As the international gateway to the South Island, Christchurch provides the starting point to sublime snow-filled adventures. Scattered around New Zealand’s Canterbury-Southern Alps region are boutique ski fields, with few queues and uncontested slopes. The mid-Canterbury region is the home of nine ski areas including Mt Hutt and over 1000 kms of New Zealand’s best heli-skiing terrain.
For those who are heading to the ski slopes for the first time, it can be difficult to know where the best places are for food, accommodation and manageable slopes. Canterbury, located near Christchurch, offers a number of ski fields that have the perfect environment for beginners.
There are fresh tracks to be made in terrain suitable for all abilities in these lesser-known alpine playgrounds.
With a dramatic landscape of the towering Southern Alps to the west and the Pacific coastline to the east, and the hidden bays of an ancient volcanic peninsula to the south, it’s hard not to be captivated by Canterbury’s huge expanses.
Voted NZ’s Best Ski Resort in 2015 & 2016, Mt Hutt boasts wide open terrain for all ski and snowboard ability levels. Superb conditions, spectacular terrain and laid back kiwi hospitality will leave you dreaming for more.
An easy two-hour drive from Christchurch International Airport takes visitors to Mt Hutt, one of Canterbury’s premier ski areas.
At the foot of the Southern Alps, and standing watch over the laid-back Kiwi country town of Methven, Mt Hutt promises plenty of action, some of Australasia’s most pristine snow and unrivalled views of the Canterbury Plains, the Pacific Ocean and beyond.
Mt Hutt’s bowl shape and variety of terrain caters for all ages and abilities. A fully enclosed novice area, complete with magic snow carpet, allows beginners to find their bearings with ease.
Mt Hutt must-dos
- Go jet boating with Discovery Jet in the Raikaia Gorge, and hang on tight as the the jet boat weaves through intricate networks of braided river channels
- Give your arms and legs a rest from the slopes and opt for a leisurely round of golf at Terrace Downs. Set in the foothills of the Southern Alps, this luxury Canterbury golf resort was named Best Golf Hotel 2015 at the World Golf Awards.
- Learn to ski on Mt Hutt with the brand new Intro to Snow Package. It’s the best way to learn the basics and get you riding confidently and safely on the mountain, and includes four days of lift passes, group lessons and ski or snowboard hire.
- Visit the small town Hororata, and head straight for Hororata Village Bar & Café for a home made butcher’s pie, renowned as one of the best pies in NZ, and quite possibly the world!
- Embark on an unbeatable adventure of thrills and spills with Methven Heliskiing. There are plenty of ski and snowboard packages available, including multi-day heliski trips, with a standard package featuring five incredible runs in New Zealand’s Southern Alps.
Activities off the slopes
Staying in Christchurch makes it possible to intersperse day trips to world-class ski resorts with big-city thrills – shopping, performing arts at the lovingly restored heritage Isaac Theatre Royal, chic suites at the boutique Hotel Montreal or inner-city Ramada, lively nightlife and eateries in Victoria and St Asaph Streets.
Just beyond the city fringe, there are wineries, gardens and mountain bike trails in the Port Hills, plus wind-propelled action aboard Blokarts and battery-driven Driftkarts at Velocity Karts’ purpose-built tracks.
Terrace Downs Resort is a one hour drive from Christchurch International Airport and offers luxury accommodation close to a number of Canterbury ski fields. Only a 25 minute drive from the ski village of Methven and the Mt Hutt ski field makes it an ideal place to stay to be close to the action but at the end of the day be able to relax and unwind. Terrace Downs features a championship golf course, on-site spa and a top restaurant.
Holidaymakers with tightly budgeted time can plan ahead and book online to ensure no moments are wasted, while others with more time on their hands can make it up as they go, either basing themselves at a central spot they can easily move around or free-ranging between towns and ski fields. No great distances are involved, the roads are easily navigable and offer spectacular touring.
Wherever you choose to go, the Canterbury region has plenty of options for beginners. With some friendly slopes, good weather conditions and spectacular view, it’s hard to find a better place for beginners to strap on some skis. •
- Fly Air New Zealand from Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane to Christchurch, the gateway to the South Island’s ski fields. airnewzealand.com.au
- From Christchurch, you can travel along the scenic highway 72, a 90min drive to Canterbury’s ski fields.
Where to stay
- Terrace Downs Resort: terracedowns.co.nz
- Hotel Montreal: hotelmontreal.co.nz
- Ramada Suites Christchurch: ramadachristchurch.co.nz
- For something completely different, Glenfalloch Station is a 10,000ha farm immersed in wilderness at the far reaches of the Rakaia river valley – but still within 90-minutes of Christchurch airport. The accommodation is cosy and stylish with unsurpassed views of the river valley and snowcapped mountains: glenfalloch-station.co.nz
Where to eat and drink
- Blue Pub for great beer and pizza right in the heart of Methven: thebluepub.co.nz
- Not a fan of the colour Blue? Try The Brown Pub across the road: thebrownpub.co.nz
- Sky High Café and Huber’s Hut have you covered on the slopes: nzski.com/mt-hutt#CafesRestaurants