New Zealand's 30-year storm
Thirty Year Storm
At the end of June, a once-in-a-lifetime storm hit the central South Island of New Zealand that transformed the landscape with light, fluffy snow into something only old-timers have ever seen. I immediately hit the road with Will Jackways and Mitch Brown to search out low-elevation snowboarding zones that had never been ridden before, and might not ever be ridden again.
Headed north from Wanaka over Lindis Pass we quickly started to realize how serious the storm was. Usually at this time of year the road only holds a sprinkling of snow. Yet here, only 40 minutes from home, we found meters of snow with no tussocks to be seen!
Some of the deepest snow depths were recorded in Lake Tekapo, which took the brunt of the storm. Cars and buildings were buried, making it look like a small European town. Will Jackways and I couldn't believe what we were seeing as we scoped for zones on the lake's shore.
Will has an incredible eye for spotting great terrain. After a snake run through some trees, Will boosts a 30-foot backside shifty into the depths, riding to the edge of Lake Tekapo in bottomless powder.
Will pulls up to a pontoon that, just months ago, was covered in sun-bathing tourists.
Mitch Brown joined me for my second day of exploration. We headed up to Saint Bathans in search of lines around Blue Lake, which has been the backdrop for some great mountain bike photos, but never has been photographed for snowboarding before.
Mining For Gold
Blue Lake is man-made, the result of gold mining in the 1800s. Mitch and I mined for our own gold in the cliffs above the lake, finding some fun lines and drops that became increasingly difficult to ride as the sun warmed the snow towards the end of the day. Mitch was up for the challenge, though.
This is my favorite image of the trip. Mitch tweaks a tail grab off of a natural lip into a snake run through a gully with an amazing background. I'm pretty sure we are the only people to have ever snowboarded in this zone.
Most of Mitch's lines ended up on the lake's shore, where we'd just laugh in disbelief that the snow had managed to make this place rideable, and we'd had the good fortune to reap the benefits of it before it melted again.
Saint Bathans has a permanent population of 5, not counting the goat here, and a dog (not pictured). Still, the local entertainment provided one of the more memorable aprés sessions we've ever had. If the snow continues to fall on the South Island, making historic places like this ridable again, we will for sure be back for another go-round.