Polar Bears In Wanaka

September 4th, 2010

Ryan Tiene finding some deep dry powder up high while the resorts in and around Lake Wanaka were ankle deep spring slush and warm temperatures. Amazing where Harris Mountain Heli can get you.

Words | Russell Holt
Photos | Johnny McCormack

Can money buy fur and powder?

Hell yeah it can, and if you’re Oakley its not about how much it costs but making sure your team gets hooked up. Now this is livin…

The plan was for us – Transfer Mag, to spend a week in Wanaka, New Zealand with the Oakley team and send it deep. The goal of the trip for the Oakley team manager Emily (bless her heart) was to send ourselves way past the proverbial transition of any landing and really spend up and spoil the team. The concept is not new to the ‘O’ and I’ve been a number of trips with Oakley where they do just that – spend big and spoil their riders with an environment rich with opportunity and opulence. Who were we to stop em… we just hopped on for the ride.

Day 2 heli staging spot with Harris Mountain Heli. The whole crew would drive up this amazing valley for an hour and wait for the chopper to come and pick us up. The scenery is nearly indescribably beautiful.

Along to ride were the heavy hitters of the down under Oakley snowboard team: Ryan Tiene (AUS), Stef Zeestraten (NZ), Jake Koia (NZ) and guest European rider Silvia Mittermuller (GER) along with a few randoms from our office and Ben Ryan from Reason Films.

The week started when we moved into a $5 million+ mansion on the Wanaka lake front. The property was ridiculously lavish, we’re talking Zebra skins, fireplaces within fireplaces, pool tables, fussball table about 10 bathrooms (which we all “tested” thoroughly) and a landing between 2 of the 4 floors. We conducted some thorough Googling while sipping Vino on the polar bear rug in front of the fire and worked out the pad is owned by a plastic surgeon from OZ… go figure all the skins!?

Germany’s Sylvia Mittermuller dropped in with the Oakley crew for the week and other than being a super rad and energetic personality, she has style for days on the jumps and will make most blokes look rather silly.

Sylvia Mittermuller front board at Snow Park – super steezy.

The week that followed was short but intense, we had to get the job done and deal with any conditions on the mountains while ‘shooting the shit out of it’ and capturing enough amazing photos for a magazine article. The riders were definitely earning their dollars this week with back to back sessions, early mornings and late nights, but if any of them complained they needed a good ‘ol slapping because the week went something like any snowboarders dream.

In 6 days we squeezed in 2 days of heli-time with Harris Mountain Heli that got us up to the powder during a very warm storm cycle that left the resorts around Wanaka crusty or spring slush conditions. We rode Snow Park a number of times, who hooked us up with a couple of private sessions at night under lights on their new features complete with a few snowmobiles and big spotlights – very cool. And of course by darkness we also made the mandatory party, along with a few nights chilling by the fireplace debating the finer points of who killed the polar bear and what epic snowboarding experience we were going to take on the next day.

Oakley team riders Stef Zeestraten and Ryan Tiene getting their chill and FB on in front of the fire.

By the end of the week we explored the idea of shooting a sunrise shoot with the aid of our ski mates (The Wells Brothers – legitimate Princes of Wanaka) and their private snowmobile at Cardona Mountain Resort. The resort had kindly built a mega-kicker that was just itching to get destroyed. The only problem for our dawn patrol plan was our self-sabotaging nature. In our infinite wisdom we decided to go out the night before and celebrate something, which I can’t exactly remember what it was. Nevertheless I can remember the 2-hours of sleep and the devils advocate – Jager & RedBull shots, which we skulled (4) on the way out of the bar at 3am! By 5am and our departure the Jager still pumped through our veins on the drive up to ‘Cardies’ in the dark, what a miracle that we made it to the top of the mountain by 7am. Surprisingly the riders threw down on the 80-foot+ jump and scored some amazing photographs and filming shots and the weather couldn’t have been better with a brilliant sunrise and valley cloud teasing below.

By that afternoon it was time for Oakley to cut us loose and send us all back to reality. It was a physically hard act to peel ourselves off the Polar Bear rug and away from that view and we lingered in that house like the bad smell we had surely left in our wake. We had become way too accustom to the thousand dollar armchairs, the auto fireplaces, the sunsets from the balcony overlooking the lake and the chilled out backyard drenched in warm spring sun. Let’s hope we get another 7 days just like it next year.

Cheers to Oakley and all the riders for an incredible week of opulence.

Stay tuned to Transfer Snowboard Magazine for the full story and photos in our 2011 series of magazines. You can get the issues early by subscribing here. And watch out for the the MTV cribs-isode coming real soon!

Ryan Tiene and Sylvia Mittermuller battling for intellectual supremacy. Sylvia won.

Ryan Tiene getting a fun slash on run one of day one heli with Harris Mountain Heli, NZ.

This angle never gets old – we all want to be Jake Koia right now.

Only the boys got to go heli – “bring out the big dogs” was the call. L to R: Jake Koia, Stef Zeestraten and Ryan Tiene (always blogging).

It’s a job and someone has to do it – Ryan Tiene and Stef Zeestraten ready to drop in. Dragon Fly peak, Harris Mountain Heli.

Stef Zeestraten afternoon chill out on the palatial balcony.

Ryan Jake and Stef deciding where to go as the heli waits to follow. Harris Mountain Heli.

Ryan Tiene hitting a “natty” with a cross-bone indy.

The Pad for the week!