Trip Report: Canterbury Club Fields, NZ

I’m going to state this as clearly as I can:

If for you, skiing and riding is actually about the skiing and the riding, then you need to visit the club fields of Canterbury, in the southern Alps of New Zealand.

Southern Alps, Blister Gear Review
Flying Over the Southern Alps, into Christchurch, New Zealand.

There may be no place in the world that has a more distinctive ski culture, and we’ll try our best over the coming days to document a bit of it. But before we get to the uniqueness of the ski experience here, we should make clear right away just how stunning the Canterbury region is.

Craigieburn, Blister Gear Review
The road to Craigieburn.

And the terrain around here speaks for itself:

Paul Forward, Craigieburn, Blister Gear Review
Paul Forward, Middle Main, Craigieburn.

Distinctive Cultural Element #1: There are no chairlifts at any of the club fields. All that terrain is accessed via rope tows and “nutcrackers”.

New Zealand trip report, Blister Gear Review.
Julia Van Raalte, setting a nutcracker at Mount Olympus.

Everyone skis in harnesses, nutcrackers are attached, and the ropes move pretty fast.

New Zealand trip report, Blister Gear Review.
Canterbury Club Field Standard Equipment: harness, nutcracker, work gloves.

Coolest Side Note Ever: Several of the club field rope tows are powered by tractors that have had their back ends removed. If the club wants to speed up the rope, you just shift the tractor into high gear.

The nutcracker/rope tow combination definitely takes a few tries to master, which is both humbling and hilarious. (Nutcrackers are also known as “wanker filters,” and they are indeed a pretty effective means of filtering out wankers.)

Thankfully, the local club field members are extremely patient and helpful, so thanks to all of the Kiwis who helped us figure out a pretty clever way to move up a mountain.

New Zealand trip report, Blister GEar Review.
Julia, nutcracking like a boss at Mount Olympus.

And once you get the hang of it, you’re on your way to areas like this:

New Zealand trip report, Blister Gear Review.
Julia Van Raalte, Broken River Club Field.

8 comments on “Trip Report: Canterbury Club Fields, NZ”

  1. Long awaited to bridge the gap until glacier season starts in the alps on the other end of the continent…and there it is – first pictures from your pilgrimage. Thank you for sharing – it looks amazing!

  2. South Island of “unzed” is my favorite place in the world …..why are you telling everybody about it, they will all want to go !!!!!
    (whoops, so am I)

    Go on make some sheep jokes :-)

  3. I’ve always received a very quizzical look when explaining the allure of nut-crackers and the South Island club fields of NZ. It is one of the purest forms of skiing and you are guaranteed everyone there is going to be just as stoked on riding as you are!

  4. We went skiing with Brett of Black Diamond Safaris expecting to be hammered on some crazy terrain. Despite being avid skiers we hadn’t skied for a few years and not fully “ski-fit” we had an awesome time, only took a few goes to get the hang of the nut cracker and the club fields are friendly not to mention the amazing terrain. I don’t think we skied the same run twice and Brett’s knowledge of the surrounding area is unreal. He had our safety top of mind at all times. It was a total mountain experience rather than just a day out skiing – hiking to unreal terrain, good food, friendly faces and great service – HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

  5. Yep. It’s a diff. world down there.

    I’m an Aus skier and had several days in late spring at Broken River. Was a hoot. V. friendly folk.

  6. Hey Jonathan, good to read through your article.
    Its summer here in Aus now but you bought back some great memories of the fun times that were had in the club fields in NZ.
    checked out Taos on line, yep it looks good.

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