A south island club field - Awakino, operated by the Waitaki Ski Club
(note - this is nowhere near King Country's Awakino Gorge, but in the Waikaki Valley in North Otago - where ABs captain Richie McCaw hails from)
The Awakino Ski Field is a friendly and affordable club-operated skifield situated high in the St Marys Range near Kurow in the Waitaki Valley. The field is situated in a sunny, north-facing valley with fantastic views over the Waitaki Valley and Hakataramea. It boasts two high-speed rope tows, and queues are unheard of.
It is probably the ski area that has changed least since skiing began there in earnest in 1946. Awakino exudes the feeling of skiing in a timeless place. Most importantly, this is how club members favour it - and rightly so - it is an extraordinary place.
The majestic St Mary Range receives big dumps of wind-packed powder snow in southerly storms.
The Waitaki Ski Club capitalised on this by setting up the Awakino ski field on these hallowed slopes, high above the Waitaki River hydro lakes in North Otago.
Aerial photo of Awakino
The field is normally open most weekends from July to October. Long weekends may operate when the snow conditions are good and club members are available. So it is mainly a weekend operation, apart from organised ski weeks.
The terrain, which extends to a height of 1,737 metres, is ideal for intermediate skiers and boarders. Accordingly the snow ratings are 10% beginner, 70% intermediate and 20% advanced. There are cross-country touring opportunities along the St Mary Range for advanced skiers, with wide open basins of untracked snow just waiting to be tamed.
Awakino is virtually unknown outside the North Otago region, but the club is steadily improving the facilities and raising its profile within the snow sport fraternity. There are 2 high speed tows and and an access tow. The daily lift passes are reasonably priced ($40 - the same as Manganui for an adult day pass!)
Accommodation is provided in a 35 bunk lodge some 500 metres below the main rope tow, a perfect mountain getaway for groups. Overnight stays can also be made in nearby Kurow, just 11 km down the 4WD access road. Oamaru, 45 km away on the coast, has a wide choice of places to stay. Omarama, 66 km inland, has good motel, backpackers and motor camp accommodation.
The club runs special ski weeks and weekends periodically at all-inclusive rates for skiing, dinner, bunk and breakfast. These represent great value and can be arranged with members of the Waitaki Ski Club.
Although it is one of the smallest club fields in Otago and Canterbury, Awakino has great intermediate and advanced skiing and boarding in the right snow conditions.
The club is the smallest ski club in the country. But the ski area continues to have a strong loyal following amongst North Otago people, though generally maintains a low profile
(it is not even listed on Snow.co's Club Ski Areas, nor is doe it have a Snow.co snow report!)
It is well worth a trip up the Waitaki Valley to check it out.
View Larger Map
On top of the 1.5 metre base received in the big dump last week, the field received another 40cm over the weekend. The tow was dug out and skied on, in fantastic conditions with coverage across the whole mountain - scarcely a rock to be seen! Due to the snow, strictly 4WD access beyond the top car park, although this may change if we get the road bulldozed. The field is now essentially open, contact us if you want to use it.
(looks like they actually got going here, for club members in any case, the same weekend as NZ ski season officially opened at Coronet Peak - a classic low key opening for a classic club field!. They officially open this weekend)
The word from members Lynne and John Hamilton, is that 'We are just an enthusiastic bunch trying to keep 'The Jewel of the Waitaki' alive. Has a familiar ring to it...
sources: A guide to Ski Areas of NZ by Marty Sharpe, http://www.newzealandnz.co.nz, http://www.skiawakino.com/, http://www.snow-forecast.com/resorts/AwakinoSkiArea