Mt. Hutt, New Zealand, July 16, 2010, pics added

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Mt. Hutt, New Zealand, July 16, 2010, pics added

Postby Tony Crocker » Sun Jul 18, 2010 6:00 pm

I'm here unseasonably early because I was "in the neighborhood" for the Paul Gauguin eclipse cruise out of Tahiti July 6-13. On my other NZ trips in 1982, 1997 and 2006 I spent most of my ski time in the Southern Lakes areas near Queenstown and Wanaka, so this time I'm exploring some Canterbury ski areas west of Christchurch.

Mt. Hutt is the most modern and commercial area, and most visiting skiers from outside NZ stay in Methven and ski there while in Canterbury. It was the first NZ area I skied on Aug. 23, 1982, and I now know what a dismal season that was for South Island skiing. There is much better coverage now, though the most expert skiing (upper Towers and South Face) are off limits due to surface conditions. There was a 4+ foot dump in mid-June but only a few 5cm dustings since (last one July 9). Since late June there has been some mist and maybe a little rain plus the inevitable wind, so off trail conditions can be firm or even have a thin ice crust much as I saw at Mammoth in November 2008. Nonetheless there was enough interesting skiing to keep me busy for 21K vertical. Weather was -4C and overcast, somewhat cool by NZ standards. However there was no wind and the light didn't get flat until close to 3PM.

The central part of Mt. Hutt is now served by a high speed six (there were 2 sets of parallel T-bars in 1982).
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Grooming is more extensive now and there is some snowmaking also. Maybe 20% of the groomers had a hard man-made subsurface, but most of it was decent packed powder. There is now a groomed cat-track along the far skier's left ridge overlooking the Rakaia River (all the way to the ocean).
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Looking back across the ski area from the same ridge:
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The drops off that road have nice pitch but I had to stick to the groomed because the off-piste is west facing and probably got wind blasted and icy. This is the area where I went for a scary slide in 1982 and did not want to start this trip the same way. The skier's right off-piste is more manageable and eventually feeds some interesting gullies (with a bit of blown in snow) to the triple chair below the car park. View of gullies near the bottom of the triple:
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A couple of times I traversed under the Towers to sample some steeper open terrain. Closed upper Tower chutes with terrain park jump in foreground:
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The end of the traverse under the Towers is about 2/3 of the way down the South Face. I snuck in there as I could see the boundary markers to get back to the triple. Views up and down the South Face from the end of the traverse:
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With good conditions the South Face would be Mt. Hutt's best terrain with sustained fall lines up to 2,000 vertical.

With a more comprehensive view than in 1982 I would say that Mt. Hutt is comparable to Treble Cone and Portillo in scale and variety of terrain, while conceding the point that Portillo is way more reliable in terms of snow surfaces at average 4,000+ feet higher altitude. You could argue that latitude would offset about half that altitude difference, but the ocean off Chile at 32S is at least as cold as the ocean off NZ at 42S. Comparing Mt. Hutt and Treble Cone, my impression is that Mt. Hutt gets more snow and has a longer season. I was told by other skiers that off-piste skiing was not yet adequately covered at Treble Cone during my trip. However Mt. Hutt is more exposed to wind and rain, so mid-season surfaces might be more consistent at Treble Cone.
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Ski Records
Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
Season vertical: 1,610K in 2016-17
Season powder: 291K in 2011-12
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Tony Crocker
 
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