Category Archives: Snow

You’ve signed up, now what?

Anna Keeling, our Canterbury mountain guide and local guru checks in to help you prepare for you first course.
You’ve signed up – now what?
Being in decent shape for the course will hugely enhance your fun factor.  What can you expect in a day ski touring?
Before heading outside we’ll grab a coffee and have a chat about weather and avalanche conditions.  Your guide will show you how best to pack your pack and will check it fits comfortably.  We’ll generally take a one-ride to the top of the chosen ski area.  The guides will lead you into the first run and, depending on location, will teach a lesson in companion avalanche rescue.  You’ll learn to use your transceiver, shovel and probe and effect some basic first aid.
After a snack, we’ll climb for two hours or so (with breaks and coaching) back to the top.  There may be time for a second run.  Your guide will show you how best to use your touring equipment – how to dress, fit your pack most comfortably, put on and remove your skins, release your heels and climb efficiently.
On day 2, we’ll head out for a full day tour.  The Criaigies offer plenty of terrain from beginner to advanced – so there’s something for everyone.  You can expect to climb up to 1000 metres on that day over the course of 2-3 runs.  It may sound somewhat strenuous (yet firming) and the views are always a superb reward for your effort.
How do you prepare for a course like this?  
You need to ski/ride a lot.  If your skiing is not versatile (ie you are good on blue groomers and corn snow but you get tripped up or lose confidence once you hit anything steeper, cruddy, powder or icy) then you need to put in some solid miles on the ski area.  A few lessons with an instructor (tell them what you are aiming for) will pay dividends on your backcountry enjoyment.  Practice skiing with your pack on to work out your balance.  We also highly recommend skiing on your touring gear at least once to better familiarize yourself with it’s nuances.
Having some survival skills for bad snow are a real plus in New Zealand – a kick turn in both directions and the ability to side-slip like a falling leaf, are great tricks to have and can be practiced on steeper slopes in the ski area.
Secondly, you need the fitness to enjoy yourself.  In the four-six weeks before the class, get out hiking with your pack a couple of times a week.  Take ski poles if you want.  Bike hills if that is your thing.  Build up your endurance.  Maintain a talking pace – but not an easy talking pace!  Aim to be able to hike or ride comfortably uphill for an hour or more.  Good tracks in Christchurch are the Rapaki area and various tracks from Victoria or Barnett Parks.  If weather and time preclude outdoor trips then some solid work on an inclined treadmill or on the stair climber (45 minute-one hour session) will work fine.  Cycle spin classes also have a nasty power-endurance component to them.  It hurts so good!
Although Mission WOW offers ski touring for beginner tourers, backcountry skiing is not for the faint-hearted skier.  Once we leave the ski area boundary, we are on our own and must be able to handle changing conditions as a team.  Having the fitness and ski/riding mileage behind you will make it way more fun.  You’ll be able to cope with changes with confidence and finesse.

SCOTT support

In September I got an email from Kathi at SCOTT Sports HQ in Fribourg, Switzerland stating that they’d like to fully sponsor my 2011 winter event series in Europe.  At this point in time I had just arrived back in NZ after 6 months away and was planning on staying put (for a while at least!) I also didn’t have a winter event series, yet. So I created one and changed my plans on what I was going to do with my life, again.

It was quite surreal sitting in Wanaka, ducking out for bike rides and lake swims while alternating with sitting at a desk planning and event that revolved around snow. But Europe didn’t seem to be getting any snow. They were having more sunny days than we were in Wanaka for summer.  I kept saying, as everyone else in Europe did, ‘It’ll come soon’.

It took 6 months of negotiating, locations being dropped and funding and logistic discussion, but eventually a contract came through from SCOTT. The next week my flights were booked, and I was Europe bound.

I arrived to Chamonix and it was immediately shorts and t-shirt weather. Bikes were being dusted off and trails were already dry and ready to ride. I didn’t really get into the groove of winter and the snow didn’t show up, even if it did, the ground would have been too warm and it would have melted straight away.

Lucky I wasn’t running a freeride camp requiring powder snow. A Spring touring mission was on the cards for us and that’s exactly what we got. There’s always snow up high, that’s where we went and SCOTT touring skis took us there.

Here is Charlie’s press release from the event “WOW press release


I got this email from an inspiring woman, Tomoko Kazama, who I met last year in Niseko, Japan.  She sorted out our motley crew, a gathering of friends from Scotland, NZ and Japan, with passes and contacts, to assist in our common craving for Japanese powder.

She wrote to encourage me, during my times of doubt, as to what on earth I was trying to achieve with Mission WOW.

“I personally think I would love to have people from all over the world and get united through the sports. So that we can communicate/share the culture and that is the way to bring happiness to everyone and want to have a theme of ‘no boundary’ between people/culture/religion/language and so on.

Have a simple and peaceful mind with exciting sports will do it!!!

Educate ourselves while having fun in nature is always the way to make people happy and we can appreciate the existence of ourselves living in such a wild planet.

Keep smiling and enjoy your program!!!!!


I now have the pleasure of knowing two Tomokos who have similar inspiring attitudes and energy, both having been in Japan last year but not actually meeting each other.

So I looked up what Tomoko means and Wikipedia came up with:

“Like many Japanese names, Tomoko can be written using different kanji characters and can mean:

  • 友子 – “friendly child”
  • 知子 – “knowing child”
  • 智子 – “wise child”
  • 朋子 – “friendly child”
  • 皆子 – “beautiful girl”

They all ring true for the two Tomokos that I know. If these two are anything to go by, I’m looking forward to meeting more.

Maybe next year Mission WOW will land in Japan. With support from NZ and Japanese bases Tomokos, we’ll be sorted!