Ohau’s northern bowls, Ohau Range

Ohau ridge

August 2018

Ohau ski field is well known for having good access to ski touring. Indeed, search this website and you will find the posts for Mt Peterson, Mt Stafford and Mt St Mary. These peaks are accessed from the ski field, from above the top lift, via the south ridge . Other more common ski touring routes are Dumb-bell Lake , and the classic ‘Hemi’s run’ (which leads east from Mt Sutton back to the ski field access road). The ski touring runs that are often over-looked, but are quite excellent, are the wonderful bowls to the north of the ski field.

Looking south with Oahu ski field in the valley in centre, Mt Sutton to the left
Easy skinning north along the Ohau ridge…pt 1848

Access is the same for all the routes; a short skin up from the top lift. There is a ‘one off’ lift pass for a cheap price, that will get you up through the ski field expediently. You can also proceed with 30 or 40 minute skin up from the base lodge. Once on the ridge head north for a short but often windswept ski up to point 1952. Due to the prevailing westerlies, it is to be expected to find sections of bare rock where the snow has been stripped. Skis on packs..

Dropping into the first bowl from pt 1952

If you want to know where all the snow from the ridge went…well into the bowls. Unless it has been very windy (over 70kmh, in which case its blown all the way down to the lake).

From Pt 1952 there is some excellent bowl skiing to the east towards lake Ohau. The skiing is fall line and around the 25-30 degree mark. This first bowl from pt 1952 is the most popular and it can also offer access to steeper routes back into the ski field. During winters with good snow coverage there is a boot pack leading from this bowl at around the 1600m mark, back over the ridge into the steeper chutes leading down to the Ohau ski field base. They are a good challenge, a little bit rocky and around 45 degrees. Some do not go all the way so plan your route carefully.

North bowl Ohau

The bowl north of pt 1952, or below pt 1848 is probably my favourite, and offers undulating terrain with many aspects, so you are almost guaranteed to find some snow in good condition.

Cruising along the broad Ohau ridge, looking north into the Dobson Valley
Heading back to Ohau ski field, looking to the SW with Mt St Mary on left, Mts Stafford and Peterson

If you have time, head further north skiing the bowls below pt 1732, and ending up on pt 1675. From this vantage the views over the braided Dobson and Hopkins Valleys are superb, as are the views of the hulking Mt Glenmary, the windswept Ben Ohau range, and even Mt Cook and the main divide.

Looking back south to the way we came from. Pt 1952 on the left

As a final note, these 2 northern bowls offer fine skiing and can be navigated safely in good conditions. However they have been known to avalanche all the way to lake level, blocking the road at the bottom.

WEATHER: Ohau catches the snow from weather from the NW and W, as long as its a front coming out of the southern ocean. If the NW is coming down from northern Australia, then expect rain to high levels. The other weather factor is wind, particularly on this range. It is exposed to the wind which can rip the snow away. Any winds over 70kmh may strip back the snow to low levels. Southerly fronts and most SW fronts tend to skip Ohau in terms of precipitation, but not in terms of wind.

An example of a snow forecast for Ohau; cold weather is sucked up from the southern ocean and impacts Ohau from the W/NW direction
An example of rain to high levels at Ohau. Even though the wind direction is coming in from a W/NW direction, the front has originated in the warmer climes of Australia and will likely result in rain to near ridgeline.

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