MERINO MUSTER AT THE SNOW FARM

The Merino Muster is New Zealand’s pinnacle cross-country ski race and is set for September 4th 2021. The Merino Muster is an all-inclusive race, welcoming top athletes, cross-country skiing enthusiasts, and newcomers to the sport. 

Race Distances include 42km, 21km, 14km and 7km. The race caters to all abilities and fitness levels, and can be raced as either classic or skate.

The event is a fun-filled day where the elite mix with the regular competitors and everyone enjoys the marvellous winter skiing conditions and top-quality trails at Snow Farm NZ.

MUSTERING MERINOS

For almost 80 years, the high country of Waiorau Farm, now home to Snow Farm NZ and the annual Merino Muster cross-country ski racing event, was a working merino sheep farm.

Merino sheep are known for their sustainable wool and its warm and fire-protective properties. Merino sheep would graze the Waiorau Farm on the Pisa Range over the summer months and be brought down to lower pastures during the winter months. Then, in spring, their wool would be removed by a shearing gang and sold, and the cycle would continue.

The act of moving the sheep down from the top of the mountain before winter is called ‘mustering’. The musterers used specially-trained dogs and a group of people to bring the sheep down off the high elevations en masse before the snow came. As was often the case, one muster was not enough, and any sheep that were missed in the initial muster would be gathered in another muster using a smaller amount of people called a ‘straggle muster’.

Then, after the snow fell, if some sheep were still missing but could be located, these would be brought down in what’s known as a ‘snow rake’. This act often only involved a handful of very clever sheep who had evaded their musterers.

THE COURSE

The  Merino Muster leads you around the spectacular Snow Farm trail network. For the competitive, there is a significant variety of trails and regular feed stations around the course. All events start with a 7km loop in the main basin where all the spectators can see whats happening in the early stages. The 7km competitors finish here, the 14km complete another loop of the 7km course and the 21km and 42km head out into the spectacular Hanging Valley, with its dramatic views down into the Roaring Meg river far below the trails.

Once complete, it’s back through the main base area and out onto gentle River Run, and The Loop, with its vast view out across the Pisa Range and down into Wanaka. The 21km race finishes here and the 42km competitors head back out onto Hanging Valley for one more loop of both Hanging valley and The Loop trail.