Leaving the shred-culture epicenter of Wanaka for a few days, I hit up the more isolated Canterbury club field of Craigieburn Valley for a big mountain comp put on by K2 in late September. With no expectations, we hauled north to an area chock full of small, low-key ‘club fields,’ where the infrastructure is miniscule but the terrain and friendliness is world-class.
We arrived to a big, fat, soggy storm and sat the first two days out in the lodge reading books, playing cards and watching shred flicks while it rained and rained. The vibe remained amazing though, with stoked and energetic competitors, relaxed families and a super-hospitable staff keeping the mood from going anywhere near sour.
On day three it cleared up for about two seconds so they fired up the tows and let loose a pack of rope tow rookies, myself included. For those that don’t know, the rope whizzes around the pulleys at a healthy velocity. The rider wears a harness belt connected to a nutcracker, (the metal contraption that fixes to the ropeline) and the rider must grab a hold of the rope to get moving, then quickly attach the nutcracker via a graceful under-over-clamp method that locks it into place. Passing the pulleys, the nutcracker makes a frightening CLANK from the metal on metal contact.
After about an hour, the mountain threw down the most hellacious wind gusts I’ve ever experienced (nearby Porter’s field reported 195 km winds) which left me pinned to a wooden fence, unable to move, nevertheless navigate a tricky rope tow. We called it.
Day four let up again in the morning and we were lapping some fun bowls, while most of the mountain remained closed. Comp organizer Stu Wadell made the call to do an expression session, and we ripped the bowls while the judges took notes. Since it wasn’t a proper venue for a comp, it seemed a perfect medium to keep the people happy. Some tech skiing was thrown down through ultra-bony rock clumps and airs were boosted, despite the nil visibility factor. Who needs to see a landing?
Whatever, it was a lesson in unrelenting stoke no matter the conditions. We all walked away with a spot prize and a smile, more than happy to spend a few days away from our jobs, away from the masses and among like-minded individuals that want to make the best out of any situation.
After Craigieburn, the two-part series moved to Mt. Olympus (but I went back to work) where they reportedly had bluebird skies, a feature-loaded venue, and an impressive turnout. I can only imagine the level of stoke there.