Monday, 26 December 2011


Bright lights Big City of Tokyo. Finally after kipping down in a very modern Incheon Airport in Seoul, Korea it would be rude not to stop into one of the world's mega cities!

After having a tough year of Earthquakes in my home town of Christchurch, New Zealand Tokyo is a city that's just about seen it all. In 1923 an earthquake of biblical proportions flattened the city killing 140,000 people. In WWII American planes firebombed the city creating an inferno and again rendering the city useless. What can we take from this? Resilience.

2011 again saw quakes shaking Tokyo to its core as Fukushima, north of Tokyo was engulfed by tsunami's and a nuclear melt down! Am I mad coming to a place which has lingering radiation, a huge history of seismic activity? Nah let's go ski some of the legendary powder, dine on some of the finest quality cuisine in the world and kick back in the relaxing hot springs that are ONSEN!

As I write this in Seoul airport my new powder destination for sunstone is getting puked on...over 90cms creating a nearly 2m base and it's not even January!

But before I arrive to the hallowed HAKUBA it's the excitement to explore one of the coolest & most interesting metropolises of the world - Tokyo. Japanese seafood is legendary, but to feed this nation of seafood lovers - it has to come into the Largest Fish market in the World - the Tsujiki fish market!

So to Hakuba, the small township which held the downhill races for the 1998 Nagano Olympics in Japan. I guess the attraction here is the lifts go up to nearly 1800m altitude but the range continues up to nearly 3000m = a huge amount of back country to explore!

Happo-One the big mama of some 9 resorts accessed from the Hakuba area!

Even the bloody man holes are stylish in Japan!

And what to do after skiing....oh it's a hard life! Soak it up in the Onsen. They're everywhere...what a great tradition!

Yep that's Happo Ski Resort in the background!

The gorgeous Hakuba Valley!

The nice thing about Japan is they're soooooo bloody organised. Train ticket machines, ATMs are in English and people at airports or any customer service peeps speak basic English and a super helpful!

Check out those old skool Craig Kelly snowboards!

Top of Hakuba Goryu with the sublime Japanese Alps in the background that rise to nearly 3000m!

So what's next - storm approaching (now there's a surprise....) let's ski some powder Japanese style!
JAPOW! All the best for a prosperous and powder filled New Year!

Friday, 11 November 2011

New sunstone poster - which one do you like?

Well the good news is that Gulmarg (Kashmir, India) has had it's first snow fall of the season and we are getting loads of bookings coming in to ski the epic Himalayas! So if you haven't already got in touch, even if you're by yourself come join a group or want to find out more about skiing / snowboarding in:

Gulmarg (Kashmir, India)
New Zeland

Trekking or Mountaineering in:

New Zealand

 contact me for more info or queries on:

Iran looks like it's kicked off too with initial snowfalls in Dizin & Shamashek  as has Hakuba in Japan in which sunstone will be hanging out in January this season!

We thought we'd have a little vote on what upcoming ski & snowboarding poster you'd like to see printed out of the 4 sunstone posters as per below. Just make a comment below this blog on which one you like the most and you'll go into a draw to win a sunstone prize pack with a t-shirt, posters and stickers!

Ski & Snowboard Poster:

1) Getting some deep bank action in Gulmarg, Kashmir. Photo by Sandy Norval.

2) Sandy slashes the board in Gulmarg Kashmir. Photo by sunstone.

3) Paul about to get a face full skiing Monkey Hill in Gulmarg, Kashmir. Photo by Luke Smithwick.

4) Wood for the Trees? Paul gets super deep in the 'Paper Trees' Gulmarg, Kashmir. Photo by Sandy Norval.

Let us know your favourite number for the 2011 sunstone ski snowboard poster in the comment box below?

Time for the trekking & mountaineering section. Which picture would you like to see as the sunstone 2011 poster?

Trek & Mounatineering Poster:

1) Freddie heads up the summit ridge to claim Island Peak 6189m. Photo by sunstone.

2) Karate Kidding around at Island Peak advanced base camp. Photo by Per Blomstrand.

3) Summiting Lobouch East Peak 6119m. Photo by Saran Subba.

4) Per about to Summit on Island Peak 6189m, Everest Region Nepal. Photo by sunstone.

Leave a comment and let us know which number for the ski & snowboard poster? And the Trekking & Mountaineering section? You'll go into a draw for a sunstone goodie bag.

Cheers, Paulio

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Skiora! What has sunstone been up to in New Zealand?

A part from (about to start) watching the rugby world cup....the ski season has been great with silky, smooth lines still to be had in stunning spring time. Daffodils are coming out as are lambs being born!

A wee road trip to the stunning Lake Ohau at the start of the season kicked things off in style. Powder on the Friday, hanging out at the high countrylodge, chilling in the 2 jacuzzi's that over look the stunning turqouise lake with views up to New Zealand's highest mountain - Mount Cook. Awesome food - salmon, venison, lamb, beef & great vegetables all sourced locally. What more could we ask for? A contiki bus load of chicks? Tick.

Sunstone client Nicola Bini from Italy scored fantastic turns, flying in over the snow coated Southern Alps from Sydney after 1 meter of snow had dumped, which was a welcoming to Aotearoa of epic proportions.

Followed up by sweet turns at Craigieburn for the weekend, beer tasting & fillet steak at Pomeroy's (english style pub in Christchurch) & a trip across the Port Hills to Diamond Harbour on a pristine bluebird day with the harbour like glass. And yes the tasting of the iconic kiwi steak 'n' cheese pie....was well received washed down with L&P!

Temple Basin touring above Arthur's Pass - will I ever get sick of that view of Mount Rolleston, that so fondly reminds me of my Papa (Grandad)!? No, no I won't....

What's in store next you ask......let's charter a helicopter flight onto the Tasman Glacier in the legendary Mount Cook area....BOOM!

For new details on ski & snowboard trips in New Zealand please check out:

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Heliskiing in Gulmarg, Kashmir and surviving an earthquake!

Paul finds it on Monkey Hill, photo by Luke Smithwick.

5 runs heliskiing, my family & friends surviving an earthquake, and the Gulmarg ATM worked.....quite a day!
After a couple superb days powder skiing I awoke a little sluggishly, went down to the restaurant for chai and my usual kick ass masala omlettes at Bakshi's! Another day of skiing before the next storm approaches! I wearily start getting the gear on and everything else will fall into place me thinks! Suddenly Fayaz was up my stairs offering me his mobile, it was Elliot (junior heli guide) for Gulmarg Heliski on the blower. "Are you guiding any clients today? No"! I replied, "Well we've got a seat for you! The grin on my face resembled that of a Cheshire cat, this was my day and even to get 1 ride was going to be a huge midday we'd sessioned the Lenmarg trees (way out wide skier's left) and notched up 5!!!!!Banzai....

Solomon unloading from the heli mission! Photo by sunstone.

It was a weird situation when the guys mentioned the big earthquake in Chrostcvhurch, NZ just as the heli was coming in to pick us up - I didn't have time to call home. Flying up for a 2nd run a wave of emotion came over me, the feeling of total elation and welling up of tears at the thought of my hometown with family & friends potentially being wiped out! 

Sandy Norval explodes his load on phase 1. Photo by sunstone.

After we had sessioned the pine & birch trees, hitting the steep angled north-facing ridges, exploding the many funky powder mushroom features, cliffs and banks it was back to the Kiwihouse base. I thanked all the guys over chai and promised a box of beer for the favour. Sunstone promotes Gulmarg Heliski on their behalf at no extra cost and I had recommended some clients this year, but by no means 5 runs worth so it was a very nice gesture with the view for sunstone to send more business their way!

I got back to the market called the folks and to my relief all family was well. Facebook and email started to alert that friends were all AOK as messages from all over the world poured in! Thank fark for that....the feeling of relief was the understatement of the year!

Solomon and Elliot in the Heli exploring & naming new routes. Photo by sunstone.

Check out:

Chief guide Tim and Junior guide Elliot after slope testing. Photo by sunstone.

The kiwi operation has a superb amount of experience, replicating the Alpine Heliski operation back in Queenstown. Tim O'Leary is chief guide and owner having over 25 years experience as does Mark 'Woody' Woodward who will be mountain guiding Everest for an 8th time with Russell Brice's Himex. 

The boys playing in the trees-Elliot airing over Woody! Photo by sunstone.

Paul up to his armpits in the 'paper trees'! Photo by Sandy Norval.

For your Gulmarg adventure package including backcountry skinning, avalanche training, Accommodation, airport pick-ups/All transport and a days big mountain Heli skiing, with any questions/ info contact Paul:

Friday, 11 February 2011

Big Storms in Gulmarg, Kashmir 2011 cause large Avalanche activity

Well we were waiting for the snow and we certainly got it! The good and the bad it was - Having a huge storm delivering over 70cms - GOOD - of snow onto a very weak hoarfrost baselayer – BAD!

It took some time for avalanche control work to progress and once they had a chance to bomb the main bowl there was a huge release, probably grade 3 that swept down some 500m vertical just passing the constructed avalanche dam. This avi was right down to the ground exposing rock, tree roots and concrete strength ice balls – a real warning of the potential that the backcountry had to go.

We are very lucky that Brian Newman’s team are there as it means we can go lap the 2nd phase runs of the gondola and know we’re safe, in a controlled area when it is at such a lethal time of potential avalanche activity. I had a great time starting off heading out (walking wide) skier’s left on phase 1 for 4 runs with Tiger, hitting some air off the mushrooms and pulling re-entrys, and then scoring 4 super sweet runs off the top in silky smooth fast powder that was oh so worth the wait.

Again some people were frustrated, but this is serious terrain which needs serious consideration, yes there are delays procuring explosives from the Indian army but to ride over 1000m vertical runs in cold, dry Himalayan powder is worth all that patience – advice – come for a longer stay, the more time the better to settle into Kashmiri time!

I was stoked with my cache of 6000m vertical meters but also very apprehensive of what the next days’activities were to hold, which would no doubt include many riders heading wide out into the very dangerous back country (rated “considerable” on the avalanche risk category). I hooked up with some buddies and really decided I wanted to come home that night, in tact and to live another day.
I thought – what is the best way to achieve this objective? Terrain management was the answer.

There had been clear slide activity on both southerly and northerly aspects, so I played the stats skiing between 20-25 degree slopes. We first skinned up the Apherwat Summit (4,200m) – what a start to a day with super crystal clear views of Nanga Parbat (at 8,100m the 9th highest mountain over in Kashmiri Pakistan), clipped in and dropped the mello skier’s right of the Shark’s Fin bowl! This took us down into the flat, traversing across to again skin-up to Khimlanmarg 1 (5th bowl skier’s left).

Again this bowl is one of the more mello pitches to descend, quite windblown but once in the lower reaches of Lilywide just superb powder skiing! Tom and I decided to keep skiing fall-line right down to the HAWS (High Altitude Warfare School) – weren’t thinking about that one when they named it ;-) into the forest, where the silky pow kept on coming, hitting powder puff mushrooms and finishing right down by the road. A superb ski, relaxed, taking it one-by-one with the group, in constant communication, forecasting our plans to each other (with agreement) and most of all safe and sound and back for some nice chai and great Kashmiri Food!

Unfortunately as predicted there were avalanche incidents – 2 avalanches including 1 burial of a Kiwi guy whom took a 400m ride concluding heading over a 15m waterfall. He was lucky and as a friend watched the video footage, he observed he was under the snow for 12 minutes (far longer than the reported 5 mins), having his guide dig him out. Apparently he came too, blue-faced and was singing in Indian – how bizarre. They were skiing Hapat Khued bowl (3rd bowl skier’s right) south-facing in which this terrain is significantly steeper than that of the skier’s left options. Although in saying that a steeper shot on skier’s left, south-facing in lower Apharwat North Bowl also ripped with a 2m crown measuring 300m. Again luckily the party was uninjured, but again a very close call. Stay safe in the back country!

Check out an excellent resource:

Remember the 5 A’s to consider:


Take a reputated avalanche course and live to ski another day!

For safe backcountry access guiding in Gulmarg contact:
++91 9469639402

As I look out my bedroom window it’s snowing again in Gulmarg!