New Zealand winters can be dreary at the best of times, but this one is proving particularly difficult, with the ‘twin epidemic’ and the cost of living crisis further clouding our days.
Freezing temperatures and freak storms are even more unbearable when you’re drowning in snot and can’t afford to turn on the heat pump, let alone take a skiing (or tropical) vacation.
Last week may have been one of the coldest of the year, but a flurry of snowy landscape photos on social media over the weekend reminds us that we probably shouldn’t complain too loudly.
Many parts of these beautiful islands of ours are at their most photogenic when the mercury drops, and in many cases you don’t need to have the funds for a ski vacation to experience it. Here we chat with eight Kiwis who have discovered that New Zealand can be a winter wonderland even when the going gets tough.
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Memories for a lifetime in the land of glaciers
Glenn Davies and a colleague were airlifted to the top of the Tasman Glacier on a tour with MtCook.com owner and chief guide Charlie Hobbs.
Landing on fresh untouched powder with views stretching from the mountains to the Tasman Sea, they skied for around eight kilometres, stopping to discover ice caves and waterfalls before climbing back into the helicopter.
A 10km descent was followed by some adventurous zigzags over a steep, rocky section on the east side of the glacier before returning to the helicopter for a hot drink and lunch.
“Our last race ended in Murchison Glacier, where only Charlie has a concession to land and do tours,” Davies said. “We skied for a good 15 minutes on fresh, untouched snow.
“Our pilot Mark Hayes, brother of legend Hannibal Hayes, was a friendly guy and an expert pilot who gave us a close view of the mountains and scenery. We all had a fantastic day with massive smiles from ear to ear. The scenery and stillness of the mountains was surreal, and the memories of this trip will last forever.”
Fire and Ice in the Main Divide
Flying over the Southern Alps, photographer Meghan Maloney was struck by the contrast between the stark white snow and the fiery clouds as the sun set in the west.
“I never tire of seeing the juxtaposition of light and shadow from the air, and how they interact with peaks and valleys in a visual symphony,” she said.
Dancing on the ice at Sylvester Lake
Gena Remoroza arrived at Lake Sylvester in Nelson Tasman’s Kahurangi National Park with her partner, friend and 12-year-old son to find it had been turned into an outdoor ice rink.
“We were literally dancing on ice,” she said.
They had been to the glacier lake before and loved it so much they wanted to come back to explore it properly.
“I felt amazing on the mountain – so peaceful,” she said. “It’s a cool place where you can just relax when you’re up there.”
Find Zen where the mountains meet the sea
For Zibin Jiang, Kaikōura provided all the key ingredients for a restorative winter break: snow, mountains, rugged beaches and “cute seals”.
Family winter walks
For Rois Royce, trekking through a snowy Hookey Valley with his family was a “wish come true”.
It took the family of four about five hours back to complete the walk, which follows the Hooker River to a glacial lake via icebergs, glaciers and three swing bridges.
“Tirous but all worth it,” was Royce’s verdict.
A winning combo of sun and snow
Visiting the Christchurch friend who introduced her to the hike, Anna Grecikhina found herself gasping and huffing up Peak Hill.
Relieved to reach the top, the couple spent about half an hour soaking up the views from the top.
“Honestly, I was also enjoying a little break and a chance to catch my breath,” she said. “My friend is in annoyingly good shape so he was doing perfectly fine and didn’t seem to need any stops.
“The scenery was definitely worth it. A really enjoyable and rewarding climb, but I highly recommend that you use sunscreen. The winter sun can be tricky, that’s all I will say.
A birthday gift to Hamilton Gardens
Aucklander Anna Loren decided to go to Hamilton Gardens for her birthday in August.
It was, she says, “a beautiful winter’s day and the new Ancient Egyptian Garden (pictured) is beautiful”.
Pre-Antarctic Adventure in Hakatere Conservation Park
A modern-day adventurer, Thomas Robinson aims to experience as much of the New Zealand wilderness as possible before heading to Antarctica for about a year.
He took advantage of the weekend’s window of good weather to climb Mount Guy in Canterbury’s Hakatere Conservation Park, which he described as a ‘beautiful day of easy walking with microspikes’.
His next mission: a wandering of several days on Stewart Island. You can see more of his adventures on his YouTube channel.