Words + Photography by Julie Gursha
Follow more of my adventures on Instagram - @jgursh
A couple of weeks ago I visited the sweetest spot, seemingly out of a story book. Mt Lyford was my first ski field experience in New Zealand, and it was absolutely perfect. I’m from Portland, Oregon originally, so the club ski fields are a whole new and exciting experience for me.
It was a bluebird day and we were greeted at the ski field by super lovely staff, a quaint and charming lodge, and a good range of easy & more challenging runs. The mountain is close to Christchurch but far enough away to escape the crowds. It felt to me like a hidden gem.
The main lodge is a small, but cozy space with old film photographs of powder-coated mountains and retro ski outfits printed and carefully placed all over the walls. The A-Frame log cabin is equipped with a small cafe and huge windows looking out to the large beautiful mountain peaks of the inland Kaikoura range. I ordered a muffin from the cafe thinking it would be a plastic-covered, half frozen mediocre pastry defrosting from the freezer overnight; however I was overjoyed to discover the muffins were home-baked and fresh out of the oven - served perfectly crispy and warm. Such a treat.
Our day started out with some easier runs. It has been over a year since I skied last and was happy to find that Lyford only has two advanced rope tows that I had been dreading to attempt. I had heard how difficult it is to learn how to use a nutcracker. The lifts were all easy to navigate and led us to freshly groomed runs that were a blast to explore. Halfway through day one, I was ready to borrow a nutcracker/belt and attempt the rope tow. Turns out one of the owners was operating it. He was extremely helpful in teaching me the right technique to head up Mt Terako...I got it on my first try!
From then on, we spent the majority of our time on the upper and lower rope tows. I needed a bit of guidance with how to adjust my stance in order to not tire myself out on the tows - and with those few adjustments I felt much more confident. Overall, it was a great place to learn as there was never a wait and I didn’t feel pressure from others to move quickly.
My experience at the ski field was overwhelmingly positive. If you’re new to skiing in New Zealand, Lyford is a great place to start out. It also provides difficult runs for the more advanced and incredible 360 degree views of the surrounding Kaikoura mountain range all the way through to the coast. I’d recommend staying overnight close by and getting two full days of skiing in - Mt Lyford Lodge at the base of the mountain is super cozy and offers a range of accommodation. Plus the main restaurant is a great spot for an apres ski beer with a big cozy stone fireplace. I feel so fortunate to be in New Zealand right now with access to such special places like Mt Lyford.