Craigieburn Lifts & Terrain

Craigieburn Lifts & Terrain

Our Terrain Ratings

Powderhound rating = advanced/expert terrain + powder + freshies + uncrowded

Our Terrain Ratings

Powderhound rating = advanced/expert terrain + powder + freshies + uncrowded
    Craigieburn Trail Map
  • Vertical (m)
    1,308 - 1,811 (503)
  • Average Snow Fall
    ? metres
  • Lifts (3)
    3 Nutcracker Ropetows
  • Ski Hours
    9:00am to 4:00pm
    Early July to mid October
  • Terrain Summary
    Longest run – ? km
    Advanced - 45%
    Intermediate - 55%
    Beginner - 0%
The skiing terrain at Craigieburn is vast and challenging, with wide open bowls and short steep chutes. It is most suited to skiers and snowboarders who love ungroomed snow, and are advanced to expert (to superhuman) in ability. There is no terrain whatsoever for beginners, and probably nothing for intermediates either. The runs are uncrowded, so on powder days there is plenty for the taking.

Craigieburn officially has 500 metres of vertical, but the infamous Middle Basin has a vertical drop of 600 metres when skied down to the access road. There are 400 hectares of terrain within the boundaries of Craigieburn Valley ski area, but there are many more hectares of back-country terrain that are accessed with a bit of hiking. A hike can also provide access to the ski area of Broken River where it’s possible to have a few runs before you’d be expected to purchase a lift ticket.

Officially the proportion of terrain is 55 percent “blue”, with the rest being black and above. The basins and faces rated as intermediate would only be easy if the snow conditions were perfect. The rest of the runs are rated as single black diamond (expert), double-diamond (tricky) and triple black (suicidal!). Only a few of the faces and basins are named on the trail map, but the club members have unofficially named many of the chutes and other runs. These names are passed on from one member to another so that they all speak a consistent language.

Lifts

The ski area is serviced by three successive nutcracker rope-tows. These are steeper and faster than nutcrackers at other club fields. In particular, the steep ascent at the start of the top tow can be incredibly de-moralising for nutcracker novices. All three nutcrackers are on the right hand side of the skier or snowboarder, so they are particularly challenging for goofy snowboarders. If you’re a nutcracker virgin, see our advice on how to ride a nutcracker rope tow - not that we’re claiming to be experts! Alternatively have a look at the video to get a bit of a feel of what’s involved.

The day that we visited, there were reasonable lift queues but apparently these were the worst that had been experienced for the season. The lift queues seemed a little more frustrating because I wasn’t aware of the etiquette for nutcracker morons. If you can’t get on the nutcracker on the first couple of attempts you can “push in” to the front of the queue. After “three strikes you’re out” and have to go to the back of the queue. If only I’d known this I might have spent a little less time in the lift lines!

Before visiting Craigieburn Valley and using the rope tows, make sure you’re fit and this needs to include major upper body work and forearm exercises in particular. The only other piece of advice would be not to wear any clothing that is light in colour, as the dirty rope will ruin it. But if you want to fit in with the fashion culture of Craigieburn, you wouldn’t wear spiffy or non-practical ski gear anyway. And of course don’t wear any fur or “labels”.

Lift Tickets

The cost is fairly comparable to other club fields in New Zealand. An economical way to access Craigieburn is via the multi-mountain Chill Pass which can also be used at the nearby Porters, Broken River, Mt Olympus and Temple Basin. However this can be only used on another day, so if you’re skiing over to Broken River, be aware that you’ll still only be able to do a couple of “complimentary” runs before they’ll expect you to get a day ticket.

Avalanche Precautions

As to be expected with the steep terrain, appropriate avalanche safety precautions are required. Craigieburn Valley employs safety officers (aka patrollers) who monitor avalanche risk and manage it appropriately through the use of blasting and other mitigation strategies. There are general indicators of avalanche danger at the ticket office and day lodge.

It is advisable to carry a backpack with avalanche safety gear, unless you’re planning on skiing in the “resort” areas right next to the ropetow. It’s probably a good idea to carry a backpack anyway to carry a drink. Also, there are no rubbish bins at the day lodge, so there’s the expectation that you’ll carry your litter off the hill.

When the Powderhounds visited Craigieburn Valley there were lots of areas closed in the middle of the day due to avalanche danger. This generally pertained to the top half of faces. The link area over to Broken River was also closed. The danger seemed to be generally indicated by the patrollers yelling this out at the bottom of the lifts. There was also a board at the bottom of the top tow, but this contradicted what the safety officers were saying. Trail maps are not handed out when you buy a ticket, and with minimal signposting and no roping off of areas, newcomers to Craigieburn might struggle to figure out what areas are closed. It is highly advisable to ask the safety officers/patrollers specifically which areas they think should be avoided.

Snow Conditions

Craigieburn Valley definitely has no grooming or snow-making. It’s all up to Mother Nature. The average annual snowfall for Craigieburn is not reported, but the talk on the street is that they get a lot of snow and powder days.

The Powderhounds were not lucky enough to strike a powder day, but the absolutely glorious sunny weather made up for the lack of powder. When we visited the snow conditions varied somewhat and included packed powder at the top, crusty wind-affected powder, crud, and heavy spring snow further down.

For the Beginner

This is definitely NOT a mountain for beginners – they wouldn’t even be able to negotiate the ascent from the carpark to the ticket office.

Intermediate Ski Terrain

Craigieburn is probably not a mountain for intermediates either, unless they’ve had plenty of off-piste experience. Various runs are classified as blue, such as Middle Basin, but unless the conditions were absolutely perfect, this run would not be for intermediates.

For the Family/Kids

This mountain would not generally be suitable for children unless they were very competent skiers, and competent nutcracker riders. We saw a couple of young children being towed up the lifts via a harness behind a parent, but it required another adult to assist to line up the child whilst the other parent got onto the rope tow.

Terrain Park

There is no terrain park at Craigieburn.

Advanced Ski and Snowboard Terrain

There are lots of options for advanced riders. Hamilton face off to the skiers’ right provides lots of great lines for advanced skiers and boarders. Middle Basin is another great face off to the skiers left. The main entrance into the basin is nice and gentle but there are also more challenging lines. The run provides 600 metres of vertical if you ski down to the road, which then requires a 15-20 minute hike back up to the lift. The hike is less to the carpark, so it can be a good run for the end of the day. Alternatively you can cut to the right through the trees (yes there is actually some “tree skiing” in New Zealand) to get to the trail next to Koroheke Lodge, although this trail may potentially be closed as it goes past an avalanche prone slope.

Expert Skiing Terrain

There are an abundance of chutes and lines to be taken either in the “resort” or beyond the boundaries. There are lots of areas that can be hiked to within 20 minutes, including the North Middle area and North Peak. A hike via Hamilton Col will take you over to Broken River, further opening up more terrain.

For the Powderhound

Craigieburn is a fantastic ski area for the powderhound on powder days. Needless to say, the further you traverse or hike away from the lifts, the higher the likelihood of finding freshies.