Nordic Skiing at the Cardrona Snow Farm

12-15 August 2017


I’m betting a few more dog-lovers would have come on this trip if they had known we would share the hut area with twelve gorgeous Huskies overnight. Calum, Ann and I (Diane) struck the jackpot really.

The weather in Wanaka as we set out for the Snow Farm was wet, cloudy and uninviting. Calum had really needed his morning coffee to get him under way! Anyway, the conditions put less intrepid skiers off, leaving us with uncrowded trails to enjoy on what turned out to be a decent skiing day. This year there is great snow cover everywhere, but with heavy loading on steeper slopes forming an unstable looking wind-slab, we opted to stay on groomed trails and not venture into the more remote areas like we did last time. After some practice around the base area to reacquaint ourselves with the feeling of Nordic skiing we skied down the River Run to Meadow Hut for an overnight stay. Our packs had been delivered there earlier by a skidoo so that we could travel light.

Just before dark the teams of dogs trotted in. Each team of four Huskies towed a sled with one client driving. How exciting! Under Dog Sled Dog Tours runs the operation, using Siberian and Alaskan Huskies who are veterans of the big North American races such as Iditarod and the Yukon Quest. At age 6 or 7, when their racing prime is over, they fly them down here for an easier life in the tourist industry. The two dog-handler/guides were very friendly and inclusive of us and we learned so much from them. We watched them feeding the dogs and cosying them up in pairs on little piles of straw on the snow so that they would get a good sleep. They hung the little doggy cordura booties (worn to prevent ice damage to the dogs’ pads) by the fire to dry. They encouraged us to talk to the dogs and cuddle them. J They even explained how they toilet train the dogs . . . . . and scoop up their poo to keep the trails clean. Such a heart-warming time for us; an unexpected bonus. Pat was very quick to pick up on Calum’s vibes and almost immediately texted back “and no, you can’t have a Husky dog team for Christmas” !!

Next morning, after farewelling our beautiful canine friends, we re-engaged with the skiing and had another great day schushing along the trails. Calum’s encouragement and willing sharing of his expertise helped Ann and me to improve our skills and increase in confidence. Wheee! I derailed from the tracks a few times, but then got my steering pretty much sorted. We had covered quite a bit of territory by the end of the day and enjoyed plonking down in the café for a rest and a well-earned drink. Then a quiet night in Wanaka, with the long drive home next morning. And Calum making desolate noises about wanting to stay on for a week instead of going back to work, cos, you guessed it, the weather was now p-e-r-f-e-c-t.

I can’t wait to go again. Anyone proficient with the basics of downhill skiing (snow plough etc) and a good sense of adventure would enjoy trying Nordic skiing. Think about it for next year . . . . you may even get to cuddle a Husky.

Diane Mellish (The skiers: Calum McIntosh, Ann Schofield, Diane Mellish)