We depart Christchurch at 6am and pick up our hire gear (for those that need it) en-route to Porters, best known for its relaxed and friendly atmosphere. Porter's lifts run up two distinct valleys: Big Mama (which towers above the right of the base area) and Bluff Face (which towers above the left). At 620m, Big Mama boasts one of the largest vertical drops in one lift-accessed run in New Zealand. Easy backcountry riding is available from the top of the T3T-Bar. For the next two nights we stay at Springfield Lodge, a snow sports enthusiast's haven, complete with unrivalled views and an outdoor spa pool to enjoy after a big day on the slopes.
Get ready for a true adventure at Broken River. This ski field was born in the early 1950s when the founding members were only 20 and 28 years old. Now well-established, this ski field is a testament to their years of effort and dedication. You'll earn your turns at Broken River! After a 15 to 20-minute hike to the first rope tow, learn the techniques you'll need to get started on these slopes. The terrain here consists of a large open basin serviced by five electrically driven, high capacity rope tows.
This mountain has the perfect platform to learn to ride nut crackers, making it a great spot for our second day of riding. Don't worry if you have not ridden tows before – our Tour Manager will help you with your technique and most people take a few times to get it right; it's all part of the experience! Tow protection gloves are provided. The highest point is 1820 metres and the total vertical is 420 metres, with lots of off-piste terrain available. A short trek offers access to the back basins, Craigieburn Valley and some incredible terrain.
Today, depending on weather conditions, we'll head to either Mt Olympus or Temple Basin. Mt Olympus ski area is also known as ‘the playground of the gods'. The area is a south-facing basin set high in the Craigieburn Range – perfect for trapping powder dumps. 450m of vertical drops over 60 hectares of varied terrain provide skiing and riding from beginner to extreme. From the top of the Main Tow and the Top Tow there are plenty of choices with terrain to suit intermediates or the most advanced skiers. A little walking from the Top Tow opens up even more terrain in this wide, open bowl. With the relatively low skier numbers and the choice of terrain, it can take up to a week to get tracks on some slopes!
Temple Basin, the club, was founded in 1929 and still has that pioneering feel and represents a true alpine environment at the heart of Arthur's Pass National Park. We leave those who prefer groomed slopes, a chairlift and lattes at home. Renowned for its steep and big mountain terrain, you have the choice of three tows: Cassidy (sunny smooth runs), Temple (faster and steeper) and Downhill (ridgeline and advanced terrain). We can also check out the awesome chutes at Bills Basin and the popular backcountry area of Mingha Valley. And when you come off the hill at the end of a big day, we will grab a well-earned drink and dinner (included) at the ultra-cosy Craigieburn Lodge which is also our accommodation for the next two nights.
For big mountain skiing, Craigieburn has a well-deserved cult following among Kiwis. Steep and deep, with wide open powder bowls and lofty narrow chutes accessed by three high-capacity rope tows servicing a vertical rise of 503m, Craigieburn leaves little to be desired. Terrain at Craigieburn Valley is varied, exciting and challenging, with the infamous 600m vertical descent of Middle Basin (which is often compared to a heli-skiing experience) accessible by a short traverse from the tow. Craigieburn Valley offers something for everyone – except beginners. Your dinner tonight at the Craigieburn Lodge is also included.