Craigieburn: A Skiing Eden

Sander Kriek tells us why Craigieburn Valley Ski Area in the Selwyn district is a Skiing Wonderland.

What is your role at Craigieburn Valley?

I’ve had my fair share of roles in the past: I’ve been treasurer, vice president and club captain. This year, I coordinate the marketing and social outreach of the club, which includes handling interviews and whatnots. All of this I love to do because Craigieburn is the type of club which compels you to help out and be a part of it. It’s that great!

How long have you been skiing at Craigieburn?

I started skiing at Craigieburn in the early nineties. So, I dare say I’ve been skiing at Craigieburn for a wonderful 27 years, 25 seasons!

How did you start skiing at Craigieburn?

I was introduced by my friend John who was a club member from birth. This was way back in the nineties. His mum and dad were members in the club during its set up phase. Well, I could manage to get up the rope tows but I couldn’t ski. So I basically spent most of my time building snow caves. But with every week of my going there, to Craigieburn, I developed an interest in the sport. At the start, I had no technique; and always took advice from my friend. He had been skiing since he was two; very gifted. I was just fifteen at the time, but I learnt a lot from him. Two decades later, here I am, an expert lover of skiing.

What do you like about skiing at Craigieburn?

The vibe! Here at Craigieburn, it’s all about going out and skiing. I have a vivid memory of an old friend Jim Hutton. He was never part of the races, he was in his seventies. All he did was laugh and ski. He was like a patron. He hardly came in for lunch. All he did was laugh and ski. This is why Craigieburn is unique. It has the most amazing technical terrain and world class steeps. You could make a habit of skiing down the long flowing runs all day long. Each day always feels different. In my 27 years here, I still haven’t skied all the runs. Just imagine that!

What are the facilities like at Craigieburn?

The base lodge is the jewel on the crown. We’ve got accommodation in the beech forest. It’s got an amazing bar and a very nice view. It’s a place where everyone can hang out leisurely. Some other clubs have disjointed lodges but at Craigieburn, we have a huge lodge which sleeps seventy; has really good chefs that make amazing food and has a fantastic bar. Overall, the base-lodge sits in a stunning spot, 1600m above the mountain. You’ve got a vantage view over both basins all the way to the North peak. It’s beautifully sighted and well positioned.

Tell us about the realignment of the Top Tow?

The reason for the realignment is to make the load for the top a bit easier. The load side has been quite aggressive so it ramps up really steep quickly. And this might be a problem for inexperienced skiers, especially for little kids. Now, it’s a much easier pitch to load; and also freezes up the fore line from the top of the ridge down. Basically, it has become a beautiful spot to ski. So we didn’t realign the top tow because of problematic issues, we did it for ease. The realignment broadens the field into a skiable terrain. It also enables the staff carry gears and such items to the top more easily. That’s just phase one. The idea for phase two would allow the plain to separate the middle and top tow so people could get up to the lodge whenever the top tow isn’t running.

Can you give us some tips for people who are coming to Craigieburn for the first time?

A good tip; already know how to ski. Have no fear, give everything a go, and just because you can’t master it yet doesn’t mean you won’t. When you eventually master the art of skiing, take pride in it because there aren’t so many people that have. Also, you have to learn how to do a jump-turn. Sometimes, you might find yourself in a pickle so you need to be prepped for jump-turns. How do you do a jump-turn? JUMP and TURN. Remember, listen to your instructors and take lessons.

What’s it like to stay up at Craigieburn?

There’s just something special about skiing through the forests, clicking out of your bindings, putting your stuff in the drying room, heading out to the bar for a drink, being out there in the fields, and waking up in the morning not having to do any driving. You wouldn’t want to go home. Craigieburn is well set up; there is a fast access to the tows from the car park which doesn’t require much walking.

When you are packing for a weekend up at Craigieburn what are you must have items?

A backpack with snow safety gears obviously. A few of the gears would be a transceiver, probe, shovel, first aid kit with an emergency blanket, a couple of bandages, plasters, and some good old ibuprofen.

What are you looking forward to this season (what run/ski week/etc)?

I want to knock off 1912, the beautiful pyramid peak that you see from the top of Craigieburn. In 25 years, I’ve only skied 1912 three times. For me, that’s not enough. I’m also really keen to do the Haute route, tour over to Olympus this year.

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