By Ollie Hunt
Header Image credit: Snow.co.nz
With NZTA’s snafu regarding the alpine passes, I started thinking about how to counter the effects of potential powder day road closures.
Much like the Far Canal road bar at Mount Olympus pairs well with a Espresso Martini, this blog pairs well with this feature from last year.
While there is the fair weather road around Porters Pass (in behind Lake Lyndon), it is possible to get completely stuck on this road in snow, and then have to dig the undercarriage of your 4wd out so the wheels can touch the ground (and you can subsequently, an humiliatingly, reverse back the way you came).
I should know, I've had to do it, and when there is fresh snow on the ground it sucks.
Fortunately, for the fields on the Chill pass, there is a better option - Getting to the mountain before the storm means you can stay overnight in one of the many lodges, and for many fields you can walk right out the door onto your skis.
While the NZTA have rightfully backed down on their policy, staying on the mountain means that if there are any road issues (with the pass or the skifield road) you will be skiing, so it won’t be your problem. It also means you don’t have to get up as early.
Here are 5 of the top ski lodges at the Chill Pass Mountains:
Credit: Allie Rood
Access: 45 Min walk (With your gear carried by goods lift)
Ski in Ski out: Yes once to the big walk
Catered (self catered available Sun-Thurs)
Nestled in the middle of the main divide, at the top of Arthurs pass, the Temple Basin hut is well worth the walk. The hut looks out over the pass, directly at Mt Rolleston.
On a fine night you can look out the kitchen window all the way to the west coast, and the hut has plenty of space to play ping pong, party, or practice ropework. Looking out of the end room of the dining hall you can see right up to Mt Phipps and the downhill tow.
Make your way up for the weekend on Friday night, with the goods lift set to run from 7-9pm for the weekend warriors.
Mt Olympus knows how to party.
Credit: Tom Fisher
Mt Olympus (Top Hut)
Access: Carry your bags up the tow from the carpark
Ski in ski out: Yes
On the backside of the Craigieburn range sits the Mount Olympus Top Hut. Refurbishing completed in 2014 included a Hot Tub, and the Top Hut officially sleeps 52 people.
Notable features of the hut include the bar, and its propensity to turn into a nightclub. The hut has great views on all sides, and in favorable conditions can be jumped over on skis. If you’re lucky you may catch an ambitious hucker sending it off the chute in Molly’s bump - directly in front of the lodge.
Mt Olympus also has a bottom hut, located near the foot of the Ryton Valley, 2 corners down from the Skifield car park - this is self catered
Point of interest: The dress up box - especially during a party.
Get up to BR, get cosy with the view, and get skiing before anyone else.
Credit: Joe Harrison (Night) Claire Newell (Day)
Access: A short walk from the Tyndall Tramway if working, 20 mins from the carpark if not.
Ski in Ski out: Almost
Catered or Self-Catered
At the top of the treeline, the three Broken River huts are the best way to position yourself for prime access to freshies. There is a short walk to the skifield up the stairway to heaven, and the tows are always spinning early. There are two options for catering, either the fully catered option in Lyndon Lodge or Broken River lodge, or Self Catered in the Whitestar Chalet.
Being in the treeline means less views of the field, but looking across the snow covered Castle Hill basin on a powder day is a pretty epic sight!
Point of interest: The Sauna - Yes, there is a sauna.
Below the treeline, but a great vista nonetheless.
Cheeseman Forest lodge
(the Snowline lodge would have been included but is not operating 2020 due to COVID)
Access: Drive in Drive out
Ski in Ski out: No
Hidden off mid way up the Cheeseman access road, the forest lodge is a serious operation that can be rented out by up to 38 people, and the nightly cost to rent the entire hut is just $900. (Adult nightly rates are $35 if you’re going with a more moderately sized crew, $25 if members)
The lodge has a decent kitchen, but generator power is usually lost after 10pm - so get there early or you’ll be eating a cold meal.
While not strictly a ski lodge, this lodge does host some wicked winter parties, and as it comes to the end of the season it is the perfect place to base yourself for a skiing/mountain biking combo weekend.
Point of interest: The ice skating rink.
The Fox peak lodge has great views of the four peaks range and is only a short drive from the field
Credit: Photos: Ollie Hunt, Remy Rae
Fox Peak Lodge
Access: Drive in Drive out
Ski in Ski out: No
Down in the Mackenzie country, this lodge is a self catered hideaway up about 4 corners away from the ski field. The hut looks out over Ashwick flat and Lake Opuha towards the Four Peaks Range and Fairlie.
Read about our trip to Fox Peak last year here
Hot tip - get there early and get the fire on.
Special Mention which I’m hoping to check out this year: Awakino Ski Field
Ski in Ski Out: Apparently
Timing didn’t match up too well for us to stay here last year, but this one is definitely on the hit list for 2020.
Here’s an article from Stuff.co.nz - look out for a feature including Awakino from us this year.