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Trip Report Our 2018 trip to the Mackenzie Country and Canterbury

Discussion in 'New Zealand' started by GlenH, Dec 31, 2018.

  1. GlenH

    GlenH One of Us Ski Pass: Silver

    Aug 13, 2007
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    The stinking hot weather here in Oz at the moment prompts me to think about skiing in order to stay cool, which in turn reminded me that I hadn’t got around to posting any pictures of our exploits this past winter. I must get better organised!

    Once again Ski Buddy and self took off in early August to visit some of the lesser known smaller ski fields that NZ has to offer. We flew with Emirates into Christchurch and tried a different ski hire shop near the airport, looking for better prices than we had found in Darfield the previous year. They were friendly enough but a bit disorganised with the stock we reserved, so we might have to rethink that next year.

    We spent our first 4 nights at Tekapo and stayed again at Lake Tekapo Motel where we’ve been several times before because it is centrally located and had a great view of the lake. I say ‘had’ because sadly new buildings are going up that will block much of the view – such a shame to see development marching on even in a place like this.

    The first day was off to our favourite field, Roundhill. On the drive up it was clear that the snow line was noticeably higher this year, but that didn’t detract from the stunning scenery on the way up or the fun we had when we got there. That said, it’s lucky we weren’t intending to try the 1.4km long Heritage Rope Tow (it's rather beyond our skill level) because it didn’t have enough cover to open whilst we were there and as far as I know didn’t run the entire season.

    Our next day was at Mt Dobson where the cover was also less than usual although we managed to still find some good runs until the weather turned, the chairlift was closed by wind and we decided to head home early. That was a sign of the incoming weather which lead to both fields being closed the next day so we had a day off, walked along the lakeside and ventured up to Mt John Observatory to sample the coffee shop and the great views of the town shrouded in the mist.

    The bad weather didn’t last long so next day we were back out under sunny skies at Roundhill again, for our last day in Mackenzie before driving north through Geraldine, for a dinner and grocery stop, then on to Springfield.

    Our home for the next 5 nights was at Smylies Lodge where we were hosted by Colin and his wife Keiko in a quaint and comfortable motel room at a bargain price. Smylies caters for a lot of Japanese ski teams training here during the northern summer, and so we were able to try Keiko's tasty traditional cooking on one of our nights there.

    Springfield is a small country town suitable as a base for skiing at Porters, Mt Cheeseman and at a pinch Mt Hutt. We spent our first day at Porters in mostly clear weather although a bit of persistent cloud hung in the valley behind, meaning we couldn’t quite see what lay further afield. The poorer season was very evident here, even so we found good skiing up high, venturing back to the bottom only for lunch and to go home.

    The drive to Mt Cheeseman (like to Porters) entails a climb firstly through Porters Pass then it travels further along the West Coast Road, passing through the little village of Castle Hill before turning off to climb through thick forest and up towards Mt Cheeseman. It’s another small friendly ski field with amazing views.

    The next day we set aside to ride the world famous TranzAlpine train which takes a spectacular journey alongside the Waimakariri River then up over and through the southern alps to Greymouth on the west coast. In doing so the line goes through 16 tunnels including the 8.5km long Otira Tunnel. The air-conditioned carriages provide a comfortable and informative ride, although I must admit I spent much of my time in the outdoor observation car rugged up and enjoying the views close up.

    On our final day we went back to Porters to complete our kiwi adventure for 2018.

    Link to last year’s report below, which also has links to previous years:


    Photos from this year:

    When you like skiing, nothing quite beats flying into Christchurch in the winter.

    On the road to Roundhill, with the snow line noticeably higher than previous years.

    Mid winter at Roundhill, and a lot more tussock visible on the sunny side than our last trip

    Heritage Rope Tow at Roundhill, no chance of opening during our visit, but always makes for a great photo

    Looks like a skidoo has paid a visit to some keen boarders at Roundhill – there’s not much action on that side of the hill when the Heritage Rope Tow is closed

    Mid-afternoon and it’s time to make tracks to the Von Brown refreshment hut at Roundhill

    Threatening clouds looming over Mt Dobson

    Early morning in the main street of Springfield - I don't think I'd ever get tired of waking up to that view

    Ridgeline at Mt Cheeseman

    Back country runs at Mt Cheeseman

    Looking across to the next range from Mt Cheeseman ski field

    Unload point on the Ridge T-bar, Mt Cheeseman – watch out for that last lip

    Back country, Mt Cheeseman

    Plenty of room for freshies off piste at Mt Cheeseman

    Waimakariri River, viewed from the TranzAlpine train

    Aboard the TranzAlpine heading back from Greymouth

    View from the top of the Sundance T, the highest lifted point at Porters.
    #1 GlenH, Dec 31, 2018
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2019
    pedub, chunky, ScottGN and 8 others like this.