Skiing in the Selwyn District isn’t always fast paced, adrenaline fuelled, downhill madness. Sometimes it’s important to take the slow road and see the sights along the way. Ski touring has been a favorite option for many club field skiers as it gives them more freedom to explore where the snow is best or to access the shreds of snow available in the off season. Touring has seen a resurgence in the last 20 years as gear becomes more lightweight and accessible.
A basic touring kit these days consists of skis, skins, touring boots, TSP sets, and adjustable poles. Most people will have their trusted brands and have tuned their gear to exactly how they feel comfortable with it. For those who are starting out, or who don’t have their gear yet, Gnomes in Darfield and McEwings in Christchurch both have touring gear for hire.
Of course, having the gear is only the beginning. Knowing how to use it safely and efficiently is still a big part of touring. It pays to take courses throughout the season to get your skills up and meet other people who would be interested in going backcountry with you.
Got a touring and a snow safety course under your belt? Good, start off small with a tour from Broken River to Craigieburn. This will give you a chance to skin the slackcountry while staying within a ski area boundary. Once at Craigieburn turn around and head back to BR for another skin. This is a great way of practicing your newfound skills.
Ready to head into the backcountry? Head to Cheeseman, pick up a one way lift ticket, and check in with ski patrol. Take the T-Bars all the way to the top and drop into Tarn Basin, an easily accessed and well-known powder bowl that often receives more snow than Cheeseman itself. This basin can be accessed from the ridgeline of Cheeseman, and features wide open slopes and rocky outcrops for you to have fun on. Skin south to get up Mt Cheeseman or continue north to Yukon Bowl.
Time to take it up a notch? Pack your lunch and arrange for your overnight gear or ride home to meet you at Mt Olympus. Starting at Cheeseman again, head back into Tarn Basin for a warmup lap before skinning along the ridgeline south towards Porters. After a short time Ryton Valley will open out in front of you with views out to Lake Coleridge. From here you can either head right along the ridgeline into a wide plateau that sits behind the top of Mt Olympus, or drop into the valley or make your way along to the Olympus access road. Taking the short route above Mt Olympus will be a bit more challenging, and will drop you right at the top of the ski area. The longer route to the access road is a long downhill run that will put you out just below Bottom Hut, stick your thumb out for the rest of the way. The long route can only be done with enough snowfall.