It was another beautiful sunny day in the New Zealand Southern Alps. The mountains were covered with snow and the sky was a radiant blue. Heli skiing was on the agenda today and it was something completely new. It is true that New Zealand is full of sheep, but what you might not know is that it has some of the best summertime skiing in the world; summertime for us in the northern hemisphere that is.
After a quick 15 minute drive from Queenstown to the airport our group of eager skiers were getting impatient. All of the ski gear was spread about the helicopter hanger. Soon the guide handed out an avalanche transceiver to everyone. Eagerness changed quickly to trepidation. The devices were strapped to our bodies. He instructed us on how to use them. The radio devices enable the dead frozen body of who ever got buried under the snow to be recovered. Heli skiing is extremely challenging and fun all at the same time.
Challenging is the correct word to describe it. One must use extra wide and heavy skis to ski the powder snow on these remote mountain peaks. The skis are very hard to handle. However, stunning is another word that comes to mind as the helicopter places you on top of a remote mountain ridge. From here you are given spectacular views of one of the most beautiful lands in all the world.
Five times the helicopter went up to five different peaks. And five different routes were skied each with variable snow conditions. Sometimes the snow would be very soft powder and other times it would be windblown and hard packed.
One young fellow in the group had a serious fall and injured himself after the first run. He was going way too fast and simply lost control. The remote mountains of New Zealand is no place for false bravado or excess testosterone.
Food was brought in by the helicopter and was good. The sun was shining on steep snow covered cliffs and ridges that sparkled like diamonds. It was a stunning location to eat lunch. After the day of skiing was over we were extremely tired, frightened, exhilarated, and filled with life. The excitement of being dropped off on mountain ridges by a helicopter, skiing on fat skis all day, and skiing extremely challenging runs took its toll, but the price was worth paying.
New Zealand has so much to offer as a travel destination and heli skiing is only one, but a really cool one. I will present many more reasons to visit New Zealand in subsequent articles.
See photo of heli skiing in New Zealand
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New Zealand Southern Alps