There’s no better place in New Zealand to be a ski bunny than in Christchurch – Canterbury’s a winter playground that offers no fewer than 13 – count ‘em, 13 – ski fields within its 45,000 square kilometres, and plenty of these are within super-easy reach of the city.
There’s a wide variety of options that range from special, quiet back country club fields to world-class commercial operations, and whether you’re an old hand looking to experience our one of a kind skiing and snowboarding or a novice who wants to take the plunge for the first time, there’s something for you. Cityscape runs the ruler over the city’s handiest ski fields for the 2017 season.
Broken River Ski Area
With varied terrain, cosy mountain lodges and even its own craft beer(!) this hidden gem of a field 110km from Christchurch promises unique off-piste adventure and is a Mecca for telemark skiers. If you’re after a friendly atmosphere with varied terrain and great soft snow conditions (and no lift lines!), then Broken River is the place for you. Start your day with a stunning four-minute ride up through native forest on NZ’s only alpine funicular railway – the Tyndall Tramway. Complement the field’s own craft brew with some other efforts on September 16th at the Broken River BBQ, Bake-Off and Home Brew Competition.
Craigieburn Valley Ski Area
A warning to the uninitiated – you will not find any chairlifts, gondolas, grooming, snow-making, or fine dining at Cragieburn, but what it does offer is a friendly club atmosphere, an environmentally responsible approach to skiing and snowboarding, and ready access to some of the best off-piste skiing terrain in the world just 110km out of the city. If you are an advanced or expert rider then Craigieburn is your holy grail, with steep narrow chutes, wide open powder bowls and uncrowded runs. Events to catch this year include 'The Mountainators' live music night at the bar on July 29th and the “Superheroes and Villains” themes club day on the 26th of August.
Hanmer Springs Ski Area
Reopened for 2017, the Hanmer Springs Ski Area is a club field that’s small enough to be friendly, but large enough to offer plenty of space! Hit the learners’ slope, where a 60 metre fixed grip tow is installed, or tackle exciting off-piste challenges There’s also good intermediate skiing on groomed trails, and great snowboarding with natural and groomed pipe riding, meaning that the field caters for all ages and stages of ski and snowboard ability. Catch the daily shuttle up to the field from Hanmer Springs.
Voted New Zealand’s best small ski area in 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011 and 2012, the closest club ski area to Christchurch offers both uncrowded, sunny groomed terrain, challenging off-piste terrain and a fun, family-friendly environment. Just 90 minutes’ drive from Christchurch on State Highway 73, Mount Cheeseman offers ski and board instruction, full rental facilities, a licensed café and uncrowded, sunny, groomed terrain. Go hard on the 9th of September at the Cheeseman Undie 500!
Breathtaking views, superb facilities and great snow conditions are all awaiting you at Canterbury’s largest commercial ski area, one of the Southern Hemisphere’s most diverse. Mount Hutt serves up long runs in a mix of terrain, excellent facilities, and laid-back atmosphere, all of which ensure world-class skiing just 118km away. Dedicated learning facilities, terrain parks, triple black diamond runs and steep chutes offer thrills for all levels. Get your fancy dress, bikinis, board shorts or togs ready for the Pond Skim challenge on the 7th of October.
Uncrowded slopes make Mt Lyford a great option for beginner skiers and boarders, while a variety of intermediate terrain is available, as well as advanced skiing and riding in the Terako Basin at mere 146km away. The Wild Ride Terrain Park, set up in its own basin, has a natural terrain chute lead in, and plenty of jumps and rails, as well as excellent half and quarter pipes. Near the lodge, the renowned International truck jump (over an old 1956 International tow-truck) always sees plenty of action every year, and there’s even a tubing area for slipsliding fun on the slopes.
Offering something for all abilities and with some legendary on-mountain accommodation, Mount Olympus bills itself as the ultimate club field experience. Set in a south-facing basin of the Craigieburn Range– which means it traps light powder – Mount Olympus has 60 skiable hectares with varied terrain offering challenges for all abilities, and is the gateway to some of New Zealand’s finest touring. To get the true Olympus experience, book some nights at the legendary ‘Top Hut’ lodge with its qualified chef and the famous outdoor hot tub.
Laid-back and affordable, Porters is the closest ski area to Christchurch – just 89km away. Facilities are comprehensive and the atmosphere is friendly. The learner facilities at Porters are outstanding, and there are also some pretty great discounts for those new to skiing. The Ski Mat carpet-lift makes progression for beginners easy, and the platter lift provides one of the best intermediate slopes for skill development in the country. Similarly, the snow school is second-to-none, with a wide range of international and local instructors ready to help you improve your skiing or boarding. The AfterDark session on the 8th of July lets you give night skiing a go and the annual Porters Oktoberfest, this year on the 17th of September, is always a fun day!
Temple Basin (also pictured top)
Temple Basin is an amazing ski and snowboarding area in the middle of the Southern Alps, surrounded by the beauty of the alpine Arthur’s Pass National Park. Club-based, it’s all about fun and good times. There’s a 50-minute hike up the hill from the main highway, but the thrill of staying at a comfortable lodge (with chef) high up in the Main Divide and then waking up on what feels like the top of the world is well worth it, and a goods lift carries all gear and supplies up to the lodges. A must for this year is August 19th’s Tipple and Tunes with wine tasting and live music from Adam McGrath of The Eastern.