by Zucco –
St. Marys range ski touring –
Awakino ski area, “the pearl of the Waitaki”, is located in North Otago and provides easy access to the St. Marys range via Kurow and a well maintained 4wd access road to the base lodge at 1200m. The field is open mostly on weekends only so plan ahead and get in touch with the volunteers before heading up. If using access only don’t forget to leave a koha (donation) and to check in and out.
Awakino provides great and friendly accommodations and a rope tow, not to mention the spa pool. To get in touch visit www.skiawakino.com or FB group “friends of awakino”.
There are few good touring options around the field, all of them requiring intermediate level of ski ability and fitness. They all start from the base lodge at 1200m and the most recommended are:
– Mt Kohurau (2009m) is the highest point of the range and provides a easy climb and descent on wide and sunny north ridge. Good skiing can be found on the south bowl and the wide west face
– Awakino back bowl is accessed through “ice cream” and point 1942 and the south facing bowl can hold wind blown chalky snow with a variety of runs.
Due to the relatively isolated position the St. Mary range is not well covered for weather forecast and not at all for avalanche forecast service.
The clubbies are knowledgeable of the area and conditions but have limited resource for patrolling so consider yourself being in the back country at all times.
The St Marys range does well with south easterly storm and tends to get most of the snowfall in the first part of winter. Being so far east is well sheltered from the weather during westerly flow, although can get pretty windy.
The club skiing usually kicks off later in July and last as long as there is snow around with usually August being the best skiing to be had.