One of New Zealand’s most challenging club fields has achieved cult status among our advanced skiers due to its steepness, deepness and cheapness. This field is uniquely devoid of any slopes that would form a comfort zone for the novice skier.
Craigieburn Valley ski field nestles under the steep face of a prominent mountain in the Craigieburn Range called Hamilton Peak. The top tow offers numerous route options via open powder bowls and narrow chutes with names like Bug Out, Nun’s Rabbit Warren and Plake’s Mistake. Serious skiers enjoy radical runs in this ‘out there’ terrain, and boarders seek out the ‘sickest’ drops and chutes. One infamous fall line achieves a 600 metre vertical descent through Middle Basin.
The season runs from July to October and the snow ratings are 0% beginners, 60% intermediate and 40% advanced. Lifting is by three high capacity rope tows leading up to the highest point of 1,811 metres. There is no ski hire on the field.
Access is via a 6 km unsealed road, which starts some 42 km from Springfield and 104 km from Christchurch. Chains must be carried and can be hired in Darfield. It is a 10 minute walk through beech forest from the car park to the ski area. The Koroheke and Lincoln lodges make overnight stays a pleasant experience. Private double rooms and six person bunkrooms are available at economical rates.
Beyond the patrolled area there are a range of ski-touring options. Short traverses can be made to Alan’s Basin and the Broken River ski field, and a full day of natural backcountry travel can be arranged in consultation with the ski field manager. Some of the backcountry runs compare very favourably with a heli-skiing experience.
Craigieburn offers phenomenal freestyle skiing conditions for those with the requisite experience, with the added bonus of cheap accommodation, and convivial company.