Each of Canterbury’s ski areas can easily be reached from Christchurch - Mt Hutt’s only an hour and a half’s drive from the city. But if you want to be really close to the mountains, Methven, an hour south-west from Christchurch, is an ideal base.
You can bet on a long season and consistent conditions at this vast high altitude field. There’s a relaxed and friendly atmosphere with super-wide groomed runs in the main bowl and steep chutes and faces nearby. Learner freestylers love the terraced Skullcandy Mini Terrain Park while more experienced riders and skiers can take on the rails and boxes of the UP & GO Terrain Park. Children 10 years and under get to ski for free at Mt Hutt in 2015, with opening scheduled for 12th June. It’s 35 minutes’ drive from Methven in Ashburton District.
Famous for: variety of terrain and spectacular views
- 4 lifts
- 365 hectares of skiing
- 683m vertical decent
- 2086m altitude
The closest field to Christchurch (89kms), you’ll find runs here for beginners and kids, long cruising runs for intermediates, and real challenges for the advanced - plus all sorts of bumps and lumps and jumps for the boarders.
Famous for: the long steep slope of Big Mama
- 1 x 4 seater chairlift, 3 x T bar lifts, 1 x Intermediate platter lift, 1 x Beginner carpet lift
- 230 hectares of skiing
- 670m vertical decent
- 1980m altitude
Wide, gentle slopes - ideal for beginners and intermediates, or for those wanting to make an easy transition from skiing to snowboarding. Central Park has jumps, rollers, rails and boxes for the freestylers. Take in views of Aoraki Mt Cook and Lake Tekapo.
Famous for: the world’s longest, steepest rope tow and Australasia’s biggest vertical drop.
- 2 x T-bar lifts, 1 platter lift, 2 x beginner rope tows, 1 x steep rope tow
- 550 hectares of skiing
- 783m vertical decent
- 2133m highest lifted point
Small, family-owned skifield, suited to families, beginners and intermediates. The big learners’ slope gets all day sun. The 15km long access road is possible the easiest alpine road in New Zealand.
Famous for: the country’s longest poma lift, low priced lift passes.
- 4 lifts
- 400 hectares of skiing
- 430m vertical decent
- 2030m highest altitude
Half way between Kaikoura and Hamner Springs, Mt Lyford is a friendly family-oriented ski area. Wild Ride Terrain Park has jumps, kickers and rails. West facing, these slopes get sun from 9am to 5pm even on the shortest day. And with its high altitude, it is basking in the white stuff.
Famous for: warm hospitality, sunny slopes.
- 1 x T-bar, 2 x platters, 1 x 180m fixed grip, 1 x advanced rope tow
- 180 hectares of skiing
- 450m vertical decent
- 1750 highest altitude
Hanmer Springs Ski Area
The Hanmer Springs Ski Area is closed for the 2016 season.
Ohau Snow Fields is a small, family run business. The skifield has spectacular views to Aoraki Mt Cook, and the more adventurous you are, the more access you’ll have to them. There are two terrain parks, one for beginners, the other for intermediate/advanced.
Famous for: great views and friendly service
- 1 x chairlift, 1 x platter, 1 x snowmat
- 125 hectares of skiing
- 400m vertical decent
- 1825 highest lift
Heliskiing in Canterbury
Heliskiing takes you to another level of alpine excitement, away from the piste and the crowds and onto deep powder snow, long downhill descents and natural terrain. You’ll be dropped off by helicopter on a mountain or glacier, and, accompanied by a guide, ski your way down a run, where you’ll be collected again, and returned to the top. A day’s heliskiing can include anywhere from three to 11 runs. It’s not suitable for beginners, and not all heliskiing is offered to snowboarders.
Nearby towns and districts
Heading north from Christchurch, this region includes the small towns of Amberley, Cheviot, Culverden, Waikari, Waipara and the privately-run ski fields of Hanmer Springs and Mt Lyford.
At 380m metres, Hamner village is often blanketed in snow in winter. It has a touch of sophistication with its restaurants and cafes, and plenty of pure mountain air.
Hike through one of the country’s oldest forests or try bungy jumping, jet boating or mountain biking. Since 1859, the gorgeous naturally heated waters of Hanmer Springs have been a sought-after spot for a soak.
60km east of Mt Lyford, the seaside eco-settlement of Kaikoura is famous for its whale watching trips. This town is also a great place to see dolphins and albatross.
Where to stay: Hurunui District
Travelling north-west of Christchurch along State Highway 73, are Porter Heights ski area and further west, the fields of Craigieburn, Broken River and Mt Cheeseman.
Where to stay: Selwyn District
High in the heart of the Southern Alps you’ll discover Arthur’s Pass Village and National Park. The pass negotiates a crossing over rugged mountain terrain between Canterbury and the West Coast. The village stretches a kilometre along the valley floor, and has a permanent population of about 50.
The towns of Tekapo and Twizel provide access to 3754-metre Aoraki Mt Cook, the country’s highest peak, and its national park. Fly into the 29km long Tasman Glacier for some spectacular skiing. You don’t even need to be an expert!
Twizel is a busy service and tourist town with a population of about 1200. On the south shore of Lake Tekapo, plenty of restaurants, a supermarket, petrol and a small shops make up the township of Tekapo. Fairlie is the eastern gateway to the Mackenzie Country with rich green rolling pastures and great skiing at Mt Dobson. Other ski areas in this region include Ohau, Roundhill, Alpure Peaks and Fox Peak.
Where to stay: Mackenzie District
An hour south of Christchurch on SH 77, rural Methven is a base for Mt Hutt skiing. This vibrant township has lots of amenities, with restaurants, bars and nightclubs, and the added bonus of pollution-free, clear mountain air, breath-taking scenery, wide open spaces and friendly people. The area is good for fishing, hiking and jetboating, and the 18 hole golf course at Terrace Downs is one of NZ’s best, with great layout and alpine views.
Where to stay: Ashburton District