Heli-Ski - South Island

David Williams

Resident 'Bear Grylls' for Getfrank.

nullIt was my second to last day in Wanaka and I only had one more thing to do on my list. After almost being planted with a 2 week ban from Treble Cone for going too far off trail in search of powder, I decided there was a safer and more energy efficient way to lay some fresh tracks. This involves a helicopter, an instructor, 4 amping clients, a gourmet lunch and the Southern Alps at our disposal.

After doing a lot of research the company I decided to go with was Southern Lakes Heli-Ski (SLHS). This was because they are the longest running and most respected company in the Wanaka/Queenstown region. As well as having the most experienced and highly trained staff, Southern Lakes Heli-Ski has by far the most territory available which is essential in a weather dependant activity. The harsh southern environmental factors like wind, rain, snow and visibility all dictate whether or not a trip can run. If the weather is bad and no other Heli outfit can operate, then SLHS is your best chance of finding a sheltered valley in the middle of nowhere for you to spend the day gliding through powder bowls and busting misty’s of natural kickers. To put this into perspective after a whole day of Snowboarding Julian told me that we would have only covered 1-2% of their territory.

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At 8:30am I went to our meeting place BASE snow rental in Wanaka. We were not being picked up until 9:30 but I was way too excited and I wanted to rent a really nice powder board. BASE can cater for all levels of riding and I was stoked when Dave hooked me up with a top of the range 163 Ride board with sick bindings to match. After meeting the other clients and our instructors for the day we were off to meet the helicopter at Treble Cone.

The Crew:

Ian: SLHS owner/instructor. Spends more time on snow than land, when it melts in New Zealand Ian will follow it north. A somewhat Heli Guru.

Julian: Significant Shareholder, entrepreneur. Julian has two speeds, full noise and stationary. When he is not skiing he is eating Subway

Brent: Base Co Director. Dunedin boy who can pick some hair raising routes to the pickup spot. Expert camera man.

Chris: Base Co Owner. Aussie convert, now he is as at home on our slopes as he was once herding brumbies and cooking shrimps.

Steven: Globetrotting Aussie Doctor, “being a student is about drinking booze and scoring chicks!, why else would I study for seven years”

We flew over the treble cone ski field and I couldn’t help but chuckle when I saw all the queues at the chairlift. About 15 minutes away from Trebble Cone we reached our first destination. Looking down from the top of the ridge all I could see was hundreds of meters of fresh untouched powder, and behind me was the mighty Southern Alps stretching as far as the eye could see. We all took off slightly tentatively getting adjusted to back foot powder riding, well… all of us except Julian who flicked his switch and managed to wipeout on a submerged rock in the first 20 meters and ladder his way down the hill. We regrouped and enjoyed a stellar run of shoots, bowls and undulations down to our pick up. The next drop off was a lot steeper than the first and was more sheltered from the elements, so the crunching sound of fresh snow was a regular occurrence whilst effortlessly carving deep S turns.

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Our final run before the gourmet lunch was more extremely themed. We started out in a steep bowl which lead straight to a natural kicker about 5 feet high with a beautiful soft powder 20 degree landing. Naturally this is a perfect and safe scenario to try those moves you have dreamed of doing, so when I over rotated a back flip there was much jubilation in the camp. We dusted the snow out of our cracks and continued on a beautiful scenic ride to our lunch spot.

Lunch consisted of fresh buns, salads, soup, squeezed juice, hot kiesh, and heaps of meat. Eating a gourmet lunch in the middle of arguably New Zealand most beautiful and remote part of the country with a great bunch of people was an experience in itself. It wasn’t till I sat down that I took a few minutes to appreciate how lucky we really are and realise the insignificance of our life stresses. 

We had two more fantastic runs after lunch. I can definitely see how you could do this every day and not get bored as every run is unique and has a wide variety of lines to run. The most fantastic thing about Heliskiing is it does not matter what experience level you are because of the wide open terrain you can pick a line which will best suit the style and difficulty you wish. If you like jumps and ledge drops then go exploring, if you like speed and carving hit the open bowls and ridges. Our final exhilarating run lead us to a cliff surrounded noel about the size of a small bedroom where somehow the pilot managed to find room to land and we climbed aboard. This was a fantastic finale to a perfect day on the mountain.

This day definitely surpassed my expectations and I can strongly suggest that everyone goes heliskiing. For a memorable South Island experience I highly recommend checking out Southern Lakes Heliski.

The only problem with Heliskiing is that I have no idea how I am going to go back to boarding on ski fields after having the best day I have ever had on a mountain.  

Get Amongst It

Dave

Keep your eye on Getfrank for our North Island review coming shortly.

Southern Lakes Heliski  www.southernlakesheliski.co.nz

For all Wanaka Ski and Snowboard Rental go to BASE Snow Rental www.basenz.com  

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