Splitboarding in the Southern Alps

New Zealand has a small but burgeoning splitboard scene as more backcountry riders become aware of the benefits of splitting into the often untouched and remote terrain on offer.

The season starts in early July, peaking in August/September and corn lines can be enjoyed into late November. With a maritime climate, deep dry pow does not happen so often, but in season generally good lines are there for the taking if you put the effort in! The terrain can be steep and jagged with virtually no trees above the snowline, making riding trees a bit of a rarity!

Compared to the northern hemisphere, rather than skinning from the road/ trailhead, often skifield roads are a good option to gain altitude – otherwise be prepared to start the day with a bush bash through beech forest and tussock before reaching the snowline. It pays to always take an iceaxe, and split – crampons amongst your safety gear, as variable conditions are the norm in the New Zealand alpine.

Day trip during the 2011 splitfest at Temple Basin, Mt Rolleston at the background.

Day trip during the 2011 splitfest at Temple Basin, Mt Rolleston at the background.

The Southern Lakes resort towns of Wanaka and Queenstown have several large resorts nearby with sidecountry options and plenty of missions nearby. Staying at one of the mountaineering club huts in Mount Cook Village will let you meet up with fellow sifters and get some ideas about the big lines that are often accessed from huts high on the glaciers. Closer to Christchurchthe Craigieburn Range and the mountains around Arthurs Pass are home to a number of small ski- fields and easily accessed backcountry riding. The North Island also offers touring options in the Volcanic Plateau area around Mt Ruapehu.

NZ has a large system of well maintained public huts in the backcountry and heli companies and guiding options are around to assist you where you need to go. Due to the small size and relativelynew splitboarding scene and the remoteness of mountainous areas, many of New Zealand’s mountains remain unridden and first descents can still be owned using a splitboard!