Ski Planes At Mt Cook
View from the top of the Tasman Glacier
Lakestone Lodge to Mt Cook airport: 40 mins
Ski Plane Operator: Mt Cook Ski Planes www.mtcookskiplanes.com
It was with a fair bit of excitement this week that I was able to experience Mt Cook from a unique Kiwi invention the ski plane pioneered by Harry Wigley in the 1950’s with a retractable ski that enabled it to take off and land both on the tarmac at Mt Cook airport and on the snow up in the mountains around Aoraki Mt Cook. The plane itself was easy to recognise in amongst a few helicopters at the Mt Cook airport with skis in place right beside the wheels.
View from the window of the ski plane
The day in question was absolutely perfect with no wind or clouds to be seen. I was surprised to see the plane could hold up to 9 passengers plus the pilot, it was cosy in there but with lots of windows everyone had a good vantage point (I did hear later the back is the place to be for photos though). Nerves were slightly high when I saw it was -3 degrees outside at the airport but the plane was obviously a seasoned professional in these cold conditions. We took off up towards the Tasman Glacier – the longest Glacier in New Zealand and it felt pretty surreal as we approached the mountains and began our descent onto the snow – this has to be one of the most spectacular landing strips in the world. We got out and wandered around the pristine untouched snow and dropped off a few skiers who were going to take on the glacier – have to admit I was slightly envious and added this one to my bucket list. Then we were down to 3 so we clambered into the plane grabbing the best spots for photos and took off down the glacier and up into the air.
Our landing site on the top of Franz Joseph Glacier
We crossed over the Southern Alps to the West Coast and were lucky enough to land on the Franz Joseph Glacier too as the conditions for flying were perfect and the change in conditions is huge – from the vast dry landscapes of the Mackenzie basin to the lush wetland conditions on the West Coast – a fantastic contrast.
Looking out to the lush West Coast
Lake Pukaki - can you spot Lakestone Lodge in the distance?
It was so quiet and majestic up in the mountains – a pretty phenomenal experience and something I would definitely recommend as it is such a unique Kiwi experience to try. If the weather is clear definately give it a go.
Coming in to land at Mt Cook airport