Girls Backcountry Day with Small Planet in the Southern Lakes Backcountry


Now, I’m not saying I’m a full on lazy bones, but I definitely don’t find it easy to jump out of the warm comfort of my covers first thing in a morning. But not today! Today I went on my first ever touring day with Small Planet Queenstown, and couldn’t be more amped! I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to try out touring for a while now, after first playing with the idea on my last European winter season and not quite having the gumption to make it happen.

So, finally up, dressed and trying to control the overwhelming excitement for the day ahead, one singular thought crossed my mind – did I have enough snacks?! You could argue I’d maybe gone a little overboard with the amount of food I was taking for the day, but with the prospect of walking all day and not knowing how tough I would find it, I thought I would be glad of the sugar kick my treats and bag of Pams Party Mix could provide. So in answer to that; no, no you can never have too many snacks.

Along with my multitude of snacks, my rucksack was armed with skins, extendable poles, avi gear, a camelbak of water, and my camera. My weapon of choice for the day ahead was the Jones Solution Splitboard, kindly leant to me by my adventure prone housemate Teresa; and after a quick demonstration of how to switch the bindings between walk and ride position, I went to the shop to find out the plan of action for the day.

Stoked on the idea of an all girls touring day *queue Destiny’s Child Independent Women Part I and female empowerment*, it was great to meet other chicks wanting to explore the backcountry and learn how to use touring gear in an unintimidating environment. All but the ladies from Small Planet had zero or limited experience of touring, making for a fun day of firsts and instantly put me at ease heading out of bounds.

With a quick weather and condition check, we headed over the Crown Range Road from Queenstown to Cardrona to tour out the back of the ski field and into the Soho Basin. And we were not disappointed. With a couple of cm of fresh snow the night before, blue bird skies and an unrivalled view across the back of the valley to Lake Watipitu, the day was set for perfect conditions for our first touring experience.

Our all round badass mountaineering guide Kat, started by giving us a brief demonstration of how to get set up with our skins and bindings into walk mode, and subsequently a quick explanation of how to get the most out of the skins. So with splitboard sufficiently split, skins attached, poles extended and avalanche transceiver signals checked, we were off! Those first few steps were so liberating I could hardly wait for some of the others who were finding the motion a little more difficult to grasp. Instantly I knew I was hooked; the freedom and relative ease you can slide across the snow makes it obvious how you could cover greater distances in comparison to boot packing, making the search for those perfect lines just that little easier.

After our first short tour, and a fair amount of faffing switching our gear back into ride mode, we were rewarded with some cruisey mellow lines down into a bowl. Hyped on the descent we got from such a short easy walk, we quickly changed into tour mode and with a handful of party mix, went back up. Kat explained to us how to make kick turns on steep terrain to tour uphill more easily using traversing, and we were soon ready to drop into the bowl again. After a longer ride further into the valley, we set down our poles in exchange for lunch, and after a quick feed we were given some broad avi training and practised searching for a buried beacon using our transceivers.

Our longest tour of the day (still only a short 30-minutes) took us back to the top of the bowl for the last time, and by this time the whole group of newbies were happy with the motion of touring and making good progress uphill with kickturns and all. Reaching the top, I happily joined the majority of the girls for an extra ride down, and we were lucky enough to score the best lines of the day on a wide, super mellow, untouched slope.

A short tour out of the bottom and our day of adventure was complete – although not before a cheeky pint stop at the Cardrona Hotel.  A great day all-round, everyone agreed they had a blast, learnt a lot and were super keen on touring again. I wasn’t any different and feeling pumped on the idea of earning your turns, getting to more inaccessible terrain and skiing much gnarlier lines. Touring today is definitely the start of something for me, and the possibilities for skiing have just been blown wide open!

It was a great opportunity to get out there with a rad bunch of girls and well worth going along to. I would recommend the intro to backcountry day to any girls toying with the idea of touring but not sure where to start! Thanks again to our guide Kat and Small Planet for putting on the free day to encourage girls to get out there!!

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