If youíre reading this article and youíre a snow shredder with this being the worst season since the records began, itís fair to say that youíre a snow starved shredder. But being a bright and resourceful person youíre working and saving money until the big dump.
But what if it doesnít dump? Will you go whole year without getting your fill?
Before you chew through your arm with frustration, there is hope in the southern hemi to cure any of those anxieties.
Last April I packed my bags and boards, got myself a one year working visa and headed south to New Zealand. The season in NZ starts in June and goes till October which left me time to burn for surfing and exploring those amazing isles. Come June I got the call from a good friend and pro photo dog, Toby Murphy from England to get down to the southern alps where they were having the best snow in ten years. Five minutes later my plane ticket was booked from the sunny warmth of the north island to the frosty middle earth of the south island.
I almost didnít get there as my flight was on one of the gnarliest days of the year for weather. The plane broke down just before take off and needed fixing. Then, twenty minutes into the flight to Wellington, it was diverted to Auckland as the Wellington International Airport roof had blown off. If youíve ever wondered what happens in a plane before it crashes, I learned this day. The screams are louder than the movies and everyone looks like ghosts. We didnít crash and I got to see the southern alps.
Toby met me off the bus in Wanaka with a cheesey grin and his left arm in a cast.
Toby: I broke my hand the day you arrived.
Doogie: I bet you did it buttering the muffin.
Toby: Well it wasnít in the shower. I fought the ice and the ice won.
Doogie: I bet.
Toby: In some ways it worked out; you took care of my cleaner job at the mountain.
Doogie: You mean ďCustodial EngineerĒ. I had a radio, looked official and nobody knew I was riding all day. I remember driving up the hill the first day; the craziest mountain dirt track that had cliffs on both sides, one going up and the other going down. The whole ride up all the staff were frothing over the 10cm of fresh. When we rounded the last bend and saw the resort it looked like it could have been a Blackcomb toolshed. Another thing, there isnít a single bit of vegetation, no trees, nothing.
Toby: Yeah but 10cm covering alpine. You must have been pumped. I know I would have been.
Doogie: I donít want to sound like a dick, but dust on crust is what we call 10cm in Canada.
Toby: All right man, but I know you loved it.
Doogie: I was buzzing off everyoneís stoke, the sunshine and those colourful mountain parrots the size of ravens called Keas. If it can be broken theyíll break it, any clothing left alone will be shredded and they can even delam a snowboard.
I met cool people from all over the world. It was like being at home except I didnít know anyone. The high fives were just as alive and everyone was stoked on shredding and drinking double brown beer.
Toby: ďDouble down on the double brownĒ. That was your saying wasnít it?
Doogie: At ten bucks a case, you had to buy two cases every time.
Toby: Then after a week you got your legs back and we started shooting pictures.
Doogie: The Triple Treat at Treblecone could keep anyone entertained any day. On a powder day the switch back cat tracks allow you to go as big as you wanna go.
Toby: The Treblecone hill is the premiere free-riding mountain, but how about the park ridin?
Doogie: There is only one place to go if you want park. Snow Park. The place is sick. Looking up the hill, there are four tables in rhythm next to the chair that runs up the centre of the park. Spread across the hill left of the tables is a full super pipe, a slope style course, a small jib run and finally another pipe. Phew, itís perfect.
Toby: And donít forget the right side where all the other rails and boxes pour down to a slam wall and a 18ft quarter pipe.
Doogie: Those obstacles alone are worth the 2000-dollar plane ticket. Itís the most awesome scene ever, everyone is so friendly. You can sit at the bbq pit and watch the best snow sliders in the world destroying it. The Burton team were there and Armada too, the Billabong slope style comp was in full effect. Iíve never seen anything like it. There were no bad vibes just stoke.
Toby: Youíre talking about your first day up there?
Doogie: First day, but not the last. I remember feeling so nervous going there; I hadnít hit a real jump in 5 months. I was in awe when we got to the parking lot that looks over the whole setup. I had dreamed about this when I was young. Shit, I dreamt of this last night, but itís not a dream itís true, itís real! And Snow Parkís just started.
Toby: The tickets were discounted that day because it was so busy; but even better was getting the ticket off my buddy who had to leave for work.
Doogie: Free ticket to ride. Yes!
Toby: Thatís when you hit up the slam wall alongside the Rossignol team.
Doogie: Everyone was there that day. When youíre a no-one straight-lining to hit up the slam wall, 10meters from the load area of the chair, thereís extra pressure to pull it off.
Toby: For me the highlight of the day came after they closed the slam wall because the run in got too dangerous. Literally, over the peak from Snow Park we shot a cornice drop that was completely untracked.
Doogie: It was so close to Snow Park we could see empty chairs at the top bull wheel and hear the music pumping Jurassic 5. But we were feeling Jack Johnson soul turns.
Perhaps weíll all get burned by Mother Nature for the rest of the season. What then?
Maybe itíll be time to dig into that hard earned cash for a ticket to the green and snowy isles of New Zealand . See you there.
Doogie, back counry snowpark
Doogie, middle earth contest
Sean White, middle earth contest
Doogie, slam wall