaka or any other parts of NZ?

  12. Mick McLennan February 25th, 2009 8:16 pm

    Louie, if you want to work at a club field called Mt Olympus let me know.

  13. Louie Dawson February 25th, 2009 8:24 pm

    How is the skiing at Mt. Olympus?

  14. Andrew McLean February 25th, 2009 8:44 pm

    Good to hear from you again Louie! I hope school and BHam are treating you well.

    Your backcountry background will serve you well if you make it down to NZ as even the “resorts” are pretty burly. A friend of mine worked/works as a ski patroller at a NZ ski field that has a mandatory 45 minute hike to get into it. This is probably why NZ has so many great skiers.

  15. dave downing February 25th, 2009 8:48 pm

    @Andrew — I heard about that ski field some time ago, had forgotten the about it (and it’s name). Sounds rad…willing to share any details? Like what it’s called 🙂

  16. Grant February 25th, 2009 9:58 pm

    A mate of mine summed it up well
    “He should definitely not bother with Wanaka. Crap skiing, expensive, and full of tossers”
    Temple Basin is the spot Mr McLean speaks of, GREAT skiing. Its sick, but never work there NEVER!
    If you want a run of the mill, be there done that, could be any were in the world, then Qtown/Wanaka is the place!
    If you want a true NZ ski experience, the Craigieburns are the go.
    As been said, you could live in Chch, its 1.5hrs from teh snow, with lots of job options- the ski and board surgery for tuning work.
    Give me a shout if you want some more info

  17. ed February 25th, 2009 10:27 pm


    was it Temple Basin the one you were refereing too? was there in winter ’04 and that place looks great.


    can’t think offhand of anything (ski shop) in Wanaka, although there definitely are options. This might be a good start (google searched)…..( Queenstown did seem to have more options in that area.

    i must go back soon…….. and will check in with your trip reports to follow along vicariously until that is possible..

  18. Anton February 26th, 2009 4:09 am

    Louie, Olympus has probably the best terrain in all of the club fields, for me it is a toss up between there and Craigieburn. Some will say the chutes at Treble Cone are better but they are not open that much. Andrew is talking about Temple Basin, it got a killer review in a big name snowboarding magazine a few years ago but is a bit over hyped, somewhat delapidated, has confusing terrain access and with not as good snow as further east.

    Definately go for a job at one of the Club fields, cheaper, better backcounty, no drive to the skiing and best vibe.

  19. Mac February 26th, 2009 11:55 am

    Louie, you could well have a shot at getting a job as a ski / board tuner in either a retail shop or on field at a commerical field.
    I won’t bang on about where is better, that’s all down to taste (but Queenstown is bloody expensive, and it’s worse during the ski season).
    Most ski fields are well into their hiring season, so best get that CV off soonest.
    Check out, click on industry and then employment. It’s a NZ site which is effectively a association of commercial field operators.
    Good luck, just don’t apply for a patrollers job at Ruapehu, I want it and don’t need any more competition!

  20. Sven February 26th, 2009 12:15 pm

    The club fields are unlike anything in America. They are what skiing should be about. Simple food, good friends, a bed, and incredible skiing. The lifts alone (nutcrackers) are a Yankee lawyers dream and would therefore never be allowed in America. New Zealand club fields believe that skiers can and should be responsible for themselves. It is similar to skiing in the Alps sans crevasse concerns.

    Temple Basin takes some work to get to (Weeds out those not serious about the experience) but has a lot of good terrain. The lifts are at best a jump start into the BC. I doubt you could ski every possible line in that zone in a season so you won’t run out of options. If you finish off the TB shots you can go across the highway to Mt Rolleston for some serious mountainerring.

    Craigieburn is also good. Gets more traffice as you drive to the base and the walk is only 3-5 minutes. However, there is really good skiing right off the lifts and much more with 10-15 minute hikes. Big lines off the backside as well. You can also drop into Broken River which is adjacent and seperated by a ridgeline.

    Olympus is also fun. The road to get their is like Colorado summer jeep roads but driven in the winter. You drive across an avy zone for quite a ways on the final approach to the base lift. Your heart is pumping before you ever put your skis on. The lodge is in a killer spot with sick views. Food is good as well. Accomodations are drafty and damp, but you can soak in a hot tub which is an unusual perk for the club fields.

    Remarkables and Treble Cone are both good, but just smaller version of resorts you would find at home. The club fields are the NzZexperience and worth dish diving or prepping food at night to make it happen. Even if you work a morning shift and have the afternoon to ski that works as the club fields often have less than 100 people skiing them a day and many of those people are looking for the tamer lines.

    Have fun.


  21. FrameNZ February 26th, 2009 2:23 pm

    Louie, you need to walk into Temple Basin and Broken River, though there is a lift to put your gear on. Other club fields in Canterbury are Craigieburn (Glenn Plakes favourite), Olympus and then two small commercial areas Cheeseman and Porters Heights. Aside from Olympus all are in Arthurs Pass linking the east and west coast. There is a small town before you get to the mountains called Springfield, but can’t remember if they have a shop to do ski tuning. An option would be to check out Methven, which is a small town near Mt Hutt and not to far from Olympus. Methven has a couple of shops (Big Al’s is one for ski tuning) and a series of hotels, restaurants etc which might have dishwashing (I called it Ceramics and glassware rejuvenation technician on my CV), waiting work. Mt Hutt is the largest commercial area in Canterbury and also has rental shops etc on the hill.
    Queenstown is bigger that Wanaka so may have more opportunities to work, but be prepared to be living with lots of people in small spaces. There is also a big volcano in the center of the North Island which has to ski areas (big by NZ standard areas) Whakapapa and Turoa – Ohakune is a small town nearby with restaurant and tuning possibilities. For a flavour of the club fields Have fun and give it a go, I went to Montana after university in NZ and loved the hole trip. Hopefully you have a drivers license too as, it certainly helps get around.

  22. Anton February 26th, 2009 4:31 pm

    If you can’t get a job at a club field, then trying to work nearby is a waste of time. Very limited oppurtunities and too far to drive each day.

    If you go to Wanaka/Queenstown area the best resort to go to is Treble Cone and that means you have to stay in Wanaka. It is heaps nicer the Queenstown, people go there to ski so the party life is a bit quieter but work is still easy to find.

  23. FrameNZ February 27th, 2009 6:39 am

    @ Anton, it would be fair to say unless you are staying at a clubfield you pretty much have to drive to every ski area, Wanaka and Queestown included. Staying nearby the club fields in Canterbury would allow access to 7 areas, most of them small with the exception of Mt Hutt (by local standards). Limited opportunities in the vicinity of the club fields is a valid point however.

    Louie, not sure what your drive time in the US is, but from Springfield the drives would mostly be under an hour (half an hour to Porters of Cheeseman). 1.5 to 2 hours from Christchurch (the big smoke).

  24. Louie Dawson February 27th, 2009 3:39 pm

    does anybody know what the pay is like in New Zealand? I noticed their dollar is worth about 3/4 usd, so I am effectively earning less there right? Is stuff there cheaper, or do people usually get paid more?

  25. ed February 27th, 2009 5:19 pm

    I believe the NZD is 1/2 a USD right now. really good for you going down and converting. Not so good working & converting back after NZ income tax (which isn’t too bad). With that in mind, it may be tough to save much over the summer, but depends on how much free time you want/need. NZ is too beautifull to leave for weekends only, if you can help, so maybe you want to find a good lifestyle job. On the other hand, making a bigger $ doing something outside of skiing for the week, may allow you more choice on the weekends/days off. The pay for the most part is on par with North America.

    Based on ’04, all sporting gear is fairly expensive. i bought a pair of asics running shoes and paid $220(auckland). The same thing sold for $165 here in canada & probably much less again in USD. You’re other costs of living are roughly the same scale as NA. Petrol is more though, but not an issue if you’re staying in one place.

  26. Mac February 27th, 2009 6:17 pm


    A NZ $1 currently buys US$0.47, traditionally it hovers around US $.0.50 – 0.60. Pay rates for ski industry jobs are rather poor, it’s very much a life-style industry. Last season I was earning NZ$16.00 an hour as a patroller. The national minimum wage is NZ$12.00 an hour.

    To put it in some prespective, petrol cost around NZ$1.65 a litre, movie tickets about NZ$15.00 and a McDonald’ Big Mac (always the most reliable international benchmark) NZ$3.50.

    Everyting you buy in NZ will have a goods and service tax (GST) of 12.5% already included. Income tax rates are 12.5% on income up to NZ$14,000, 21% on income up to NZ$40,000 and 30% over that.

    Outdoor equipment, especially ski / climing kit, is expensive in NZ. It’s a small market and a long way to import stuff from Europe or North America. However if you end up working for a retail out let or comercial field, then you should get a staff discount of up to 50% on most work related items. I’ve found that the price for basics like food and utilities (and beer) isn’t much different than western Canada or the UK (outside of London).

    I suspect that you won’t save much if you work a season in NZ, and it wouldn’t be worth it once you convert money back to US dollars. However if you are thinking of comming out here for the experience, it won’t bankrupt you unless you go into full on party mode. When I was studying the university had an exchange program and the American students who came out for a year got on just fine.

    The site does have some good background info and useful links.

  27. Louie Dawson February 27th, 2009 11:20 pm

    Yea, I was only hoping that I would break even or maybe come out on top a bit, after plane tickets and living expenses and all that.


  28. jc February 28th, 2009 8:46 am

    i’ve worked and lived in new zealand for their winters for several of the past years with eric (who responded earlier). we’re both american as well. eric worked in christchurch as a boot fitter. sven hit the nail on the head describing the club fields in canterbury- it’s the way skiing should be. our favorite club fields are craigieburn & broken river. laps in middle basin next to craigieburn spits you back out on the road and a 10 min walk has you back at the bottom nutcracker. not very many people ski tour in new zealand. there aren’t that many access roads so we used the club fields to access the backcountry. you can tour in a bowl right next to the club fields and not see anyone all day. i wouldn’t go to queenstown or wanaka if i were you- expensive and more crowded slopes. we always bought a used “backpacker car” for well under $1000 (usually a subaru or toyota hatchback to hold skis and gear) and resold it right before we were leaving. for a cheap, multi-club field pass, check out working in new zealand was one of the best decisions we ever made. it’s true you don’t get paid a lot but the experience is priceless. you can get a lot of the taxes back that are taken out of your paycheck if you fill out their income tax forms at the end of the year. i wouldn’t plan on buying gear or skis over there, all of that stuff is imported and is pretty expensive. if you need any more advice or info- let us know….

  29. Jules February 28th, 2009 3:50 pm

    Louie – NZ has both commercial resorts and club fields.

    For a skier’s perspective on things NZ, look at:

    Go, there can be no downside. Wanaka and Queenstown are a bit big and glitzy from a kiwi perspective – YMMV. Christchurch is a lovely city and close to many club fields.

    There is a pass which covers a variety of club fields – see

    The author of the club skiing wiki pages wrote the book on NZ backcountry skiing – literally: James posts as JamesB on the forums (backcountry forum section). He would be a great person to discuss gear, work, etc with, as he skis a fair bit, loves the bc, and lives in Christchurch. Work is available at some club resorts. Now is the time to be looking into this.

    The NZ Alpince Club – – is widely regarded as well.

    Enjoy, Jules Watson

  30. Jules February 28th, 2009 4:02 pm

    Louie – you also asked about pay. NZ is not widely regarded as being a high-paying country, nor is the populace likely to ever get big into giving tips (beyond “be good to your mother”). That said, everyone has to live and so you will get by, but not be flush. There is a solid reason that travelling kiwis have held the international dirtbagging crown for many decades until it’s recent challenge by the Israelis and saffas. Learn enough about rugby to get by – maybe even try and see an international game (NZ vs Oz will be a cracker for partisan competition). The All Blacks are as close to a national religion as NZ gets.

  31. Lou February 28th, 2009 5:18 pm

    This is sounding like too much fun, Louie, can I hop on a plane and visit for a few weeks? Talk about some great blogging!

  32. Peter March 2nd, 2009 3:53 am

    Hey Louie, another kiwi ski resort you could try is Rainbow, in the north of the south island. It’s a low key place, bigger than the Canterbury club fields, and a great place to work. The resort has some great hike-to advanced terrain, and superb touring opportunities along the ridge to the north & south and across the lake. They are hiring now.

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