I don’t like to use the word old but lets just say I’m one of the more ‘experienced’ skiers on the US Ski team and have seen my fair share of training camps. 2003 was the first time I traveled down to the Snow Farm as a development team athlete and have made the journey over 10 times in search or summer skiing since then.
The Snow Farm is a bit of a time capsule and although there have been plenty of improvements over the past decade (like the internet) the Farm has stayed true to what it does best which is epic skiing, awesome food, and friendly people that have become great buddies over the years.
When I first started making this trip all those years ago xc skiing was not very established over here and the idea of traveling to NZ for summer training wasn’t something a lot of high level national teams thought of. I guess you could say word has gotten out and since those days teams from all over the world as well as your average skiing tourist are making the trip to experience the one and only Snow Farm. (we like to think it’s partly from the US Ski team promoting the place… or at least that’s what we try to convince management for a discount)
Part of me just kind of wishes we could have kept it a secret, but these mountains and trails are just too good to keep to yourself. So for anyone looking to score the best summer skiing available I can hopefully lend a hand with the Do’s and Don’ts of Down Under to keep in mind for your next trip.
Do- Sleep on the flight over. It’s a 13-hour beast from California and it helps to have energy for that first day on the ground.
Don’t- Even think about going right. On the road, walking in the airport, everywhere you go remind yourself ‘left to live’. It’s always your instinct to walk to the right of someone as you pass by but this only leads to a lot of awkward encounters on the sidewalk and grocery store isles.
Do- Take in the views. It’s about a 1.5-hour drive from the Airport up very windy roads to get up to the Snow Farm, which is perched all by itself on a barren mountain range. You soon realize why all kinds of movies and commercials choose this area for filming among these one of a kind peaks.
Don’t- Get car sick… that’s gross.
Do- Get in as many K’s as possible. Even on poor snow years there is about 30k’s groomed here and on some occasions up to 50. As an experienced skier I can tell you to start slow but definitely get the big loops in while the weather is nice. It can turn rather quickly up here.
Don’t- worry about bringing any food down here. NZ food is delicious it’s kind of a mix of Polynesian, Asian, and English dishes that taste awesome after a long morning of skiing.
Do- Take a lot of photo’s, and never be afraid of doing the occasional skiing selfie
Don’t- Be discouraged if you can’t understand a damn thing anyone is saying. It definitely takes a few days to adjust to the thick accents of NZ. You know they’re speaking English it just doesn’t make sense half the time. New Zealanders are famous for using epic amounts of slang including my favorite- Budgey Smugglers – which can refer to wearing spandex.
Do- sit with Bernie. Bernie is a great friend and high school ski coach from back in the US who has been privy to the New Zealand trend since day one. He comes down for weeks at a time and is the perfect person to hang with at meals or between training sessions. To us it feels like he’s just another member of the team.
Don’t- Get stuck on the Rock. You can be very isolated up here at the Lodge so take advantage of the 45-minute drive to Wanaka if you can stomach the drive. It’s a real transformation from snow to more of a tropical vibe down off the mountain and the running, coffee shopping, and searching for eels in lake Wanaka is standard procedure.
Do- Hit of the Cardrona Hotel. It’s a real old school joint at the bottom of the Snow Farm access road. It has a cool rugged pub feel where blokes come in after a long day of skiing, snowboarding, or sheering sheep and share a pint with the locals.
Don’t- worry if you don’t have enough time to see everything in one trip because I guarantee you’ll be back. This place is addicting which is just how you turn into a New Zealand lifer like myself.