Enjoying the view of Mount Tasman and the Fox Glacier from West Hoe Pass
Crossing Tasman Saddle after ascending the Murchison Headwall
Sunset over Tasman Glacier
Skinning up to Graham Saddle
Moon rise over the Southern Alps
Symphony on Skis
New Zealand's ultimate trans-alpine backcountry ski tour!
Linking together New Zealand's 4 main glaciers and traversing the Southern Alps from east to west, the "Symphony on Skis" is New Zealand's ultimate mulit-day trans-alpine ski tour.
"The Symphony" starts in the Godley Valley at the head of Lake Tekapo and finishes at Fox Glacier on the West Coast. Covering 47km with 4100m/3800m of vertical ascent/decent this is a challenging adventure through New Zealand's most spectacular ski touring terrain and should be on every experienced ski tourer's bucket list!
Symphony on Skis - Ski Mountaineering in the Southern Alps - article by Thomas MacTavish, 2012.
|returning client discount (on individual bookings), if you have been on an Alpine Recreation trip before.|
|A per person surcharge of NZ will apply to all prices on New Zealand public holidays.|
- IFMGA/NZMGA certified mountain and ski guide
- National Park fees
- Hut accommodation
- Local accommodation for any nights required during the trip
- Free 4WD transport (Tekapo - Godley Valley)
- ALL meals (including snacks & energy bars) for the duration of the trip
- ALL avalanche safety and ski mountaineering equipment (with the exception of ski boots)
Meals and accommodation before/after trip, and bus transport at the end of the trip are NOT included.
+Minimum & Maximum Numbers
A minimum number of 2 participants is required to run this trip. If you end up being the only person booked on the trip, you will be offered the choice of:
- paying an additional fee of NZ
- rescheduling to another trip/date
- a full refund
The maximum number of participants per guide is 2. The maximum group size is 4, with 2 guides.
It is neccesary to fly out from Chancellor Hut to Fox Glacier township at the end of the trip.
The Symphony on Skis dates are scheduled on a case by case basis - please contact us with the dates you would like. We recommend that you settle guiding dates well in advance as guide availability during peak season is limited. Please allow extra time in case you are held up in the mountains due to weather.
Venue: Public Huts
The Symphony on Skis visits Murchison, Kelman, Centennial and Chancellor Huts. These are public huts in the Aoraki Mount Cook and Westland National Parks. The huts cannot be booked in advance but have infrequent use during the winter months.
History of the Symphony on Skis
This classic New Zealand ski tour (often referred to as the "New Zealand Haute Route") was pioneered by Alpine Recreation company founder Gottlieb Braun-Elwert together with Franz Waibl and Daniel Frey in a single day in 1985.
Their Symphony on Skis 1985 record, 18.5 hours from Rankin Hut in the Godley Valley to Chancellor Hut, was broken by Grant Guise, Javi (Spain) and Lorenzo (Italy) in just under 13 hours on 5 September 2009. The modern party travelled with ultra-lite ski touring gear and just day packs, whereas the original party carried full packs with sleeping bags, cookers, food for Chancellor Hut etc.
"A ski traverse is like a well composed piece of music. It flows with harmony, surprises with the unexpected. It engages all your emotions and the melody lingers in your mind afterwards. Good music needs players who are masters of their instruments." - Gottlieb Braun-Elwert after completing the first Symphony on Skis in 1985.
» The Symphony on Skis - the original newspaper article by Gottlieb Braun-Elwert, 1985.
» Symphony on Skis - Ski Mountaineering in the Southern Alps - article by Thomas MacTavish, 2012.
Lake Tekapo - Godley Valley - Liebig Range - Murchison Glacier - Tasman Saddle - Tasman Glacier - Rudolph Glacier - Graham Saddle (crossing the Main Divide) - Franz Josef Glacier - Fox Glacier.
8:30am gear check at Alpine Recreation's Edelweiss Lodge, 8 Erebus Place, Lake Tekapo. Drive up the western side of Lake Tekapo to the Rankin Hut site.
We leave Rankin Hut site and head up the Godley Valley by torchlight. By the time the sun hits, we are skinning up Rutherford Stream to our first pass: Armadillo Saddle. It feels good to be skiing down after our long ascent. We head down to the Murchison Glacier then up around the corner to Murchison Hut for a well earned rest.
Day break sees us heading up the Murchison Headwall to Tasman Saddle. We can now look forward to one of New Zealand's longest ski runs - the Tasman Glacier. We turn right at De La Beche corner and begin our journey up the Rudolf Glacier to Graham Saddle, the highest point of the Symphony. A downhill run then a traverse across the Chamberlin Snowfield to Centennial Hut.
The following day we cross the Davis Snowfield to West Hoe Pass and then enjoy a long ski descent down Fox Glacier to Chancellor Hut. Fly or walk out from Chancellor Hut to Fox Glacier township. It is recommended to fly from Chancellor Hut, as the route is often exposed to rock fall.
2 days reserved for weather contingency, and/or the option of staying at Tasman Saddle Hut to split the longest (middle) day.
Return to Lake Tekapo from Fox Glacier, either by bus or by plane, arriving about 6pm.
Fitness & Experience
A very high level of fitness is required. Participants need to carry a full pack (approximately 20kg including skis) over sometimes rough ground for 6-8 hours each day.
Participants need to be able to ski very steep terrain and in all snow conditions with a heavy pack. Previous ski touring experience is essential (including some 6+ hour multi-day ski tours).
Good preparation for this trip is our Mount Cook & Westland Glaciers Ski Touring week.
Due to the technical nature of this trip, it is strongly advised that you invest in your own ski touring equipment (and get plenty of practice using it!). Alpine Recreation can provide alpine touring skis, poles, skins, avalanche transceivers, shovels, and crampons. You need to bring your own alpine ski touring boots. A detailed equipment list will be sent at time of booking. Outdoor clothing, packs and boots can also be provided at no extra cost if necessary.
All of your equipment will be checked during the gear check at our office at the start of your trip. Any equipment you need to borrow from us will be issued by your guide.