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For keen skiers, springtime in New Zealand means one thing, glacier skiing. Once the days get longer and the snowpack begins to settle down, the glaciers of New Zealand offer world class ski touring and ski mountaineering. From late September until early December the glaciers are an alpine playground for skiers and snowboarders.
New Zealand has an excellent hut system operated by the New Zealand Alpine Club. With huts strategically located on most of New Zealand's major glaciers, ski touring requires skiers to be familiar with how to navigate crevasses and to be prepared for the variety of weather conditions that an island environment generates.
This type of ski touring is quite different from the usual lower elevation tours close to the commercial ski areas. A few of the differences would include:
• Glacier Travel – skiers need to be experienced in crevasse rescue and navigating in whiteout conditions. Roped up travel is common.
• Equipment – ski touring skis, skins and ski crampons are used with skiers usually wearing a harness in case of crevasse rescue. Skiers need to carry crampons in case hard snow is encountered.
• Access – The majority of glaciers are accessed by helicopter. While some glaciated areas can be reached on foot many are either too difficult or far to be feasible.
For these reasons many people prefer to use a backcountry guide. A professional guide can allow you to maximize your time in the mountains. With wide variations in weather and conditions using a guide can mean the difference between being stuck in the valley and a successful trip.
Aspiring Guides in Wanaka runs glacier ski touring trips on the west coast on the famous Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers as well as on the eastern side of the mountains on the Tasman Glacier. With snow hundreds of meters thick these vast oceans of snow offer skiing for all abilities.
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