Ridgelines & Rope Tows: Snowboarding the Southern Alps of New Zealand

Ridgelines & Rope Tows: Snowboarding the Southern Alps of New Zealand

A return to snowboarding the homeland for Weston Ambassador Riley Bathurst. The Southern Alps of New Zealand, with their unique club fields, consist of a selection of mountains where some good old kiwi ingenuity built high speed rope tows to access ridgelines and terrain that's worth the escape from the heat of the northern summer.

Follow @rileybathurst for more pow slayin' greatness. 



There are a few cars at the end of the road when we roll up. A rumble of a tractor engine in the air. You know, like the one Sir Edmund Hillary drove across Antartica. New Zealanders love tractors. We're a little rural country at the end of the world so if we see a problem, we're going to use a tractor to fix it. One day that problem was there's some fantastic snowboard terrain in the Southern Alps (OK, well maybe skiing...snowboarding wasn't a thing back then). Anyway, a couple mates got together and now we have the Clubbies.

This feels every one of the seven thousand miles from my adopted home. I'm fortunate enough to be at the base of Palisades Tahoe, California. I put my boots on inside my little apartment and walk past Starbucks to the mountain with another Starbucks, including a ski up window in the middle of mountain, but also powder days so frequent that I often just give up and go work before the mountain is tracked out. My Northern Hemisphere seasons can hit a hundred days if all goes well but we've managed just a half dozen so far on this three week trip.

We started well including a trip to the Southern Lakes region. The snow was good but not great. We've been poking around looking for pockets, getting some good ones and some icy turn on others. Then came the wind. New Zealand spring has an awful habit of getting hit by a nor-west wind that is so warm it pours rain on the West Coast and rips every flake not buried in ice off the rest of the range. A week of other biking, skating, and hanging with family and friends I don't see often enough. Christchurch is good for everything and great for nothing which means a lot of just looking longingly at the mountains.

The battering winds finally gave way to a southerly storm leaving a few inches of snow covering the ice. We returned to the Clubbies Aafew hours driving across the Canterbury plains from the beachside suburb I grew up in. There's sheep, sheep and more sheep then the roads get smaller, the pavement gives way to gravel, and the mountains rise up through the farmers gate and into the belly of the beast. We're back to Mt Olympus, aptly named playground of the gods, for the last day of the trip and the snow looks to be holding in the shade, the clouds are hanging outside of the basin and we've got avalanche gear, some pointy things, a packed lunch and an optimistic attitude.

Any good day to the Clubbies includes hiking and Little Alaska has a plethora of lines. We scramble up through the rocks and into a couple, dropping into lines with Ben Comber, an ex-slopestlye rider, I've been dragging into the bigger mountains every chance I get and Kenzie Bathurst my wife and adventure partner. I'm stoked to find edgeable conditions but always remember to keep your edges sharp and take the stiffer board when you are back home. The Ridgeline holds on through some chatter and traverse lines.

I remember every line, nearly every turn of this trip, the good and the bad. Riding the Clubbies isn't easy but it's worth it. I was fortunate enough to grow up close to them and have people take me there and teach me to ride. I'd suggest anyone put in the effort, go experience these rad little spots with funky lifts and variable snow. My snowboarding wouldn't be the same without them.

Follow @rileybathurst for more pow slayin' greatness. 

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