Explore New Zealand's largest glaciers
Let your guide do the work and find the best snow!
Stay safe and enjoy a care-free ski mountaineering holiday
Immerse yourself in the depths of the Southern Alps
Let us take care of the planning and preparation
Skinning back to Centennial Hut after a great day out
Glacier Ski Touring
Wilderness skiing and ski mountaineering at its best!
Alpine and Telemark Backcountry Ski Touring amongst the glaciers of the Mount Cook and Westland National Parks.
We typically base ourselves at Kelman, Murchison or Centennial Huts, and undertake day tours from there. The glacier runs are spectacular: Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers in the west and Tasman and Murchison Glaciers in the east - all provide access onto a myriad of surrounding smaller glaciers. Depending on conditions and group ability some very fine peaks may be climbed on skis: Elie de Beaumont, Minarets, Hochstetter Dome and many more...
The itinerary is completely flexible and can be customized to suit your needs. You can opt for an instruction based course to improve your winter mountaineering skills, or the focus can be on climbing peaks or skiing as many different runs as you can!
"The trip was amazing - a great venue and wonderful terrain to ski! New Zealand is a truly special place. I am extremely impressed with your operation - the trip was VERY well organized, executed, and was very well-tailored to all of our needs, abilities, interests etc. The guide was PHENOMENAL! He did a great job of balancing safety, while finding the best possible skiing objectives available.....all while dealing with people of differing abilities and experience. He also provided excellent educational training (both theory and practical) on avalanche and mountain safety. Moreover, he inspired everyone to push themselves physically and mentally (within safety limits of course) to have some epic days." - D. Rasher, USA.
|Participants||5 days||6 days||7 days|
|returning client discount (on individual bookings), if you have been on an Alpine Recreation trip before.|
|Group Booking Discounts (NZ$ per person)|
|A per person surcharge of NZ will apply to all prices on.|
- IFMGA/NZMGA certified mountain and ski guide
- National Park fees
- Hut accommodation
- Local accommodation for any nights required during the trip
- Free transport (Tekapo - Mt. Cook return)
- ALL meals (including snacks & energy bars) for the duration of the trip
- ALL avalanche safety and ski mountaineering equipment (with the exception of ski boots)
Meals and accommodation before/after the trip are NOT included. Additional vehicle costs may apply for Fox & Franz Josef Glacier venues.
+Minimum & Maximum Numbers
A minimum number of 2 participants is required to run this trip. If you end up being the only person booked on the trip, you will be offered the choice of:
- paying an additional fee of NZ for 5 days, NZ for 6 days, or NZ for 7 days
- rescheduling to another trip/date
- a full refund
The maximum number of participants per guide is 4. The maximum group size is 8, with 2 guides.
Take advantage of our group booking discounts and get a group of family and friends together. The amount of discount you will be eligible for will depend on the group size - the more people you book, the more your discount will be! If our scheduled dates don't suit your group's travel plans, please contact us as we can reschedule a trip to suit (subject to guide availability).
Please note that group bookings are not private bookings - if you wish to keep your group closed (ie. you have a private guide just for your group), a surcharge will apply. Alterntatively you can book a group of 4 or 8 (which will ensure there are no others in your group).
Green : Minimum reached - guaranteed departure.
Orange : Only 4 or fewer places available.
Red : No availability.
♀ : Exclusive girls-only trip, with female guides.
*incur a surcharge of NZ per person per holiday.
She's on Skis: Girls-only Groups
After the success of last year's girls-only ski touring week, this season we'll again be offering She's on Skis! Join two of New Zealand's select few female ski guides - Lydia Bradey and Elke Braun-Elwert for a week of Glacier Ski Touring.
Prerequisites: Previous ski touring experience is required. Dates: Look for the ♀ icon in the dates section.
Venue: Mount Cook & Westland Glaciers
Tasman & Murchison Glaciers
East of the Main Divide, the Tasman and Murchison Glaciers often enjoy better snow conditions and calmer weather than their West Coast neighbours. The Tasman Glacier offers many runs of gentle gradient and can be a great introduction to the area. In good conditions, Hochstetter Dome, is an achieveable first ascent for those interested in getting into some mountaineering. For more experienced ski tourers, the Murchison Glacier, Mannering and Aida Glaciers as well as the Darwin and Bonney Glaciers offer many rewarding ski runs. Ski descents are possible from Mount Phyllus, Mount Sydney King and Mount Aylmer. For expert skiers, Mount Green and Elie de Beaumont are outstanding peaks that may be attempted if conditions and ski ability permit.
Kelman Hut and Tasman Saddle Hut are located at the head of the Tasman Glacier and provide a great base for day trips on the Tasman Glacier and its surrounding peaks and side glaciers. The Murchison, Aida and Mannering Glaciers and their surrounding peaks and passes, can also be accessed from the upper Tasman Glacier via the Murchison Headwall or from Murchison Hut.
Fox & Franz Josef Glaciers
The head of the Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers in Westland National Park provide great backcountry ski touring venues on the western side of the Main Divide. While the weather on the West Coast is more changeable, the views over the Tasman Sea are spectacular! Mounts Grey and Lendenfeld may be climbed from Pioneer Hut. The Minarets, Mount von Bulow and Drummond Peak are accessible from Centennial Hut.
It is possible to cross between Pioneer and Centennial Huts via a number of passes in the ridge separating the Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers. A highlight for competent skiers are the ski-descents from the upper glaciers past ice falls to Chancellor Hut or Almer Hut.
Kelman, Tasman Saddle, Murchison, Pioneer and Centennial Huts are public huts that cannot be booked. The huts work on a first come first served basis. Hut users must carry their own sleeping bags, food, stove, fuel and cooking utensils to the huts as well as some group equipment and their personal equipment. Huts are not heated (which comes as a surprise to many overseas visitors), so we recommend taking plenty of warm clothing!
Aircraft access is required for all glacier venues. Due to significant glacial recession, it is now also necessary to fly out.
Tasman & Murchison Glaciers
Aircraft access is via helicopter or ski plane from Mount Cook Village, with low pick-up options available by helicopter on both glaciers. As there are no huts near these low pick-up points, skiing down is a committing endeavour and will only be an option in good conditions.
Fox & Franz Josef Glaciers
Access is generally from Fox or Franz Josef Glacier townships by helicopter, but in some cases it is also possible to fly from Mount Cook Village. At the end of the trip, it is common to ski down to Chancellor Hut on the Fox Glacier or Almer Hut on the Franz Josef Glacier for a low pick-up. For flights returning to Mount Cook Village, a 'heli-hop' to ski down the Tasman Glacier may be available (at a small surcharge) if pilots' schedules allow.
Fitness & Experience
Ski touring on the glaciers is physically demanding, often involving long climbs and descents through variable and challenging snow conditions. To ensure you have a safe and enjoyable trip, we expect that you have good aerobic fitness and are able to ski safely in glaciated terrain and challenging snow conditions (this means being able to stop and turn when required to avoid falling in crevasses!).
Off Piste Ski Ability
Participants need to be able to ski safely and competently in variable, untracked snow conditions while carrying a 10-12kg pack. Breakable crusts and skiing a fresh track off piste in poor visibility may be somewhat challenging.
Previous experience with crampons and ice axe and basic rope skills (such as belaying, abseiling and prussicking) are recommended.
Ski Fitness & Recommended Fitness Training
A high level of fitness is required. We recommend cardiovascular sport 3-4 times a week, for example, get out every weekend, plus 2-3 times during the week. At this level you are happy doing a 4-6 hour hill walk, 40-50km cycle or 2-3 hour mountain bike ride without being completely exhausted. On a ski tour, you can skin at 300m/hour for 3-4 hours a day while carrying a light pack (ie. 900-1200m of ascent each day with a 10-12kg pack).
For an easier option we recommend Alpine Touring - Two Thumb Range.
8:30am gear check at Alpine Recreation's Edelweiss Lodge, 8 Erebus Place, Lake Tekapo. You need to bring your own alpine touring boots, but otherwise we can provide all other equipment. Please see the equipment section for details.
Drive one hour to Mount Cook airport and fly in to East Coast venues (Kelman, Tasman Saddle or Murchison Hut). West Coast venues (Centennial or Pioneer Hut) can also be accessed from Mount Cook Airport. Alternatively, weather conditions may dictate driving to the West Coast (6 hours) and taking the shorter flight from there.
After off-loading food and overnight gear at the hut a half-day tour will provide a good warm up for the ski legs. A transceiver training session is common practice on the first day.
The guide will assess your skiing ability and offer day tours appropriate to your level. Ski ascents such as Mount Sydney King, Mount Phyllis, Mount Aylmer, Mount von Bulow, Drummond Peak and Hochstetter Dome all provide good skiing opportunities. For more ambitious ski mountaineers (1-2 person groups) 3000m peaks such as Elie de Beaumont, Lendenfeld Peak or the Minarets may be on the menu.
From Kelman or Tasman Saddle Hut, ski down to Darwin corner. There may be time for a ski run on the Darwin or Bonney Glaciers before flying out. From Murchison Hut, there is often the chance of a morning ski tour before flying out from the lower glacier. From Centennial or Pioneer Hut, fly back to Mt Cook airport, or, if you have driven around to the West Coast, ski down to Chancellor Hut or Almer Hut and fly out from there.
Return to Lake Tekapo, arriving back around 5pm.
Bad Weather Contingencies
If bad weather confines you indoors, the guide can offer instruction on crevasse rescue techniques, avalanche awareness and rescue, navigation, mountain weather or any mountain-related topic you request.
Option: Instruction based course
If you prefer to include more instruction in your week, then please indicate this on your enrolment form. Instruction topics will be more focussed on techniques specific to glaciated terrain and technical mountaineering. To make the most out of this high alpine instruction, it is recommended that you are already a proficient ski tourer with basic avalanche assessment skills. For wider coverage of backcountry ski touring and avalanche assessment skills we recommend doing our Backcountry Ski Course or Backcountry Avalanche Course first. For specific technical mountaineering instruction we offer a full range of courses from introductory to advanced levels.
We can provide touring skis, skins, poles, transceivers, probe, shovel and any other equipment you might need, but you will need to bring your own ski touring boots.
All of your equipment will be checked during the gear check at our office at the start of your trip. Any equipment you need to borrow from us will be issued by your guide.