By Chris Coyle
Ah, New Zealand, land of sheep and meat pies, right? Wrong, I was surprised to find out they had a lot more to offer. Let me explain. About a year ago Kellie Wright and myself were joking with our bosses at High Cascade Snowboard Camp (who are both New Zealanders) that they should do a camp in New Zealand. That way we could go on a paid vacation. Never in a million years did we think they would take us seriously. Fast- forward a year and the next thing you now we are getting on a plane with a group of friends (a.k.a. campers) on our way to New Zealand. Unbelievable.
For those who have never flown over seas, the first thing you’ll notice is the fact that there is way better food and free booze on the plane. It made me want to never fly domestic again. Portland to San Francisco? Can I get a lay over in Tokyo? Thanks. One of the other things you might notice is the fact that time is irrelevant. For example: we took of on the 26th and we landed on the 28th after only a 12-hour flight. You do the math.
Upon our arrival in Queenstown we met our guide Stephen “Deuce Biggilo” Scott. After almost getting in a wreck driving out of the airport (the damn steering wheel is on the wrong side!) we were on our way to Wanaka. Lucky for us the shortcut to Wanaka had just been paved. This would turn out to be our first taste of New Zealand’s freeway system. Just imagine every time you went to shred you had to drive up a DIRT road with a 200-foot cliff on one side and a loose rock wall on the other side. Did I mention that they are barely one and a half cars wide and again you’re driving on the wrong side of the road? Anyway, our hotel was right on Lake Wanaka with one of the most amazing views. The mountains seem to fall right into the water.
After a good night’s sleep we headed off to Caldron. For a small hill this place really used their space well. Besides the four, yes four half tubes and a full park they also had some really easy hikes. Be careful though if you don’t watch where you’re going, you will end up in the ocean before you hit the resort again. That night we celebrated our first day in N.Z. with a stop at the local pub for a couple of beers. This would turn into a tradition that would follow us through the whole trip, and sometimes through to the following morning. The next day we were off to Treble Cone. The weather was a little socked in, but up top was blue bird. After getting a couple tee bars in the butt we headed above the clouds to a great day and another great view. The upper mountain was still fresh pow and we got some fresh turns. When we came in for lunch I realized that they have sushi in the lodge: sushi. And it’s good, too. Now don’t get me wrong I still ate a meatpie everyday, who can turn down steak and cheese in a flaky pastry crust? Not I. But I love sushi. After a great dinner and a couple of drinks we headed to bed early. For tomorrow was heli-boarding. The guide s for Harris Mt. Heli.’s met us at our hotel and we followed them to their heli pad in the North Buchanan Mts. They told us it had not snowed in a couple of days, but they thought the snow would still be good. They were wrong, the snow was great. Damn near bottomless. Oh, did I mention there wasn’t a cloud in the sky? Once again we were surrounded by the most amazing views in all directions. After a half a run we decided to upgrade to a seven run day, which was about $80 extra. Halfway through the third run we stopped for lunch. No meat pies, but they did have the next thing, sushi. The guides had flown in an elaborate spread soup to nuts, seriously they had both soup and nuts. We finished off our last three and a half runs on a full stomach and headed back to the car grinning from ear to ear. Let me tell you something after you’ve heli boarded you never want to ride a lift again. After a day like that we needed a day off. We took our time and checked out the sites on the way to Queenstown. I highly recommendd Puzzle World in Wanaka. They have a room built on an angle that will make you sick to your stomach in a matter of minutes. It’s probably a good idea to hold off on the pub till after your visit. Upon our arrival to our hotel we decided to drop off our bags and meet back up. Now where would be a good place to meet up? Hmmm, how about the bar? Okay, Queenstown has an amazing nightlife with great dining, casinos and pubs. Some of the dance clubs don’t close till 5 a.m. Needless to say it would be the beginning of a long couple of days that would leave us usually “groggy” the next morning. Bright eyed and bushy tailed we were off the next morning to The Remarkables. They were just that, remarkable. If I was going to buy a pass anywhere we went this would probably be it. We hit it on a beautiful spring day, the sun was shining and the snow as ni ce and slushy just the way it should be when you can’t ride pow. They had a pretty short and sweet park with a couple of tabletops and a few rails. The snow wasn’t really “hiking” conditions but it looked like there was some really good ones had the conditions been right. And guess what else they had … you guessed it, more views. We shredded the day away and topped if off with some of the finest cuisine Queenstown had to offer. Another tough day under the belt. We deiced to spend our last day shredding at Cornet Peak. Cornet was a fun hill it also had a small park with a couple jumps and a few rails. Me and my homies spent most of the day at the pipes. They had two that were maintained and one even had a fun box on it. After a day of on hill shenanigans we headed back down for our last night in Queenstown. This would prove to be an eventful one. Lets just say we lived up to the ugly American stereotype pretty well that night. I’ll leave it at that.
Day breaks and six hours to go before hitting the skies homeward bound. What can be done in six hours? A lot. We ditched the drinking activities (of the days past) and opted for a taste of adventure. New Zealand is world renown for its variety of adrenaline rush activities, so we decided to take on 2 of its best: shotover Jets and AJ Hackett Bungy. “Bloody hell” (as the locals say)! Those of us who didn’t experience a 360 on their boards this trip, certainly got their fix here. Registered as “The World’s Most Exciting Jet Boat Ride” they weren’t wrong. Flying through the cannons of the Shotover river at super sonic speeds just “centimeters” away from the jacked rock faces left us breathless . . . and some wishing they’d taken the Bar option. But what other hyperactivity could we partake in just hours before the 12-hour international flight?
I know, how about letting someone you don’t know tie a couple of ropes and a hand towel around your feet and then insist that you jump off a bridge! Good idea, and why we’re analyzing this, what is it about the Kiwi people who allow you to let them take your life into their hands so easily? Those confident smiles perhaps… Fun times Down Under over and time to bugger off! Flying out of Queenstown with the small islands of New Zealand below, the beauty astounded me once again, and then one question popped to mind . . . do they serve meat pies on planes?
2001 High Cascade Snowboard Camp New Zealand trip participants; Bob and Keri Smyth, Keith Hannum, CM Dietrich, Stefan Winnicki, Dax Marchini, April Bankston, Lee Langford, Woody and Cheryl Beverly, Stephen Scott, Kellie Wright, Chris Coyle, Angela Jolly.
www.highcascade.com for 2002 New Zealand dates and info!