Ski New Zealand on the cheap part 2 - Ohau

snow action team 04.08.2018

From a wet and miserable Wanaka dawn to a sunny powder day at Ohau Ski Area .. you never know what’s just up the road in NZ..

Snowaction’s Ski New Zealand on the cheap Jucy motorhome trip continues for Nic Lever as Day 4 dawns wet and miserable in Wanaka..
All I know is we are heading out somewhere else. Owie is in no rush, deciding the rain is too warm to be snow higher up. We pack up and head into town to check the Treble Cone office, but Wanaka’s other mountain still hasn’t opened for the season despite the already decent conditions at Cardrona.
So we go for a coffee. No hurry to do anything. But then Owie gets some wi-fi and suddenly he’s in frantic let’s-go-now mode.
“Ohau is open and they’ve got 50cm of fresh snow!” he exclaims.
He fires off a quick email to the owner, an old acquaintance, and we’re off.
The best thing about a camper is you can simply pack up and escape the weather. And we do.

powder day at Ohau

Why get wet in Wanaka when we can head to Ohau and get this? © Owain Price

Life on the road is awesome fun – every day starts with a feeling of adventure; the place you finish the day will be different from where you started.

Ohau turn off

Alpine Wilderness is exactly what you get at Ohau © Nic Lever

We rattle north through wild and increasingly empty countryside. We cross a pass and the rain eases off, then disappears as the sun breaks through. Soon enough we turn off and head toward a mountain range gleaming with fresh white snow.

Ohau access road

Ohau’s access road is steep, narrow and snowy © Nic Lever

Ohau car park

Another access road conquered by the Spice Rack! © Nic Lever

Then it’s another turn off, the old school Ohau Snow Fields entrance gate is deserted. Like a well-oiled machine we have chains on in no time, fitting one each, and start up a road that makes Cardrona’s look like the M4 freeway by comparison.
But we know our machine now, rattling relentlessly upward like a Sherman tank, traction steady even as we hit the snowline. The view even takes my mind off the gaping drop of doom out the passenger side window.
Owie has a crazy look in his eyes, getting more excited with every bend. And there are a lot of bends.

Ohau ski hire

Ohau’s hire is old school but friendly © Owain Price

He’s on a mission, and in no time I’m in the little ski hire while he gears up. The skis I collect look a decade older than the fat, modern Cardrona hire skis and, I’m about to learn, are much more unforgiving.
Apart from the carpet beginner lift it’s the main double chairlift to the top or nothing today. Ohau faces south east, so it’s already shady and cold on many runs, including the only groomed run down.

Learning to ski at Ohau

At Cardrona I thought I could ski; at Ohau I realised there was more to learn .. © Owain Price

Just when I thought I could actually ski, after cruising around Cardrona with nice instructors and rosy cheeked children, I’m sliding backwards. After a challenging couple of laps Owie leaves me to fend for myself while he goes for a hike to get pictures. It’s just me and that bird.
Heading back down at the end of the day we cross a shallow stream and the Spice Rack begins to steam – the water vaporizing on contact with our cooking brakes. We’re heading to Lake Ohau Lodge, thrilled by the prospect of real beds after three nights in the van. The Lodge is set in an incredible landscape overlooking endlessly beautiful Lake Ohau and the mountains. It’s gorgeous, with a big fireplace and hearty three course dinner included. We mingle with a few families from country NSW and Queensland over dinner and all play cards afterwards. Funny that you have to travel to a remote ski lodge in New Zealand to meet more Australians.

Ohau Lodge room

After 3 nights in the van a bed – luxury! © Owain Price

After a shower, and feeling properly dry for the first time in what felt like an eternity, I find Owie slowly entering a wi-fi code into his phone.
“Nic I was thinking, tomorrow afternoon we’ll try to make it to Mount Hutt. We’ll do the morning here then head out.”
“Great, I can’t wait to fall over there too!”
I say, putting on my last clean shirt.

For a great deal on NZ snow holiday insurance check the link below:

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Ohau lounge

Ohau lodge has lots of character, hearty food, friendly fellow guests and a roaring fire © Nic Lever