It’s not just for the extreme either, it’s a friendly field open to everyone (including kids – with popular supervised ski weeks too) and not far from Christchurch. It’s not for the faint-of-heart because it’s a bit of a hike up the hill from the main highway, but the thrill of staying at a comfortable lodge, with chef, high up in the Main Divide and then waking up, on what feels like the top of the world, is well worth it.
The ascent to 1400 metres
Since the club was founded in 1929, getting goods and equipment up the hill has been an arduous task. In the beginning, people backpacked everything up, including building material. In 1954 the jeep track was approved for construction which went one third of the way up from the road. From then on it was back to chucking gear on your back and trudging up on foot to reach the top.
Nowadays we have it easy with the goods lift which was opened in 1962. The walk doesn’t seem so daunting when you think that at least you’re not burdened with all your ski gear. And for those dedicated to TB, the walk is affectionately known as the ‘Range Rover filter’, leaving cafe shredders at the bottom.
Adventure getting here
In the early years, most people accessed Arthur’s Pass by rail, particularly in pre-war time. Because it was difficult to cross the upper Waimakariri River, the owner of the Bealey Glacier Hotel at the time would ferry cars across the river for £1. Due to the bad condition of the road, cars could also board a train at Springfield to take them the rest of the way to Arthur’s Pass or Otira.
Many starting in the east would catch a train called the ‘Perishable’ from Christchurch. It would leave the city on a Friday evening loaded with fruit and veges. At every station along the way to the West Coast it would stop to deliver perishable goods. Some keen skiers would catch a ride on this train, arriving in Arthur’s Pass around mid-night. They would then walk from the village to the TB walking track before ascending to the top by the break of dawn.
After the war things got a little bit more sophisticated. Once arriving in the Village, you could catch a ride in a Rolls Royce limousine to the start of the walking track.
Late snow, early snow, record snow, no snow, long seasons, short seasons, successful seasons, slim seasons. Throughout TB history, it has experienced fluctuations in the amount of snow and the duration of the season. There have been seasons where we’ve been unable to open. Conversely we’ve also experienced seasons where the snow has kept coming meaning we can keep the field open well into spring. Skiers have enjoyed snow down to the State Highway, with depths over 3 metres across the mountain.
Mother Nature presents the club with many challenges: avalanches wreaking havoc by taking out the Downhill Tow and Pages Shelter; rockfalls on the walking track; record snow years balanced by poor snow years.
The Temple Basin Type
Members of TB must have a passion for the place, attracting hardy souls who aren’t frightened of hard work and enjoy finding solutions to problems. Most simply, it attracts people who enjoy the reward TB provides, enabling them to momentarily escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life to embrace a unique mountainous environment.
Given the challenges we face, why do people keep coming here? Because this place is worth it. Until you experience TB, it’s hard to understand. The terrain is epic. On a good snow year this is the place to ski. The people are laid back, friendly, innovative and proactive. You’ll instantly feel like one of the family.