Back country skiing or off-piste skiing is usually for those in the pursuit of finding fresh fallen snow known as "powder" or snow which has not been touched.
New Zealand’s Southern Alps has more mountain peaks than the country of Switzerland, so it’s amazing that the sport of skiing in New Zealand has until recently been limited to the well known commercial resorts.
With the help of modern ski equipment and an understanding of the mountains, more people are venturing away from the commercial resorts and enjoying the back country.
Back country skiing is about being in an unpatrolled or unmarked area consisting of ungroomed snow, also known as "off-piste" slopes. Canterbury is the hub of skiing for New Zealand, and there are several options for back country skiing. Terrain can be accessed outside of a ski resorts boundaries or can involve single or multi-day trips through snow camping or the use of mountain huts where available. Most importantly, the land and snow pack are not monitored, patrolled or maintained. Fixed ski lifts are typically not present, but may be used to gain initial altitude.
Hazards do exist in the back country (such as avalanche danger and mountain weather) so having a guide can be very useful. If you choose to head outside a ski resorts boundaries without a guide, ensure that that you sign-in with the local ski patrol to advise them of your plans and to check snow/weather conditions. If you don't have the specialist equipment required to survive in the back country - stay in the patrolled areas.