The Story of the Chalet
A triumph of engineering and vision.
Located at 1750 metres (5700 feet) in the Albert Burn Saddle on the north side of Dragonfly Peak, Whare Kea Chalet is a 20-minute helicopter flight (35km) from Wanaka Township and sits on the edge of Mount Aspiring National Park with astounding views of Mount Cook and Mount Aspiring with its tumbling glaciers.
The Myers began building Whare Kea Chalet in 2004. Finding a site outside Mount Aspiring National Park that was remote, removed from other huts yet still a short helicopter flight away was the first test. No avalanche risks another. Add to that maximising winter sunshine and spectacular views plus access to heli-skiing and ski touring as well as walks and treks – and the prospect might have appeared impossible. Despite the hurdles, the audacious dream was realised and now you can experience it with Alex and James Ford from Aspiring Helicopters who are operating the Whare Kea Chalet.
Four months of the year it is covered in snow, and in summer the slopes of tussock grass are dotted with wild flowers and tarns. It’s a spectacular base in which you can enjoy many Chalet Adventures – from scenic helicopter flights, hiking, heli-skiing or simply enjoying the stunning mountainscape.
With two double bedrooms, a spacious loft and a bunk room for staff, the chalet provides comfortable accommodation for up to six guests and two staff. Relaxed yet luxurious, with central heating, power, hot showers and large windows framing incomparable views, it offers a warm welcome after a day in the mountains.
The chalet was designed to have minimal environmental impact. Martyn, who has an engineering background, conceived the layout, unique external steel structure and the environmentally conscious power and waste systems. The roof holds snow, providing both additional insulation and camouflage in winter; solar cells produce power and bottled propane gas is used for heating and cooking. In 2004 Whare Kea Chalet won the prestigious Relais & Châteaux Environment Design award for excellence.
It took two years of challenges and courage to construct this oasis in the sky, with everything flown in by helicopter. Martyn has often drily remarked that getting the land was the easy part. The chalet has an A-frame steel exoskeleton and is anchored by gabion baskets filled with rocks. It can withstand winds of 300km per hour and a two-metre snow pack on the roof.