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The Selwyn District of Canterbury is a snow lover’s playground. A uniquely beautiful alpine environment, this area is home to six of New Zealand’s best ski areas all within 90 minutes’ drive of Christchurch.
Apart from the magnificent scenery, driving west along the Great Alpine Highway (SH73), you will discover the closest and most family friendly ski areas to Christchurch: Porters and Mt Cheeseman. Characterised by wide-open, beginner and intermediate groomed slopes mainly accessed by T-Bar lifts, as well as more advanced, leg-burning, off-piste terrain for the expert skiers, these areas offer something suitable to challenge all levels of skiing and riding. Both ski areas contain terrain park features to keep the park rats of the family entertained while showing off their tricks on rails, jumps and boxes. Whether you’re looking for an experience which is mellow and relaxed, or steep and exciting, you will find it at Porters or Mt Cheeseman.
At both of these ski areas, you can book a private or group lesson with a qualified instructor, hire ski or snowboard equipment, and spend a few minutes taking a break in the warm cafeterias where you can refuel and warm up with a hot cup of coffee or bite to eat.
It is a common occurrence to feel a heavy heart when driving home after a day in these magical mountains. Luckily, a variety of affordable accommodation options exist, enabling you to extend your stay for a weekend, four day holiday, or longer! Too tired to drive home? After a long day on the slopes, legs aching, you can hobble inside to one of the on-mountain lodges at either ski area, clean yourself up prior to indulging in a few après ski drinks with like-minded people. The family can chow down a hearty dinner together before individuals sneak away to bed when sleep beckons. At Porters, the Alpine Lodge offers catered bunk-style and family accommodation, with Mt Cheeseman offering ski-in, ski-out fully catered accommodation at the Snowline Lodge. Here, there is also a self-catering accommodation option at the Forest Lodge.
A short drive away from the slopes are alternate options for accommodation. The alpine village of Castle Hill has many holiday homes for rent allowing you to self-cater and invite friends and family who would rather relax or do other activities than ski during the day. Beware, there are no commercial shops in the village so make sure you bring your own food and other essential supplies. Likewise, Flock Hill Station, only 30 minutes’ drive down the road offers backpacker or self-contained cottage accommodation options with a restaurant for those that don’t want to worry about cooking after a day on the mountain. The closest town is Springfield with good accommodation options, refuelling and tasty food. The Bealey Hotel on SH 73 is also well located for accommodation and food.
Staying at either of these locations also provides you with the option of skiing at both Porters and Mt Cheeseman on consecutive days, or travelling further afield to the other closely situated ski areas in Selwyn. Along the Craigieburn Range you will also find Mt Olympus, Broken River, Craigieburn, and further west, Temple Basin, nestled in the heart of the main divide. With no groomers and more advanced terrain, the runs at these other locations are accessed by rope tows, adding an extra challenge to your adventure. Despite the added challenges, these ski areas also invite and cater for families and people of all skiing or riding abilities. Each have lodges which are ski-in, ski-out and offer various affordable accommodation packages. If you’re not finished putting those turns in for the day, Temple Basin, Mt Olympus and Broken River also offer night skiing if the conditions are suitable.
At any of Selwyn’s six ski areas you are removed from the hustle and bustle of the rat race, and can fully appreciate the beauty of the New Zealand alpine environment. Each field offers a unique experience where you are surrounded by friendly people, amazing scenery, and the odd cheeky Kea or two. These are places where the whole family can have an enjoyable experience.
• Check the snow phone or ski area website for road and weather conditions before heading up.
• Visit www.skiselwynsix.co.nz for more information on each ski area.
• Access roads are well maintained but unsealed. Chains and/or 4WD vehicles are usually required after a snowfall.
• Porters provides a complimentary shuttle bus running on weekends or school holidays where chains are required. However, you must book the day before to secure a spot.
• Check out the variety of holiday home websites to book a house at Castle Hill Village.
• There is little to no cell phone coverage once you pass through Springfield on SH73 so plan ahead if meeting others!
• Free Wifi is available in the cafeteria at Porters however internet connection is limited elsewhere, even at Castle Hill Village. If you plan to extend your stay, interaction with the outside world is difficult so you really will be on holiday!
• Be wary of sunburn and wear adequate sun protection especially on the snow! Snow can reflect the sun’s rays to places which usually don’t get exposed e.g. your nostrils!
• Plan for unexpected weather changes; wear lots of layers; and bring spare clothes and gloves in case you get wet.
• Beware of the cheeky native parrots! Keas love attacking cars and chewing on any exposed rubber such as spare tyres and the sealing around windows.
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