Bucket List Ski Adventures
At the top of everyone’s Kiwi ski bucket list should be the skiing the crown jewel of the Tasman Glacier, or more descriptively, Haupapa. Meaning breath of Papatūānuku, the ebb and flow of mist on the 30 kilometre ice flow looks and feels like the glacier is breathing.
Accessed by ski-plane, you can ski the Mackenzie District’s Haupapa on two “blue” eight-ten km long runs with a 1000 metre descent, which is ideal for intermediate or first-time off-piste skiers. Along the way, explore incredible seracs (ice walls) and ice caves in your small group while the multi shades of blue and white flanks of the east side of New Zealand’s highest peaks loom ahead. Later you’ll picnic amongst the grandeur and marvel that we have glaciers on our temperate island. It’s rare at this latitude.
In Mid Canterbury you’ll find Methven Heliski, which offers access to three mountain ranges: The Arrowsmiths, Ragged and Palmer Ranges. Staging from Glenfalloch Station near the headwaters of the Rakaia, the terrain abuts massive glaciation of the Adams Wilderness Area — the Whitcombe and Ramsay Glaciers, the Gardens of Eden and Allah — places that take days to walk to. The skiing is wide open and varied.
More backcountry skiing is available in Mackenzie District up the braided river valleys to the west of Lake Tekapo. Join Alpine Recreation Canterbury at their classically European lodge in Tekapo and take a tour with their professional guides to Rex Simpson Hut. Frequented by former Prime Minister Helen Clark, the Rex Simpson area offers a fun, rolling introduction to backcountry skiing.
Closer to Ōtautahi Christchurch, in Selwyn, is the Craigieburn Range with a collection of smaller ski areas that offer mountain lodge accommodation and a variety of ski lifts to match the selection of terrain. Staying on the mountain for a week is a bucket-list item as Mt Olympus ski weeks are well known as fun with a strong hint of socialising and great skiing with your mates. Other ways to experience the sociability of the “Clubbies”, as these fields are known, include the Broken River Telemark Festival and Temple Basin’s Splitfest (early September) for snowboarders wanting to get into the backcountry.
Another option is to travel about and chase the snow in the Craigieburn Range, staying at the lodges and going where the snow is best. Be prepared to stay and explore if you have the flexibility to go with the snow. The shorter term Chill Travel Passes allow access to the Selwyn Ski Areas and can also be used for accommodation.
Canterbury is approximately 240km wide at Arthurs Pass, making it one of the only places in the world where you can ski and surf in the same day. Ski first tracks at Mt Hutt or Porters, which is the closest ski area to the city, then head east back to Ōtautahi Christchurch to catch a sunset surf at Sumner, Taylor’s Mistake or New Brighton beaches. But check the surf cam at one of the beaches first to make sure your trip is not in vain.