The majestic St Mary Range receives big dumps of wind-packed powder snow in southerly storms.
The Waitaki Ski Club have capitalised on this by setting up the Awakino ski field on these hallowed slopes, high above the Waitaki River hydro lakes in North Otago. The field is normally open for the enjoyment of members and visitors between July and October. The terrain, which extends to a height of 1,737 metres, is ideal for intermediate skiers and boarders. Accordingly the snow ratings are 10% beginner, 70% intermediate and 20% advanced. There are cross-country touring opportunities along the St Mary Range for advanced skiers, with wide open basins of untracked snow just waiting to be tamed.
Awakino is virtually unknown outside the North Otago region, but the club is steadily improving the facilities and raising its profile within the snow sport fraternity. There are 3 rope tows and 1 access tow operating. The daily lift passes are reasonably priced.
Accommodation is provided in a 30 bed lodge some 500 metres below the main rope tow. Overnight stays can also be made in nearby Kurow, just 11 km down the 4WD access road. Oamaru, 45 km away on the coast, has a wide choice of places to stay, and boasts the best-preserved historic commercial buildings in New Zealand, plus a penguin colony and glorious public gardens. Omarama, 66 km inland, has good motel, backpackers and motor camp accommodation.
The club runs special ski weeks and weekends periodically at all-inclusive rates for skiing, dinner, bunk and breakfast. These represent great value and can be arranged with members of the Waitaki Ski Club.
Although it is one of the smallest club fields in Otago and Canterbury, Awakino has great intermediate and advanced skiing and boarding in the right snow conditions.
It is well worth a trip up the Waitaki Valley to check it out.