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Skiing in New Zealand: Skiing Broken River With the Nutcracker

Cost to Rent Skis, Poles, Boots, Gloves, and Goggles: $33 NZD (about $25 US)
Contribution to Gas For Carpool: $10 NZD (about $7 US)
Lift Ticket: $60 NZD (about $48 US)
First Day Skiing in New Zealand: Priceless

I awoke at 6:30 AM on a dark morning in Christchurch, New Zealand.  Seeing the sky turning into what appeared would be a rather clear and nice looking day, it was exciting to realize that in just an hour and a half, I would be sitting at the base of a New Zealand ski field (in American English – ski area).
Broken River Snow skiing in New Zealand
This would be:

  • My first day ever skiing in New Zealand
  • The third continent I’ve skied on in my life
  • Experienced at a ski field called Broken River

I spent the day with 3 Kiwis (what New Zealanders call themselves).
Broken River Snow skiing in New Zealand
Matt, Jeff, and Case are all snowboarders.  This was also a new experience as normally I go to the mountains with a group of skiers and there is, at most, one snowboarder in the group.

As the sun was coming up on the drive to Broken River ski field, I watched as the peaks of the mountains turned a pinkish amber color.
Broken River Snow skiing in New Zealand
The color was so unique I had to snap a photo through the windshield to show it.  Unfortunately, the camera didn’t capture the color accurately, but you can get an idea from the picture of how impressive and beautiful the mountains were.

When we arrived at Broken River, our first stop was at the Inclinator.
Broken River Snow skiing in New Zealand
The Inclinator used to exclusively be a way to send your gear up the mountain, while you took the 20 minute hike to

  • get to the steps, which would
  • lead you to the path, which would
  • lead you to the tow rope, so that
  • you could go skiing

Broken River Snow skiing in New Zealand
(Yes, 30 minutes of hiking uphill in ski boots is what people used to do to get from the parking lot (which sits at about 4,000 feet) to the snow, which sits at about 5,000 feet.)  However, I think most people probably took other boots and changed into their ski or snowboard boots somewhere up the hill).

But that’s how it used to be.  Now, it’s possible for the inclinator to carry up to 6 people up the hill at a time.

So, we waited 25 minutes and took our turn on the inclinator.

At the top of the inclinator, we got out, went up some steps and bought our lift tickets at the ticket booth.
Broken River Snow skiing in New Zealand
We also got our nutcrackers.

These aren’t the kind that are used to crack nuts, however.  This is a piece of equipment which wraps around you like a belt, and has a clamp attached to it by a rope.  You use the clamp to hook on the tow rope, after you’ve grabbed the tow rope with your gloved hand and gotten up to speed (video below).

At one point Matt turned around to me and said “This is a bit different than your ski fields in the US, ay Jon!  Yours have like…facilities… and services!”

After getting our lift tickets and nutcrackers, we hiked another 200 steps or so up the hill, and then another 200 paces across a bit of a flat area before getting to the first tow rope.
Broken River Snow skiing in New Zealand
The tow rope system proved to be much different than our cozy chairlifts, or even T-Bars, at ski areas in the US.

Nonetheless, it was an awesome day.

Riding up the hill using a nutcracker
(and pinging every pulley along the way – it’s pretty jarring to go through one of these pulleys the first time)

It took me twice of testing out the nutcracker to get to where I could do it, but took quite a few more times before I could really do it effectively.

I can see why people have difficulty learning to use a nutcracker.  You can also imagine that holding your hand clamped onto this thing for the better part of a day leaves your hands a bit sore the next day.

I don’t know if the video makes the nutcracker system look easy, but it most certainly takes some getting used to.
Broken River Snow skiing in New Zealand
The lodge at the ski field was really great.  They sold drinks there, but it appeared that most people stopping in at the lodge opted to have the donation based coffee, tea, and hot chocolate.  Yes, people really do donate, and the system really does work that way at Broken River…

Much to my pleasant surprise, it works quite effectively.

Also to my surprise is that there are no trash facilities at the lodge.  Anything you bring in, you’re expected to pack out with you, and people really actually do pack all their trash back out with them.

How was the skiing?
It was my first day skiing in about a year and a half, and I think I’m a bit rusty.

Also the snow was not the greatest snow I’ve ever experienced, but I’m realizing that I’m completely spoiled having learned to ski in Colorado, where you can nearly always find some perfect snow on the mountain somewhere.
Broken River Snow skiing in New Zealand
There were areas with some really nice powder. The skiers and boarders at Broken River were almost all at an advanced level so I didn’t experience any challenges getting cut off or having people in the way. It also wasn’t crowded and the views were amazing.

Most importantly, it was a lot of fun.

Because the tops of the peaks sit at around 6,000 – 6,500 feet, it’s possible to climb to the top and survey the landscape all around for miles and miles.
Broken River Snow skiing in New Zealand
New Zealand is a beautiful country.

Matt had planned for everyone to bring items to contribute to lunch for the four of us.

At the lodge there is a kitchen anyone can use, free of charge.

So Matt had everyone bring items for beans on toast.  It’s more like beans, onions, peppers, bacon, parmesean cheese, and lots of other good stuff served on toast.

Matt is a great cook, we’ve learned during our time here in New Zealand.

The kitchen had all the pots and pans and necessary cooking items, so Matt was able to cook us up a delicious hot lunch right on the mountain.

Jeff contributed 6 bottles of his home-brewed beer.

I think I picked the right Kiwis to go skiing with.

An overview of Broken River

Thanks Matt, Jeff, and Case, for a truly memorable first-day-ever skiing experience in New Zealand.

And this one I’ve posted just because the announcer is awesome. Got to feel bad for the French skier on this one.

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