The Ohau Snow Fields in New Zealand above Lake Ohau. (Photo: Lake Ohau Lodge)
There hasn’t been much that could be categorized as “normal” at the first summer on-snow camps for the U.S. men’s alpine team. Much work has gone down at new sites, notably a small family-run ski area called Ohau, which drew high praise from head coach Sasha Rearick for catering to every need of the team.
“Mike and Louise were terrific,” said Rearick, referring to Mike and Louise Neilson, the husband/wife owners of the Ohau Snow Fields and Lake Ohau Lodge.
Ohau is a unique ski area even for New Zealand. It is remote and it is the smallest commercial ski area in the country, according to Mike Neilson. “We have good snow. We lay in the south island MacKenzie Basin, a particularly dry area. Several years ago (2008) we made the decision to develop snowmaking, targeting – in our minds – race training groups. We didn’t chase teams in the first years but continued to develop so we would be suitable. Three years ago Sasha came by on a scouting trip and checked it out.”
It is the lodge – a 72 room series of wings just off Lake Ohau – that separates the resort from others in the area.
“New Zealand is in the middle of the ocean,” said Neilson, to no one’s surprise. “It really is a mountain range that pops out of the sea and rises right up. All of the snowfields have access roads 12 to 15 kilometers long. We are reasonably unique (to have a lodge on site). There is a great view of the main divide, some great lakes. On a clear day it is a sight to behold.”