New Zealand Soujourn — Spaceship Camper Vans and Corn Snow Skiing

Post by blogger | October 3, 2017      
Our little Spaceship minivan camper that'll carry us around the windy roads of New Zealand.

Our little Spaceship minivan camper that’ll carry us around the windy roads of New Zealand.

Wildsnow NZ — that’s right! After our sweltering summer in the PNW, I got a major itch to fit a brief spring ski season in between summer and fall. That’s perhaps not the way the natural world intended, but trans-pacific flights make it possible. It’s been a few years since I last made the endless winter pilgrimage down to South America. This time I’m headed down to the land next to the land down unda’, New Zealand.

Back when I was a freshman in college, I made my first southern hemisphere trip, to New Zealand. I worked at the tiny club ski field of Mt. Cheeseman and had a blast. Unfortunately I injured my knee injury midway through the season and had to fly home for surgery. I was disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to experience a NZ spring ski mountaineering season. Since then, while I’ve done my fair share of ski travel trips over the globe, I’ve always had a New Zealand redo on my list. It’s simply such an excellent place for skiers: lots of huts and other travel amenities; beautiful vistas with majestic mountains that hold up in comparison to anything else; common language for English speakers (or at least mostly common, fun list here).

A few days ago Coop and I finished up an excruciatingly long 20 hour plane journey, with a stop in southern China. That’s what buying the bottom of the barrel cheapest ticket gets you.

We rented a minivan camper from the awesome folks at Spaceship Campervans, the plan is to explore the various ranges of the Southern Alps. I’ve finally realized every millennial’s dream of the #vanlife, if only for a few weeks. Though our whip is more like #minivanlife.

View out our Spaceship Campervan rear window door.

Waking up in the back of our little Spaceship campervan on our second day in New Zealand, incredible sunrise over the Canterbury high country.

The trip began well. After a night in Christchurch, we picked up the Spaceship van. The thing is sweet as a comparatively fuel-efficient (important with gas at $7 USD a gallon), inexpensive way to travel on a trip. Despite being a minivan, it is brilliantly setup for camping, with a full bed, fridge, removable awnings, and extra battery. Nonetheless a bit cramped with all our ski gear — but it works. This is the first trip I’ll have ever done having a car rented from start to finish; certainly a whole lot simpler than dealing with buses or hitchhiking. Good to have had those adventures, fun to do something different.

It wouldn't be southern hemisphere ski mountaineering without a bit of dirt hiking. Approaching the Temple Basin ski area.

It wouldn’t be southern hemisphere ski mountaineering without a bit of dirt hiking. Approaching the Temple Basin ski area.

After picking up our van and stocking up on “tucker” at the Pack and Save store (motto: New Zealand’s lowest food prices!), we headed for the mountains. With an iffy weather forecast down south we decided to check out the mountains around Arthur’s Pass. They have a fairly deep snowpack up there, with relatively easy access. For our first turns in NZ we headed up to the Temple basin ski field (closed for the season). We had to hike for a bit up to the ski area, but then found abundant snow. Our first lap, from the top of the highest rope tow, held enough perfect corn snow to convince us to stick around. So we skinned up again and reached the summit of Mt. Temple, just above the top of the ski area. From there, we skied a fun series of couloirs that held “mostly perfect” corn.

Nice corny couloirs on the descent of Mt. Temple

Nice corny couloirs on the descent of Mt. Temple.

Next day’s weather forecast showed increasing clouds and gale-force winds. We decided to do a quick skin up Porters ski field, and then hop in the van and head down to the mecca of NZ ski mountaineering: Aoraki/Mt. Cook national park. We’re on the road now, with fingers crossed for a nice weather window (as the boys had during this trip).

Conclusion: Even after just a few days, spring skiing in NZ is wonderful.

Incredible views were everywhere on the drive down to Mt. Cook

Incredible views were everywhere on the drive down to Mt. Cook

(Note, we arranged a possible “WildSnow” discount with Spaceship Campervans in return for some coverage. In our experience so far they are totally legit with an excellent product, so it’s win win for everyone. Recommended.)

Spaceship Campervan postcard home!

Spaceship Campervan postcard home!


Please Enjoy A Few Suggested WildSnow Posts


19 Responses to “New Zealand Soujourn — Spaceship Camper Vans and Corn Snow Skiing”

  1. Lou Dawson 2 October 3rd, 2017 9:08 am

    I have to get in the first comment. Looks like a wonderful trip, but I’m not sure that I ever wanted to see my son driving a minivan (smile). That’s just not our WildSnow image, or, is it? Lou

  2. Jeremy C October 3rd, 2017 9:26 am

    Great pictures. A word of warning, beware of the NZ Alpine Kia. It is the worlds only alpine parrot and highly intelligent and inquisitive. If they are around and you leave anything unattended it will be gone, opened, split etc. They can work in teams, so some will distract you, while the other attack.

  3. Dhack October 3rd, 2017 10:10 am

    Louie, Great to see you article on NZ! I was there skiing from Pioneer Hut on Fox Glacier.
    THere are some amazing wineries in New Zealand!
    The 45th parallel runs through The South Island of New Zealand, near Cromwell between Queenstown and Wanaka. THis area is known for outstanding Pinot Noir. Check some wineries out on a transition day. MIght add a different buzz to you posts!
    You could also connect with and do an article on some of the Guide services who offer Backcountry tours such as Ascent Mtn. and Aspiring Guides. Also for The best backcountry Equipment and info you can connect with Small Planet in
    Queenstown, awesome people.

    There are direct flights on Air New Zealand from LAX that are 12 hr. So getting to NZ dies not require going to China! 🙂 …… i know you have a budget….

  4. Adam October 3rd, 2017 4:27 pm

    There is nothing wrong with owning and driving a minivan! Previa for LIFE!!!!

  5. Lou Dawson 2 October 3rd, 2017 5:12 pm

    Thank you Adam, I need to hear that.

  6. Bill B October 3rd, 2017 5:43 pm

    Sorry, but just not the cool factor of a beat up old truck.
    Pins and leathers.

    Great blog though.

  7. See October 3rd, 2017 6:48 pm

    I don’t know… those late 80’s Toyota 4wd minivans are pretty cool.

  8. Quasimoto October 3rd, 2017 7:30 pm

    My wife hates that I am pining for a minivan as the next vehicle when her car dies. But I keep teling her it’s perfect for hauling people and stuff and sleeping in when you have to. I could put skis, whitewater boats, and bikes inside with enough room for her, the toddler, and all the camping gear – and still get 20+ mpg! Oh yeah – easy parking in the city, too. Minivans don’t get the love they deserve. Merc makes a 4×4 Metris that’s sold in Europe – if only they would bring it stateside.

  9. Mac October 3rd, 2017 10:02 pm

    If you’ve got some time, a weekend spent touring in the Two Thumbs Range inland from Tekapo is well worth a look, especially if the weather isn’t playing nice on the Main Divide down at Mt Cook.

  10. VtVolk October 4th, 2017 7:15 am

    Haters might hate, but my AWD 2005 Toyota Sienna is hands-down the best vehicle I’ve ever driven in snow, including plenty of trucks, Subarus, etc.. It also fits a full-size mattress without taking out any seats, and full sheets of plywood with the seats removed.

  11. Allan Ramsay October 4th, 2017 9:12 am

    Now I just love it that the Wildsnow Bunch are getting stuck into my home hills and laying some turns down in the magnificent and stunning backcountry at the end of the world in Aoteoroa. Kia Ora and welcome! We’ve been trying to keep it all secret for decades but hey, there’s plenty for everyone. One thing us locals are not so hot on however, are minivans without toilet facilities. As more and more people discover our great little land, our free camping sites can’t take folks just dumping it where they do it. It’s become a real problem for us. So please, use roadside petrol stations or pubs etc for their facilities or take it with you. And finally, always blow on the pie!

  12. Hacksaw October 4th, 2017 2:36 pm

    I have seen Kia birds tear the rubber off windshield whipper

  13. Bruno Schull October 5th, 2017 12:44 am

    Is that a split board in the first picture? Split boards and Mini vans? What’s the world coming to?

  14. Mac October 5th, 2017 1:10 am

    Its a bloody Kea people! And it’s smarter than your average park rat..

  15. Frame October 5th, 2017 4:14 am

    My brother had a hole in his ski boot liner, where a Kea had lunch.

    Enjoy the skiing and the pies.

  16. Jeg, Johnsson October 5th, 2017 9:50 am

    Good travelogue Louie, keep em comin’. FWIW, I’ve always considered driving a minivan to be a symbol of manliness…on any continent. Also, and FYI, I was just reading a report on Roman Dial’s ( blog about a potential problem with Garmin’s Inreach SE which is relevant to those of us who travel/ski/hike/climb/etc. in the wilds and rely on it. Evidently, it can send SOS signals inadvertently and one can be charged for the cost of the rescue. A quote from the blog states: “This is my favorite, most concise response to this inReach fail as distilled by another packrafter: “the InReach SE device is defective. The device sends an SOS even in locked and off positions. Even after software update.” I was just about to pull the trigger on one of these, has anyone else had a problem with this?

  17. Louis Dawson October 8th, 2017 6:24 pm

    Just got out from the Kelman hut. Spent a while up there, most of it in a storm. Trip report is coming up!

    We’ve only seen one Kea so far! Maybe they’re sneaking into our stuff while I’m not looking…

    The minivan is obviously the manliest car. It’s a bit like skiing in a skin suit with skinny skis, efficient, but a bit silly.

  18. Dan Stucki October 9th, 2017 11:47 pm

    Thanks Lou,
    Been trying to piece that little logistical chunk together. I’ll check out spaceship camper vans. O ya, I witnessed a like 96 Astro van round some bases-late night CWH style Back in the day it was tuff… very tuff. Hope to meet you guys about for the second half of the corn fest!

  19. See October 26th, 2017 10:00 am

    I saw a VW Syncro yesterday that was as cool as any pickup I can recall.

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