Riding the Rope Tows

The rope tow is a unique lift system in New Zealand that is used at four of the Ski Selwyn Six mountains.  It can take a few tries to master and most people will have the hang of it after half a day. There are a few tricks to make it easier and even the seasoned rope tow rider will be looking for ways to improve technique.

How to Ride the Rope Tows

With a few tips and a little perseverance you’ll soon be on your way, just remember, if you’re having trouble ask a local or a staff member.

If you’re learning to ski and are a little uneasy on your feet it may be best to build up your confidence on other lift systems before tackling the rope tow. For competent skiers and snowboarders it usually takes half a day to get the knack.

You will find rope tows at these Ski Selwyn Six Mountains: Temple Basin, Craigieburn, Broken River and Mt Olympus.

First things first, you need a little bit of kit to ride them. If you're planning a short term visit hire is the way to go but we highly recommend investing in your own kit, to maximise comfort and performance.

You'll need:

1. A harness or a tow belt

2. A ‘nutcracker’

3. A glove protector

The concept is simple, your nutcracker is attached to your harness or belt by a short rope. The nutcracker clamps onto the rope running up the hill and you are pulled up with it.


 Here are a few tips to ride the tow safely and easily.

1.  Prepare by holding the nutcracker in an open position with your hand that’s furthest from the rope if skiing, or with your uphill hand if snowboarding.

2. Wearing a glove protector, grab hold of the rope with your free hand. On icy days this can be a little tricky, if you find the rope keeps slipping you can use two hands to get you started or try leaning back on the rope to give you a little more purchase.

3.  A nutcracker ‘looks’ reminiscent of a large ‘walnut’ cracker. It has two handles divided by a ‘clamping’ area and hinge. Once travelling the same speed as the rope (this bit is key), swing the nutcracker under the rope and allow the free handle to loop back towards you. Hold the two handles together from the top (knuckles up) and remove your other hand from the rope.

4. To get off the rope tow just let the nutcracker’s top handle go and it will unclamp. Once released from the tow, move away from the track.

Other Tips:

In case of an emergency, a trip cord (thin wire) runs alongside the tow, pull it to stop the tow. There is also a trip cord immediately after the dismounting area.

The harness or belt should take all your weight. If you are muscling your way up the hill you may need to shorten the rope between your harness and nutcracker.

If the nutcracker starts opening in your hands, pull yourself up the rope with your spare hand (when free from pulleys) to take tension off the nutcracker, readjust proceed as normal.

Beware of loose clothing and long hair.

The ropes are designed to run on the pulleys, put the rope back on if see you see it off a pulley.    

Keep your hands clear of the pulleys, just remember they look scarier than they are and nutcrackers are designed to run through them.

That's it!

There are also many videos on You Tube to get an idea of how to ride the rope tows. Here is a great example from Bavarian Alpine Manifest: