It seems every Autumn we get an early season blast of cold weather, which brings snow down to low levels. Invariably this is from a strong southerly storm which howls up the central east of the South Island. The Old Man Range catches this wind blasted snow and loads it into the gullies, the ridges remaining relatively bare and windswept.
When to ski? – after a big southerly storm that sweeps out of the Antarctic. If there has been any weather from the North I wouldn’t bother as it melts out quickly with warmer temperatures.
Access? – About 10km south of Alexandra on state highway 8, just before Fruitlands, there is turn-off to the Kopuwai Conservation Area via Symes Rd. This road is public access to the snowline. Drive as high as you can make it. The road becomes a little rough and is not metalled so it can be a little challenging depending upon your vehicle. If there is frost lifting please take it easy and don’t rip up the road with tyre chains and the pedal to the metal, or the road will eventually get closed. Park the car and follow the road to the summit ridge. REMEMBER where you left the car – its easy to loose your bearings up there especially if the weather comes in. Look at the rock tors and take a mental note.
Descent?- Try skiing Butchers Creek. It holds good snow down to the 900m mark, following gullies and snow leads. Then traverse tussock slopes back to the road, and walk back up to the car.
This is a great place for an early season warm up, or for learning back country touring in NZ with many short bowls and slope, lots of options and a relatively easy exit to the car. The access is also straight forward for those not used to skinning.