Disclaimer: I’m addicted to Type 2 fun. This is the category of fun that involves physical effort, sometimes isn’t exactly enjoyable at the time but is fun when you look back on it, and usually makes for good stories. It lies on the spectrum between Type 1 straight-up-easy-fun and Type 3 possibility-of-serious-injury-or-death-fun.
I love ski touring in New Zealand because it tends to involve Type 2 fun. In fact, Kiwis are badass and believe outdoor endeavors that your average adventurer would call borderline crazy are perfectly reasonable. They are masters of Type 2 fun (as well as Type 3 fun, but my sense of self-preservation steers me away from that. Usually).
A typical day ski touring in New Zealand may involve any or all of the following:
- Combat skinning over questionable coverage bridging significant patches of bare dirt and tussock.
- The endless dance of skis on, skis on pack, skis over shoulder, skins off, skins on.
- WIND. New Zealand is windy. And because all skiing is above the treeline, it means that most snow is wind-affected—wind loaded, wind hammered, wind packed, etc.
- Creek and river crossings.
- Four points of contact scrambling (less for mountaineering purposes in my case than because I’m clumsy).
- Wind-packed powder, bulletproof, breakable crust, ice, etc. Sometimes all in the space of a turn.
Champagne powder on rare occasions, if you can get to it before the wind does – see above. (Okay, let’s just be honest here – like its inhabitants, New Zealand terrain is just too badass for fluffy powder.)
- Freezing temperatures in ice fog (yes, windy ice fog) followed immediately by sweaty skinning conditions in full sun.
- Skiers speed-gliding down the gully next to you, or snowboarders kite surfing the peak across the valley. (Did I mention people are badass here?)
For those of you who’ve never backcountry skied, you may be wondering why the hell this would ever be fun.
For those of you who consider backcountry skiing to be part of your religion, you know exactly what I’m talking about: the insane views, ranks of snow-covered peaks sprawled across the horizon in every direction. Linking your first perfect turns that you earned with your breath and your sweat. That feeling at the end of a long day, exhausted, blissed out, a beer in your hand, soaking in the aftermath of Type 2 fun.