I first heard about the New Zealand club fields in 1994 from some crazed kiwis. They mentioned names like Broken River, Craigieburn, Mt Olympus and Temple Basin. And they described rugged ski resorts operating old school rope tows. No people (well other than a few kiwi mountain types). Steeps. No grooming.
Unfortunately it took me until 2002 to make my first trip. Unfortunate because skiing the club fields is an amazing and honest skiing experience.
The club fields are small ski resorts owned at a community level. And unlike the commercial resorts in NZ they have lodges up in the snow. All pretty rustic with shared bunk rooms and communal meals.
(Lodges and base at Mt Olympus)
A clarifying experience when skiing the club fields are the rope tows. Known as ‘nutcracker’ lifts they are about the most basic way to get up a mountain. You wear a belt with a nutcracker attached (picture an oversized metal nutcracker) that you manually flick over the rope and hold shut with your hand… Low on the fun factor until you get it worked out. Then it’s actually pretty awesome.
The vibe is generally very laid back at all the fields. Maximum of 50-100 people on any day. Bob Marley playing on speakers at the lodge. Lots of hiking and hunting for different lines.
For me, the most spectacular experiences I’ve had are the steep, consistent fall line of Craigieburn (so good and long) and night skiing at Mt Olympus under moonlight (just ridiculously fun and surreal).
Don’t go if you are the precious type. But go if you want one of the most genuine skiing experiences in the world.