PAST | PRESENT | FUTURE: FOX PEAK
Rahana and Lea from Chill headed up to Fox Peak for their 2017 opening day. There they found uncrowded slopes, great snow and legendary hospitality. Keen to share the experience, here's a feature from the 2016 Chill Manual on the past, present and future of Fox Peak.
All images by Joe Harrison.
Fox Peak Ski Club is off the beaten track and with good snow, is worthy of escaping to for a big weekend of riding and skiing.
We caught up with Club President, Alistair Miller, on all aspects of the mountain - including how the Club was first formed, in 1929:
How did it all start? Over a beer, or an eye for accessing good terrain?
By a group skiing the Tasman & Ball Glaciers - that’s why the original name of the Club was the Tasman Ski Club. As these folk were from Timaru, they looked for a place closer than the Tasman Glacier; Fox Peak was a prominent peak on the Two Thumb Range and was close to Timaru. S.P. Bray who owned the land, was approached and agreed to allow a hut to be built in 1933.
How did the small huts on the mountain come about?
In the late 70’s the Labour Government decided they would get rid of mountain huts; deer stalkers’ huts, fishing huts, beach-side huts - all had to go, unless they complied with new hygiene proposals. Alarm bells rang and mountain folk started to protest. The Government backed off a bit and proposed that ‘new’ buildings would be subject to some tighter rules.
At that time, the Club was negotiating a long-term lease with the Brays and the subject of the Government’s intentions re: mountain huts was raised. Edgar Bray (S.P. Bray’s son) said he would build a hunting hut further up the valley, before the Government made it too hard and expensive. He suggested the Club took a serious look at the idea as well. Club membership was low, so some senior members decided that if they built some accommodation huts on the field, it might help support the Club in the future, as the hut owners would have a vested interest.
Bray agreed and five huts were built. One other private hut was already established and the Club had a small hut (Top Hut) on the field. The additional private huts would also act as shelter for skiers, as the Club had no facility on the field that would cope with skiers. Hut sites (including a Club site for a large hut) were noted on the lease as approved by the local district council. These huts were completed in 1978.
What aspects of the Club and mountain do you enjoy most?
Fox Peak is a special place for Club members, summer or winter. It’s close to Timaru (one hour to the road gate and depending on conditions, no more than 30 minutes to the Ski Field car park), and once there, you’re in a different world. I also like the friendship, meeting other club members you probably never see for the rest of the year, and partaking in a sport that’s above all else.
What makes Fox Peak and the Club special for visitors who’ve never been there before?
Fox Peak ski area is super-friendly and Clubbies are always on hand to show visitors how to use the tows, then to show them the wonderful aspects of our field. Once in the North and South Basins, there’s wilderness skiing and terrain for touring, with no tows and very few skiers.
What facilities are on offer?
Fox Peak has three rope tows, approximately 1500 metres in total length, taking you to the top of the ski area. There’s platter lift on the lower slopes, a fixed grip for learners, plus a small day shelter, and canteen with snacks and cold drinks.
Mountain accommodation is available just down the access road from the ski area. Is this accessible anytime?
It’s available when the mountain is open and by arrangement at any other time.
Is the Club in good shape?
There’s a small band of enthusiastic members, but we need to boost the numbers, especially in the younger age group. We like to think we’re a family field, and we encourage more families to get involved.
Any future plans you’d like to share?
We’re hoping to landscape the ‘get on point’ of the Apex Tow, to make it more user-friendly, especially for snow boarders. The day hut’s too small, so it’s in the plans to extend this and to have food available on the mountain. We’re always making improvements to our road.
Fox Peak has a run named Happy Valley… Tell us about your most memorable day on the mountain.
A day last year: a good solid base with 40cm of new, dry powder. We seem to get one day like it every year; so forgiving you could ski anywhere and leave the best trails. As always, my fitness wasn’t up to the task, however the whole mountain was covered in ski trails by about 10 skiers/snow boarders.
What aspect does the Ski area face?
The ski field faces to the east, with the North Basin facing north/northeast, and the South Basin has some good runs facing the south.
What storms bring the best snow?
A south east storm usually lasts for 2-3 days and brings the best snow.
The Two Thumb Range is a huge back country playground. Do you get many ski tourers accessing the Range from Fox Peak?
As soon as we advertise the Apex tow is open with good conditions, we get the ski touring fraternity arriving. There’s nowhere else you can ride to an upper mountain on a tow, then have as extensive touring areas as there are at Fox Peak. The trip through to Roundhill ski area is also becoming popular, but only for the very experienced and fittest of skiers.
Will we get snow this year and will Fox Peak be the place to be?
Of course we’ll get snow… If you want vast open areas with very few skiers and like a challenge, come to Fox Peak!
Fox Peak are included in the 2017 Chill Season Pass and Chill Travel Pass. They offer an accommodation inclusive deal for Chill Pass Holders: ski two days on your Chill Pass in a row and stay in the lodge.
Presently on Fox Peak: