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SpotCheck | Treble Cone NZ

Freeride in all its varieties in "TC"

by Lukas Zögernitz • 07/21/2016
The location of the ski resort at the entrance to Mt. Aspiring National Park near Wanaka is breathtaking and so is the freeride terrain in the area itself. The modern lifts and the favorable location for snowfall in the west of New Zealand's South Island make Treble Cone, or TC as the locals call it, one of the best freeride spots in the southern hemisphere. Reason enough to give TC a thorough spot review!

Treble Cone is known far beyond the borders of New Zealand. Not only the many European ski instructors have contributed to this, but also the numerous freeski pros who have pitched their tents in nearby Wanaka. Well-known faces such as Freeride World Tour veterans Janina Kuzma and Sam Smoothie, as well as FWT rookie Sam Lee live here, but the freestyle boys of the Wells family also often show in TC that they are also good on skis away from the park and pipe. The next generation of freeriders from New Zealand such as Fraser McDougall or Craig Murray (FJT Champion 2016) and European pros like Lorraine Huber also train in the terrain of TC for the next contest season in Europe. With the many freeride opportunities that New Zealand offers, such a density of pros is an impressive sign of the quality of the spot. Unfortunately, this popularity also means that you are rarely alone in the powder in TC. On days with good conditions, you have to be prepared for queues at the lifts and a lot of activity in the terrain.

Treble Cone is located around 30 minutes northwest of the winter sports center of Wanaka. Even the drive to the ski resort is a scenic experience and it pays to be there as early as possible to enjoy the view of the lake and national park at sunrise on Skifield Road. The road up the mountain is relatively well developed (but still a gravel road). If you don't want to put your vehicle through the drive up, you can park it right at the start of Skifield Road and try your luck as a hitchhiker. With a little patience, this practically always works.
The ski resort itself essentially consists of two chairlifts that open up two terrain chambers. This sounds like a very manageable spot at first, but the terrain that the Saddle Basin Chair in particular opens up is second to none. Practically the entire mountain on both sides of both lifts is the finest, cropped freeride terrain, which stretches over 700 m in total. What's more, unlike in Europe, the entire area is patrolled, which means that the freeride runs are cleared by the patrollers after inspection and, if necessary, secured (blasting, etc.). Some of the patrolled areas can be reached via gates. However, if these gates are closed, the area is considered unsafe and cannot be accessed even at your own risk. Especially in the Chutes area, TC offers freeriders patrolled terrain that is probably unique in the world in this form.

Home Basin

A chairlift takes you directly from the central building at the parking lot to the starting point for your first runs. There are basically two options: If you cross in the direction of travel on the "Expressway" far to the left, you will reach some wider hollows in Matukituki Basin, which often offer good snow for a long time because they are more difficult to see from the lift (note: you have to cross back to the right from the hollows in good time to avoid having to climb back up to the ski resort). The new trail map, which takes you virtually to NZ from a drone's perspective and with 3D photos of the area, gives you a very good impression of the terrain in TC. As we could hardly produce better photos, please forgive us for repeatedly using photos from the trail maps below.

The view from the start of the runs of the river arms that run from Mt. Aspring National Park towards Lake Wanaka is also impressive. The second freeride option basically includes the entire Home Basin area, which you can see quite well from the lift. The terrain is fun, even if the famous New Zealand tussock (a type of grass) often mingles with the little snow in the lower area. As slopes and paths constantly cross the runs, you can usually switch back to the groomed slopes in good time and if that doesn't work out, a few meters on tussock is an experience that you shouldn't miss out on during a freeride trip in NZ anyway!

Saddle Basin

The real highlight of freeriding in TC is definitely the Saddle Basin and the adjacent Motatato Chutes. One of the most popular runs starts directly after a short hike to the 2088-metre-high summit. After a few features at the start of the run, a medium-steep snow area opens up, where you can enjoy an incomparable view of Lake Wanaka during pow turns. The terrain directly below the lift offers fine freeriding and even in poor visibility you can find your way back to the valley station. What's more, the many natural bowls in the lift area make the runs fun even when there is less snow, as you can see in the short edit by our Kiwi friend Pete Oswald.

Let's move on to the flagship of TC, the Motatato Chutes. This steep and rocky terrain is reached via two gates, which initially lead into flatter terrain. After a few turns, however, the area turns into very to extremely steep terrain with lots of gullies and rocks. The fact that this type of terrain is patrolled and open to guests of the ski resort is difficult for Europeans to understand and is probably also the unique selling point of TC (the chutes are only opened if the avalanche situation allows it and a helicopter can take off and land for rescue! The runs are usually not visible from above and falls over rockfalls can have serious consequences. You should also not blindly follow individual tracks here. As already mentioned, there are many pros out and about who know the terrain very well and one of their tracks can quickly lead you into situations that are well beyond your ability! If you get an idea of the terrain and stay within your abilities, the chutes offer you challenging terrain that you can grow on as a freerider and that will give you a lot of pleasure. The way out of the Chutes is an approx. 20-minute hike that can also be tackled without climbing aids. If you have skins with you, it pays off to put them on and you will save energy for the next runs.


Due to the high snow line in NZ, access to tours is often time-consuming and difficult. Access via ski resorts or at least their parking lots is therefore one of the few ways to avoid long, arduous carrying routes over several hundred meters of snow-free terrain. TC offers a very convenient and relatively inexpensive way to start directly from the top of the ski resort with a tour card (NZD 40 instead of NZD 108 for a day pass). The pass includes one ride on the Home Basin Chair and two rides on the Saddle Basin Chair. This takes you to the touring area, which can be reached from the top station of the Saddle Basin Chair, and back to the parking lot. The path to the touring gate leads past the patrollers' hut just to the left of the mountain station. Even if the touring area is not patrolled, it is good practice to sign out with the patrollers (definitely necessary if you are out longer than 16:30 - if your car is still in the parking lot and you haven't signed out, a search for you will begin).

It's also best to take the opportunity to ask about the avalanche situation. The girls and boys are mostly enthusiastic freeriders themselves, who have probably already taken a look at the area or perhaps been there early in the morning. Their tips are often very valuable for the detailed selection of your runs. From the gate, the route usually crosses flat terrain towards Gottleibs, a ridge with a flat summit, which you can see ahead of you on the left in the direction of ascent. Before you turn onto the summit ridge, you have the opportunity to explore beautiful freeride terrain from a saddle to the right. The approach is a little longer here, but the terrain often has good snow (there are some heliski runs right next to it) and is big enough to accommodate several runs in one day. Once you have climbed to the summit of Gottleibs, you can ski down in almost any direction, depending on the snow. On the side facing away from the ski area, there is rocky, extremely steep terrain that turns into wide, moderately steep terrain. This is ideal if you want to hit a few crisp runs in the powder, which is usually great due to the southern exposure. If you prefer a more leisurely approach, you can also ski directly from the saddle or from the ridge on the way to the summit into the open terrain. The tour options (almost all of them) invite you to do several short runs a day rather than extended tours. Back in the ski resort, you can then traverse to the Chutes and return to the valley station of the Saddle Basin Chair via its bootpack.


TC is a must-see for freeriders in NZ. Versatile terrain (Motatato Chutes!) and often abundant snowfall form the basis for great days. The incredible view of Lake Wanaka on the descent makes up for the long queues, especially on forecast powder days. And if you still want to escape the crowds, there is a varied range of tours just behind the ski resort!

Photo gallery

This article has been automatically translated by DeepL with subsequent editing. If you notice any spelling or grammatical errors or if the translation has lost its meaning, please write an e-mail to the editors.

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