6 July 2016
The Selwyn District is home to six unique and character ski areas catering to a range of abilities and ages. The ski areas are all close to each other, and some you can even ski over a ridge to! This week I'm talking about each of the ski areas individually to help you decide which is best for you and your family and friends to ski at.
Starting off with the closest ski area to Christchurch, Porters is just 90 minutes away and has a well maintained access road that is suitable for 2WD and 4WD vehicles. Just make sure you carry chains! The day lodge at Porters has been recently renovated, and is a great place to stop for lunch or for parents with younger children to hang out while the rest of the family goes skiing. We always recommend Porters to families with kids who are just starting to ski, as it is perfect for beginners. Porters typically has a longer season than most of the other Selwyn ski areas thanks to its snowmaking system and groomers, this means that spring skiing will often extend into October.
Porters is also the only ski area with a chairlift, and this can be a relief at times, as it is more social and gives you the chance to sit back and relax before the next run! A platter and a magic carpet service the beginner areas and the terrain park, while a series of three T-bars take you all the way to the top.
The steeper terrain at Porters can be found on either side of the valley, on either Big Mama or Bluff Face. For the more adventurous, drop off the back into Powder Basin for a few laps, or head North along the ridge to the proposed Crystal Valley ski area site.
30% Green, 30% Blue,40% Black
1x Chairlift, 3x T-Bars, 1x Platter, 1x Sun Kid Carpet Lift
Next up is Cheeseman, which is great for those wanting to experience the club atmosphere without leaving the comforts of a commercial field. Cheeseman has another well maintained access road, which can be used by any 2WD or 4WD vehicle. Keep an eye on the avalanche and weather forecast though, a significant snowfall can close the road but not the mountain. Cheeseman offers two styles of accommodation, self-catered in Forest Lodge, and catered in Snowline Lodge.
Cheeseman's terrain is a lot more varied than Porters, and has a great wide open slope running down the middle of the valley, flanked on either side by tall ridges. Two T-Bars access the whole mountain, with a small amount of hiking to be done to get to the top of Mt Cockayne. The ski area has been through a series of improvements over the last couple of years, including insulating the day lodge and making the ski area more appealing and accessible to beginner and intermediate skiers by widening and smoothing out the transition from Tower 5 to Tower 3.
Backcountry skiing is easily accessed by dropping off the back into Tarn Basin, a popular location with slackcountry skiers and riders! Be prepared for the hike out though.
15% Green, 50% Blue, 35% Black
2x T-Bars, 1x Rope Tow (Beginner, don't worry about your nutcracker here!)
Great pizza, craft-brewed beer, funicular alpine railways, and more! Broken River is a character in its own right, and is the first of the Selwyn Six with rope tows. With three on mountain lodges for accommodation and a day lodge at the foot of the ski area itself, Broken River is kitted out with all that you need to make your ski holiday a great time. The access road is not suitable for campervans, as there are some fairly tight corners, but other 2WD and 4WD vehicles won't have a problem, chains are a must carry, as the road is sheltered by trees and can get very icy and muddy in the heart of winter.
Broken River has two large basins to offer, Main Basin is accessed from Main Tow and has the Palmer Day Lodge at the bottom of it. The terrain in Main Basin is big, and full of small valleys and outcrops to have a bit of fun on. Dropping lookers right from Rugby Tow or Ridge Tow will take you into Allan's Basin, where steep and often untracked lines wait the adventurous and keen.
Skiing between Broken River and Craigieburn Valley is possible on good snow days, but usually requires a bit of effort. Reward yourself at the end of the day with a cold Broken River Lager on the deck of Palmer Lodge with some mates.
5% Green, 45% Blue, 50% Black
3x Rope Tows (Nutcracker required), 2x Rope Tows (Nutcracker not required)
A short drive (or skin!) from Broken River lies Craigieburn Valley. If late season skiing, tree skiing, and the best, most challenging terrain available is your thing, head along to Craigieburn. A natural snow trap, CV often has more snow than other fields in sparse seasons, and has more on offer. Following the theme, Craigieburn has another easy to navigate and scenic access road, that a 2WD with chains can use. Jump on the rope tow from the ticket office, and make your way through the Shish Kebab, a corner in the rope tow with a spinning cone that resembles a kebab rotisserie! After that it's smooth sailing all the way to the top.
Craigieburn has two big valleys to explore, and people can hike up Hamilton Peak and drop down into Broken River. On good snow years it is possible to go tree skiing from Middle Basin back to the car park and access road.
55% Blue, 45% Black
3x Rope Tows
The last ski area on Highway 73, Temple Basin is usually populated with a mix of uni students and West Coasters. This unique mix of people, the world class terrain on offer, and the super friendly vibe, Temple Basin is an experience that is hard to forget. Pack your gear into the "Gondola" (see: goods lift), chuck your hiking boots on, and start the hike up the Temple Basin access track. Even though it is the only ski area without parking outside their day lodge, Temple Basin is one of the most popular club fields in New Zealand. This is down to the atmosphere, the isolation, and the skiing.
The best terrain at Temple Basin is accessed from the Downhill Tow, which in itself has a great run. A popular run is down Bill's Basin, which is accessed by a short hike up Temple Col. For beginners, Cassidy Basin usually has untouched snow, and is a mellow slope great for learning how to ski powder!
15% Green, 50% Blue, 35% Black
3x Rope Tows
Playground of the Gods, Mount Olympus is a small ski area tucked in a valley behind Porters and Cheeseman. Home to New Zealand's highest hot tub, and an ice skating rink (host of an annual curling competition!) Mount Olympus has a bit more than just skiing on offer. The drive to the ski area is a bit more difficult than its neighbours, and a high clearance 4WD vehicle is required from the bottom carpark on. If you're not feeling confident with the road, thumb a lift, the locals are friendly in these parts!
10% Green, 55% Blue, 35% Black
3x Rope Tows (Nutcracker required), 1x Rope Tow (Nutcracker not required)