Avalanche conditions have not been friendly in the Craigieburn Range lately, so instead of backcountry skiing I’ve been sampling the goods at the various club fields around here. We have had some good dumps, and with the low crowds, it has made for epic powder days. I have been too busy skiing to take many pictures, but here are a few.
Most club fields here in New Zealand use “nutcracker” rope tows to get people up the hill. In case you haven’t heard of them, they are long, high speed rope tows, with the rope running through pulleys as it goes up the hill. You carry around a steel clamp that looks like a big nutcracker. The nutcracker grabs the rope and you hold on to the nutcracker as it rides through the pulleys, thus saving your hands from amputation. Check out the video. Don’t want to let your hand ride through those pulleys!
Nutcracker rope tows can be run in super high winds, and are really cheap to build and maintain. I am told it only costs about ten grand to put one in (with free labor). They are also hard to ride (I have fallen off more than a few times), so they tend to weed out lots of people, leaving more powder to the skiers who do brave the nutcracker. The only problem is that it is almost as tiring to get up the hill as it is to ride down. I am pretty sure something like this would never be allowed in the States (nor would the cell phone chatting skiers in their gondolas want it anyway!)
Louie Dawson earned his Bachelor Degree in Industrial Design from Western Washington University in 2014. When he’s not skiing Mount Baker or somewhere equally as snowy, he’s thinking about new products to make ski mountaineering more fun and safe.