Despite a relatively warm winter down in Christchurch, the nearby mountains have seen a reasonable dusting of snow.
The Canterbury club ski fields have a cult-like following, and on a good day its easy to see why – abundant fresh powder, great terrain and no queues make for incredible skiing.
A clubbies trip is about the atmosphere. The people are so welcoming you often find an hour has gone by talking to new friends in the lodge when you planned to be out carving turns.
Our day at Broken River Ski Area began with a 30-minute hike through snowy forest, loaded with ski gear, as the tramway from the car park was closed. The field was subsequently emptier than expected, leaving more fresh snow for us.
On the field, the first challenge is the nutcrackers – a metal clamp attaching skiers to the rope-tow. They’re notoriously hard to learn – but become instinctive when you get the knack – and mean there’s no rest getting to the top of the mountain.
Broken River has three rope-tows accessing 175 hectares of terrain with a 500 vertical metre drop. Runs are intermediate or advanced. We punched out five powdery laps before lunch, as the effort of the tows took its toll.
A brief white-out prompted a leisurely two-hour lunch with fresh-cooked pizza and jugs of Broken River’s lager. When we re-emerged into clear skies, fresh snow had filled in the day’s tracks. A few more runs left us content for the day.
Our weekend base was a spacious holiday home in Castle Hill Village, complete with gear drying room, expansive kitchen, and a large, well-stocked wood fire – ideal for a big group wanting somewhere to warm up post-ski.
Sunday took us to Craigieburn Valley Ski Area. The gravel access road, snowy and with drop-offs in places, was the first adventure, though it’s well-formed enough to be comfortable for confident drivers with chains and a four-wheel-drive.
Craigieburn largely caters to advanced riders. It has three consecutive tows spanning 500 vertical metres. A short traverse to either side opens up fun terrain. We spent the day skiing sunny Hamilton face, only pausing for lunch at the lodge perched in a snowy saddle.
With chapped lips and tired legs we headed home to Christchurch, tired but satisfied from our snowy weekend away.