Regional History

South Island Ski Holiday 1933

At the start of the year I posted this series of summer snapshots taken by English tourists passing through sunny Nelson in 1933.  Here are a few more snapshots from their New Zealand holiday, this time showing what they got up to that winter.

Eighty years ago the idea of going on a Kiwi skiing holiday was only beginning to catch on.  Alpine resorts had been a popular destination for decades; promising beautiful vistas, glacial treks and air so fresh that it could cure physical ailments, but it was the period between the world wars when New Zealanders really started to tap into the true potential of the slopes.  Winter holidays as we know them were still in their infancy – as was winter fashion…

Skiing at Mt. Cook, 1933 Lemuel Lyes Collection

Skiing at Mt. Cook, 1933
Lemuel Lyes Collection

There is just a hint of the same pre-war innocence that was evident in their summer snaps.  It seems like this was a time when people were embracing the outdoors and enjoying the peace that the ‘war to end all wars’ had won.  Sadly that peace had an expiry date – these photos were taken the same year that Hitler seized power over Germany and in just over six years everyone would march off to war again.  Apologies… back to peacetime winter wonderland…

Skiing at Mt. Cook, 1933 Lemuel Lyes Collection

Skiing at Mt. Cook, 1933
Lemuel Lyes Collection

These photographs were all taken in the Mt. Cook area.  Access to the slopes was challenging compared to today, there were no ski-lifts so a fair amount of any day would involve climbing back up the slopes and if you broke a leg there wasn’t any helicopter that could come get you.  Also there were less cappuccinos.  These holidaymakers were true pioneers.

Skiing at Mt. Cook, 1933 Lemuel Lyes Collection

Skiing at Mt. Cook, 1933
Lemuel Lyes Collection

The below photo is looking back up towards Aoraki/Mt. Cook and Tasman Glacier.  It looks to have been taken from a reasonable vantage point, I wonder if this perhaps was the view from the ski-slope?

Aoraki/Mt. Cook and Tasman Glacier, 1933 Lemuel Lyes Collection

Aoraki/Mt. Cook and Tasman Glacier, 1933
Lemuel Lyes Collection

The car on the bottom left of this photo serves as a reminder of how challenging some of those high-country roads must have been for those early automobiles.  Road trips in the 1930’s would’ve felt like a real adventure.  Especially if you were brave enough to drive all the way up to ski-fields and glaciers.

Tasman Glacier, 1933 Lemuel Lyes Collection

Tasman Glacier, 1933
Lemuel Lyes Collection

A few years ago I was also fortunate enough to visit Tasman Glacier (although not in a car as awesome as theirs).  Here is what it looks like now.

Tasman Glacier © Lemuel Lyes

Tasman Lake
© Lemuel Lyes

Tasman Glacier © Lemuel Lyes

Tasman Glacier
© Lemuel Lyes

Looking up Tasman Valley towards Aoraki/Mt. Cook © Lemuel Lyes

Looking up Tasman Valley towards Aoraki/Mt. Cook
© Lemuel Lyes

Tasman Valley © Lemuel Lyes

Tasman Valley
© Lemuel Lyes

Despite global-warming doing its darndest to melt the glacial ice it is still an absolutely stunning place to visit – it still has plenty of the same ‘wow’ factor that it must have done in 1933.

I hope you have all had the chance to have a winter getaway of your own, or at the least are looking forward to spring as much as I am.

© Lemuel Lyes

5 replies »

  1. Fascinating photos and post – the history of tourism here is really interesting, particularly the intrepid nature of early tourists. Not sure I agree with your comment about winter fashions – those jodhpur style ski pants worn by the ladies are awesome!

    • Thanks for stopping by! The history of our tourism industry is certainly fascinating and seems to be a subject in vogue. Recently I was fortunate to be gifted a copy of Craig Potton’s ‘Selling the Dream – the Art of Early New Zealand Tourism’ which I haven’t had the chance to explore thoroughly yet but it looks absolutely stunning and it is not surprising to hear that it has sold very well! It seems to have struck a chord with New Zealanders.

      I have to agree about those ski pants. Perhaps they will have a revival?

      • I’ve just found your blog recently and I’m enjoying your posts. I’ve not come across the Craig Potton book, I’ll have to check that out. I think a revival in 1930s sportswear is overdue.

  2. I bet your car didn’t boil getting up to the base of the glacier though… 🙂

    Absolutely wonderful photos & they bring home just how our spectacular landscape has been drawing people – if not forever, then certainly since people had surplus income and time to go play tourists. For us I think that was the 1890s (can’t quite remember the exact timing off-hand).

    • I have to admit that not content with simply driving and hiking to the base of the glacier, on a whim my friends and I decided to charter a helicopter to fly up to the top and then over the alps to the West Coast glaciers – easily the best decision we made on that road trip! A luxury that certainly wasn’t available to those travelers in the 1930’s!

      The 1890’s sounds about right. Certainly at least by the turn of the century there was already sightseeing cruises in Fiordland, one of which foundered in 1910.

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