New Zealand ski season: Canterbury

As the international gateway to the South Island, Christchurch provides the starting point to sublime snow-filled adventures.

With a dramatic landscape of the towering Southern Alps to the west and the Pacific coastline to the east, and the hidden bays of an ancient volcanic peninsula to the south, it’s hard not to be captivated by Canterbury’s huge expanses.

Mt Hutt & Porters

An easy two-hour drive from Christchurch International Airport takes visitors to two of Canterbury’s premier ski areas - Mt Hutt and Porters.

At the foot of the Southern Alps, and standing watch over the laid-back Kiwi country town of Methven, Mt Hutt promises plenty of action, some of Australasia’s most pristine snow and unrivalled views of the Canterbury Plains, the Pacific Ocean and beyond.

Mt Hutt’s bowl shape and variety of terrain caters for all ages and abilities. A fully enclosed novice area, complete with magic snow carpet, allows beginners to find their bearings with ease.

A new Ski High terrain park near the top of the mountain, set to open for the 2014 season, adds a new dimension and will feature two 120m long lines mixed with jumps, rails and boxes.

Family-friendly Mt Hutt continues its Kids4Free promotion in 2014 with free ski, accommodation, transport and dinning offers for children under 10.

The panoramic vistas from Porters ski field provide another Canterbury gem. Just like Mt Hutt, Porters offers a Kids4Free deal, terrain to suit all abilities and endless views of the Canterbury Plains and the Southern Alps.

Both Mt Hutt and Porters are close to the bustling tourist town of Methven - an après-ski destination that is relaxed and fun with good restaurants, bars and entertainment including the renowned country establishments - The Blue Pub and The Brown Pub.

Accommodation ranges from budget to luxury, with some fabulous high country hosted accommodation. Off-mountain activities include walking, golf, horse riding, fishing and hunting (in season), jet boating and hot air ballooning at dawn.

Mackenzie

Set against the majestic Southern Alps - with New Zealand’s tallest mountain, Aoraki Mount Cook towering into the clouds above turquoise-hued glacial lakes, the Mackenzie region is one of the most scenic places for a ski and snowboard fix.

There are three ski fields to choose from in Mackenzie, all within driving distance of family-friendly Lake Tekapo. With large open spaces, clear crisp days and heaps of snow Roundhill, Mt Dobson and Ohau provide awe-inspiring skiing and snow-boarding action.

Ohau

Ohau offers options for all levels, and some of the region's best panoramas. With a double-chair lift and slope grooming, the ski field offers intermediates the opportunity to enjoy a run from top to bottom of the mountain.

For visitors who are keen to stay close to the mountain, Lake Ohau Lodge has cosy alpine accommodation with a typically Kiwi flavour.

Roundhill

Roundhill is located on the Tekapo side of the Two Thumb mountain range. Groomed trails with plenty of natural dips and curves, back-country virgin snow, the world’s longest and steepest rope tow and Australasia’s biggest vertical drop, make Roundhill a fine alpine playground.

Mount Dobson, Mt Cook and the Tasman Glacier

With the largest learners’ area in the country, Mount Dobson is another family-friendly ski field. A good balance of groomed trails and off-piste action for the more advanced allows skiers and snowboarders the chance to explore some 400ha of developed trails and miles of fresh untracked snow. Mt Dobson also boasts the highest car park in New Zealand at 1725m (5500ft).

Impressive Mt Cook offers snow lovers the chance to explore undeveloped territory. More experienced skiers can tackle the Tasman Glacier (New Zealand’s longest at 27km), explore ice caves or tick heli-skiing off the bucket list.

Tekapo

For anyone wanting a break from the slopes, Tekapo offers a plethora of options. Snowshoeing or an alpine air safari offer a different perspective of the Southern Alps and the surrounding area. Tekapo Springs has plenty of activities to choose from - go for a spin on the outdoor ice skating rink, take a dip in the thermal hot pools; go snow tubing or relax at the onsite day spa.

After all the daytime action on and off the ski fields, Tekapo and the Mackenzie region comes into its own at night.

Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve was established in 2012 as one of only a few gold-rated starlight reserves. Earth & Sky at Mt John Observatory allows visitors to stop and explore the wondrous night sky, in one of the most awe-inspiring, astro-tourism experiences on this planet.

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