“Ohau I Love To Ski” is the motto of this homely little snow field in Otago.
It’s extremely fitting too as the people here are all about riding for the pure joy of it. Crowds come on sunny days, and keen powder hounds hang out on “bad weather days”.
After last year’s delayed start, this year we opened with a bang – a half-meter-deep-dumping-thick-white-stuff bang! This kept up on our toes in a constant day-long shovelling routine. I couldn’t help but smile through the pain as more shovelling meant more terrain covered with snow to ski on.
What’s different about Ohau is the ski school does everything, all hands are on deck to help with rentals, shovelling, lifts, cleaning, cafe and lessons. We are a family and I love the responsibility and teamwork in making sure that this ski field runs smoothly.
The opportunity to learn something new and useful was something I had not come across at a ski school before, we were trained in fitting chains to vehicles and performing a chairlift evacuation.
The difference between working as a ski instructor here compared to Japan was that we are here and working hard for the full day. No longer were we turning up for work eager for a lesson only to be turned down feeling as if we had wasted a day 🙂
The 9 of us bundle into a little white mini van at 8am and tear up Ohau’s steep mountain pass in first gear. Fingers crossed that today we would make it. Ohau Snow Field’s mountain pass is quite a nerve-wracking road as the roadside just drops off into nothing, and the bends towards the top can be quite icy.
You would think that seat belts would be essential for driving up here but the recommendation is quite the opposite, be prepared to jump out of your car if things go wrong.
The sunrise views in the morning are worth the 20 minutes of nail-biting.
Every single day I am glued to the van’s window in awe at how beautiful this country’s sky is. Sometimes the mountains glow a bright pink with a fresh teal sky, sometimes the clouds light on fire with shades of scarlet, and sometimes the sky is clear with a rainbow gradient from blues and greens to yellows.
Our second snow day of the season crept up on us in the night. I woke up to “look out the window!” and to my surprise there it was, a thick white blanket covering our cars, transforming the landscape into a black and white painting.
Temperatures on a storm day get crisp and cold up in Ohau, up to -10 in the village and -20 on the hill. “Ohau” means “wind” in Maori, which may give you an indication of what the weather can be like up here.
It can make some rather interesting formations with ice here though, this water bottle froze with a sphere of water trapped inside it.
But at this ski field we long for storm days, it means we can explore more! Ohau Snow Fields is atop of scree slopes so there are rocks everywhere. At the beginning of the season skis are shredded right to their core from hiding rocks under the surface of fresh powder. Beware the sharks!
These two don’t care as they hop on the world’s longest skis to go for the sickest ride of their life..!
We luckily get a few ride breaks throughout the day which as the slope continues to fill in with fresh snow, has us coming back to work ecstatic and craving more.
Ohau’s Mountain Pass is regularly graded by machine so the drive up here is good. Advise against driving if you do not have chains, are a nervous driver or own a really really big/long vehicle (bus, coach, motorhome). Transport from Ohau Lodge is available in the early morning.
Ohau Ski Fields opens at 9am and the lifts close at 4pm. Full day and Half day lift passes available. Afternoon passes available to buy from 12:30pm on the day.