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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 2, Issue 9 (January 1, 1928)

A Day in the Snow. — Otira Excursion. — A Splendid Trip

page 22

A Day in the Snow.
Otira Excursion.
A Splendid Trip.

Whether the weather be wet or fine, cold or warm, Arthur's Pass has a charm all its own (says a writer in the “Lyttelton Times”). Yesterday the weather was wet and cold. But the Pass that divides the mountain range was magnificent. Every moment of the all-too-brief space of time that was allotted to the excursionists was full of delight. Leaving town at 8 a.m., they arrived back shortly before 9 p.m., with the determination common to all Otira excursionists—that they will go again.

A total of 337 excursionists took part in the trip, which was organised by the Railway Department. On these excursions Otira township is usually the Mecca of the tourists, but yesterday was the day of Arthur's Pass. Snow had fallen at Arthur's Pass heavily and the ground was thickly coated when the visitors arrived. Up in the Pass itself the snow was reported to be too deep for the popular trudge through the mountains. Of the total who made the trip only about a hundred elected to go through the tunnel.

Electric locomotive shunting in the yard at Arthur's Pass.

Electric locomotive shunting in the yard at Arthur's Pass.

Rain was falling lightly at Arthur's Pass, and with the prospect of much heavier rain at Otira and probably no snow there a majority of the trippers decided to stay on this side of the mountains.

Snow was met with soon after the train had left Springfield, first in small isolated patches, but later, as the train penetrated deeper into the mountains, in much greater quantities. Except for the bush on the mountain sides the whole landscape at Arthur's Pass was decked in a mantle of white. The roadway leading into the Pass itself had a carpet that averaged about six inches in depth. This roadway was the big attraction for the excursionists, who were soon scattered along it for a considerable distance in search of good spots for snow sports. Snowballing was commenced as soon as the passengers had disembarked at the station, and it was renewed with vigour at every point along the road where a few people happened to find themselves together. The snowballs were thrown quite indiscriminately. A formal introduction is not necessary at Arthur's Pass to the lodging of a snowball at the back of one's neck. The going was fairly good on the road where the walkers beat out a track in the snow. On each side of this track, however, the snow was deep and soft and snowballers in their efforts to avoid missiles floundered into this and sprawled in the yielding carpet to the intense enjoyment of their friends as well as themselves.

Skis were available and were much in demand. The optimists who hired them set out with sturdy determination to master the intricacies of the delicate art of ski-running. For the greater part the degree of success that attended these efforts was negligible, but the persistence of the novices and the frequency with which they came to grief helped everybody else to appreciate a thoroughly enjoyable day. The greatest merriment was provided by the would be ski-runners when they essayed steep descents down embankments. They could be sure of one thing only—that once they had started moving they would get to the bottom alright. In just what attitude they would arrive there was in each fresh case a matter for speculation. The incidents served to illustrate what a large and varied assortment of parts of the human body will serve the purpose for sliding down snow slopes. The discomforts of the ambitious alpinists were added to on many of these occasions by a fusillade of snowballs sent after them by unsympathetic onlookers. There were a few sledges about and these were commandeered to contribute to the general amusement. On suitable slopes these sledges carried gross overloads of vociferous people whose adventure usually ended page 23 in the upset of the sledge and the precipitation of the occupants in sprawling attitudes in the snow.

For the greater part of the day the weather was kind. A light rain was falling when the train arrived, but it was not sufficient to make any of the excursionists keep to the carriages. It ceased shortly after arrival, and thereafter there was a dry spell that lasted for some considerable time. There were a few showers during the afternoon, a fairly heavy one occurring about three o'clock. Most people, however, were equipped for the weather, both as regards the rain and the conditions underfoot. This applied particularly to the ladies, many of whom met the demands of the situation by appearing in riding breeches and puttees.

The arrangements were, as usual, excellent. Mr. H. C. Guinness, Chief Clerk of the Traffic Department, was on the train, and saw to it that nothing was wanting to make the excursion a thorough success. Providing for the comfort of excursionists has been reduced to a fine art, and this was well demonstrated yesterday, both at Arthur's Pass and Otira, where the waiting rooms at the stations offered cheerful fires to tired or wet trippers. The convenience was particularly appreciated at Arthur's Pass, and after the trippers had spent some time in the snow, the fire was surrounded by ladies who were changing their wet footgear for more comfortable apparel.

Three men made the foot journey across the pass. They found the going strenuous, and occupied two and a half hours in reaching the summit. Those who elected to go through to Otira by train found no snow and a good deal of rain. They were talked to on the homeward journey by those who had stayed at Arthur's Pass in rather patronising terms.

Among yesterday's excursionists were three Australian ladies who were loud in their praises of Arthur's Pass and its attractions.

The Snow Trail.

The Snow Trail.