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Trip Report Our 2017 trip to the Mackenzie Country and Canterbury

Discussion in 'New Zealand' started by GlenH, Dec 31, 2017.

  1. GlenH

    GlenH One of Us Ski Pass: Silver

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    I usually try to write up our annual NZ ski trip report within the same month that we do it, or at least within the same ski season. This time I only just made it within the same calendar year, but better late than never.

    In August, Ski Buddy and self continued our theme of visiting smaller lesser known South Island ski fields away from the crowds, with a slight variation compared to the last two years (those report links below for background reading) by this time travelling in and out of Christchurch. We went over with Emirates on a flight that had come from Dubai, so enjoyed long distance service at a bargain price.

    Needing ski hire that would see us through our stays in three different ports-of-call on a round-trip itinerary including Tekapo, Lake Ohau and Springfield, we took advice from the Forum and diverted via Darfield to pick up our gear from Gnomes Ski hire which we found very suitable. The caravan parked next door also does really nice chips, which went down rather nicely in the cold afternoon air.

    The drive then took us through the tiny towns of Glentunnel and Windwhistle, across the scenic Rakaia Gorge, past the turn off to Mt Hutt (one way and to Methven the other) and onward into the setting sun.

    Our first 3 nights were spent at Lake Tekapo Village Motel where we have stayed twice before and always find good value as it is located right in the town and has great views of the lake and surrounding mountains. The supermarket has recently relocated and expanded but is still only a few minutes walk from the lodge.

    Although our room enabled us to have breakfast in, we again took the lazy option of wandering next door each morning to Reflections Café where we could eat in front of the fire and watch the stunning scenery.

    The weather was mostly kind to us for the first part of the week so we skied as per plan, first day at Roundhill, second day at Mt Dobson, third day repeat Roundhill because, well, it’s our favourite.

    At Roundhill we love the uncrowded wide open groomed runs with just the right angle that enable us to take the brakes off and get up some pace in our never ending quest for the perfect turn. The scenery is of course an added bonus especially when you can stop to admire the afternoon sun glinting on the lake from Von Brown Café which, as the web site says, is “a quaint wee refreshment hut”.

    The next day it was time for Mt Dobson, an even quieter field noted for its rather more challenging access road. They had received so much snow that at lunch time we planted our skis at the top of the ski racks rather than at the bottom.

    After another day at Roundhill we headed south to Lake Ohau Lodge, a friendly, isolated spot nestled on the lake beneath Ohau ski field. One of the best aspects of our stays here is that for the evening meals you can be seated with other skiers giving a great opportunity to swap stories in the traditional way of older style ski lodges.

    The ski field itself is rather small by comparison with others and although it does have enough to occupy us for a day it disappoints that during our visits the racing teams seal off some of the best runs, thereby reducing the terrain available for the paying punters. We accept that this is probably necessary to generate enough income to keep the place going, but still it is a shame.

    Last year we found it remarkable that after leaving Ohau and travelling south to Wanaka we ran into two separate groups of skiers on subsequent days at Cardrona and Treble Cone, that we had met over dinner at Lake Ohau Lodge.

    This year, even though we travelled north after leaving Ohau, we again ran into skiers we had shared meals with, on subsequent days skiing at Roundhill and in Canterbury.

    The drive from Lake Ohau to our next nights’ accommodation in Springfield is over 3.5 hours and we had intended to use it as a lay day for an easy drive, but the conditions were too good so we detoured into Roundhill for another half day ski on the way. Then we set off for the rest of the drive, with a dinner and grocery stop in Geraldine as we knew this would be the last town of any size on our trip.

    Our stay in Springfield was at Bahara which is best described as a farm stay within the town, with three adjacent units set on a property running alpacas, chickens and several children. It offers great views of the distant mountains and being located right next to the train line provides the opportunity for some occasional train spotting, not something you see many of on the South Island.

    Louise is a very friendly host in the tradition of the Kiwi hospitality we always enjoy. Although there is no guest laundry as such, she offered to let me use her washing machine even when she was out. Next thing I knew she was bringing the basket over to hang my clothes out to dry, which of course I couldn’t stand by and let her do. The town itself is prone to blackouts and during a big storm one night the power went out then straight after, there’s Louise at the door with extra torches.

    Springfield Station has one passenger train each day, being the world famous Tranz Alpine from Christchurch to Greymouth. It is very much priced for the tourist market but after watching it go past each morning and return every afternoon, and seeing how popular it was with its open-air viewing carriage (and suitably rugged up passengers) we decided that next year we will set aside a day to ride it no matter how good the skiing conditions are.

    It had been our intention to ski two of the smaller Canterbury ski fields over three days, i.e. Porters and Mt Cheeseman, chosen because they both have grooming, no nutcrackers and no crowds compared to Mt Hutt. Unfortunately the weather turned against us, so we spent our first day taking a walk around the town (which I must admit, doesn’t take long) and resting up.

    The next day Porters opened although the roads were a bit of a mess so we parked part way up the hill and took the shuttle for the rest of the trip. From all indications Porters is a great ski field with amazing views but alas the fog didn't lift at all for us so we had one of those very conservative first days of trying to pick our way around a place we had never seen before.

    By the time we got the shuttle back to the car there was so much mud on our ski boots that when we returned to Australia, Customs insisted on washing it off before they’d let us out of the airport!

    That of course is partly explained by our next and final day planned day at Mt Cheeseman being lost to bad weather too, so we took a local drive in the rain to fill in time.

    Our flight home was in the late afternoon so with Christchurch less than an hour’s drive we took the opportunity to have a walk around the city and ride the historic tourist tram. Although it is now over 6 years since the last major earthquake the city is still an extraordinary site with so much construction still going on, so many derelict buildings and a lot abandoned sites being used as temporary car parks.

    Next year we hope to do a somewhat similar itinerary and with fingers crossed for better weather we should have more to say about the Canterbury ski fields.


    Link to 2016 report:

    https://www.ski.com.au/xf/threads/our-2016-trip-to-the-mackenzie-country-and-wanaka.76108/


    Link to 2015 report:

    https://www.ski.com.au/xf/threads/our-2015-trip-to-the-mackenzie-country.72794/


    This year’s photos:





    On the road to Roundhill



    Further up the road to Roundhill



    On the groomers at Roundhill



    The view from Von Brown café at Roundhill



    Von Brown Café, “a quaint wee refreshment hut”.



    Looking up the Heritage rope tow (mid frame) at Roundhill



    My favourite view of the back country from Roundhill



    Another stunning view from Roundhill



    More Roundhill


    I'll post some more photos soon.
     
    #1 GlenH, Dec 31, 2017
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2018
    Froff Life, soza, essjaywhy and 7 others like this.
  2. GlenH

    GlenH One of Us Ski Pass: Silver

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    More photos:


    Sunrise over Lake Ohau



    Lake Ohau from Ohau ski field



    A bit of a slip at Ohau



    Ohau



    Some of the beauty of Mackenzie country



    And some more........



    Morning view from Bahara lodge, Springfield



    Porters under fog



    Next year we’re gonna ride that train



    But until then, it’s farewell from the two of us in Springfield.
     
    #2 GlenH, Jan 1, 2018
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2018
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  3. chunky

    chunky Old n' Crusty

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    Wasn't there a big ski development going in near Porters?
     
  4. chunky

    chunky Old n' Crusty

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    Roundhill has some great views. They all do but they stand out especially at the refreshment hut.
     
    soza likes this.
  5. GlenH

    GlenH One of Us Ski Pass: Silver

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  6. cwpski

    cwpski Hard Yards

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    Great trip report. Love the pics
     
  7. chunky

    chunky Old n' Crusty

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  8. soza

    soza One of Us

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    great read and great pics....cant wait for it all to start again
     
  9. Froff Life

    Froff Life A Local Ski Pass: Gold

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    Great trip report, we did something similar last year and had a ball! Amazing snow conditions for Canterbury too when Queenstown and Wanaka were having average seasons. Unfortunately when we visited Roundhill they did open the rope tow so we didn't get to properly experience the terrain.