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June 2020 Issue
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Going guided: First Tracks Wanaka Ski Camp

Find new tracks from your tent door on a ski camp to the McKerrow Range. Photo: Geoff Marks
Learn to ski tour while upping your backcountry skills with a four-day excursion to the McKerrow Range near Wanaka.

If you’ve skied all the runs at your local field, you may be wondering what to do next. Wanaka-based Adventure Consultants has the answer: a two to four day ski camp at 1600m on the McKerrow Range.

The range is in Hakatere Conservation Park at the head of lakes Hāwea and Wanaka. And the camp is nothing like your ski field experience. It involves ski touring, avalanche awareness and sleeping in a luxurious dome tent.

“It’s not often you bump into other people,” says guide Steve Moffat. “You basically have a whole mountain range to yourself.”

After flying in to camp, clients receive a safety briefing and then start skiing, straight from their tent door. There are kilometres of ridgeline to explore and more faces to ski than can possibly be done in four days.

Despite the lack of groomed trails and chairlifts, you don’t have to be an expert skier – the camp is designed for those who can ski at an intermediate level or above. “The terrain is exceptional,” says Moffat. “There’s everything from short low angle runs to much longer and steeper sustained pitches.”

When Tilly Dunn stayed at the camp last winter, to celebrate her father’s 60th birthday, her group used the opportunity to explore the range, skinning over ridgelines and skiing untouched faces.

“It was just the most positive but absolutely draining four days,” says Dunn. “We would skin away from the hut in the morning, find the ridgeline or a face that we wanted, and then ski down, have lunch at the bottom and then skin up and ski home.”

Dunn had never done ski touring before, but now loves it.

“I prefer it more than skiing downhill,” she says. “When you get to go over the ridge and look down into that new valley – you can get yourself places, it opens up a whole new world.”

And that, says Moffat, is the goal – not only in terms of terrain explored, but in skills learnt. “We tout it as a place to learn more about backcountry skiing,” says Moffat. That includes avalanche awareness – a vital backcountry skill that can be transferred to your regular alpine tramping outings.

Dunn says if you enjoy tramping, you will enjoy ski touring. “I think if you can go tramping, ski touring is perfect. It’s more of a connection with the environment because you get to explore new places, get to ski tracks that no-one else has skied. It’s a slower pace, but I think it’s nicer.”

Where McKerrow Range, Wanaka
Who Adventure Consultants, www.adventureconsultants.com
When Winter and spring, with fresh snow being found in July through to September.
Duration Two-four days.
Price $1850 per person

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