As a snowboarder went whizzing by, he gave us a wave and said “cool shoes man!”. If we were looking for our ‘cool quotient’ to increase, it would have gone up a few notches at that moment. But that wasn’t the aim for us first-time snow-shoers.
With much enthusiasm we were about to embark on an alternative way to enjoy the winter snow…compliments of our snow-shoes.
A hint of trepidation vanished after instruction and re-assurance from Peter, our guide. With feet comfortably wedged into our snow-shoes and poles at the ready, we set forth on the slopes of The Remarkables mountain range, near Queenstown.
It is evident that Peter is an experienced, competent outdoorsman and leads the group off at a comfortable pace. “We go as fast as the slowest person. It isn’t a race”. Moving from the flat to the incline it was time to step into our ‘high heels’. The clever snow-shoe apparatus allows the heel to be raised making it easier to go uphill. The women were amused at the prospect of having the men experience what is like to walk in high heels (the snow-shoes are totally stable –unlike some high heels!).
Over the course of the next couple of hours we traversed off-piste terrain, were mesmerised by the surrounding landscape – both near and far and shared the snowy landscape with some serious mountaineers on their training exercises.
By far the most bizarre sight was a huddle of men and women in wet-suits. Some were even bare-skinned as they were about to don a wetsuit! Anticipating the questions, Peter provided answers as to why seemingly sane men and women were half dressed in wetsuits and standing on a snowy mountain 1800 metres ABOVE sea level.
Hidden to us all, as it was frozen and covered in snow, was Lake Alta which is located behind The Remarkables ski area. This lake provides the perfect training ground for scuba divers who are required to train in freezing conditions. By pure coincidence they happened to be training this particular day.
As we muttered, in hushed tones, “aren’t they crazy” we gracefully continued on our journey for a hot cup of tea. Not a table or chair in sight though. One of Peter’s safety items, a shovel with a hidden jagged handle, was just the right tool to craft a bench seat in the snow.
Topped up with a warm drink and a couple of biscuits we started our descent, still marveling at the diving fraternity within view.
What goes up must come down and on this occasion it applied to our ‘high heels’. These were unlocked and it was a pretty easy snow shoe down-hill.
It was with much regret we couldn’t continue on for the afternoon too.