Resort Profile: Mt Hutt

By adamrowden, 12 Dec '12 at 10:27

Canterbury is where the mountains meet the sea. It's one of the few places in the world where you can be on the piste and at the beach in the same day - and to prove the point there's actually a pro comp that combines border cross and surfing.

The snow fields offer amazing views with mountains behind and the ocean in front. If you get the right height and angle on a photo jump here it can look like you're flying over the ocean on skis rather than canning it on packed snow. From some fields you can see half the South Island coast on a clear day, giving the place a really spacious feel. For film buffs and Tolkien nerds the Canterbury high country is the Kingdom of Rowan.

The Canterbury area is attractive to seasonaires heading to New Zealand as it's got a high concentration of ski fields - 10 in total - making it the most varied riding area in New Zealand. The areas can be classified into two groups, commercial and club. Both are open to the public, the commercial ones just tend to be bigger with more lifts as they're run as limited companies.

The commercial field is Mount Hutt, with three chairlifts, three parks, and 365 hectares of rideable terrain (excluding backcountry).

The club fields are Broken River, Cheesman, Craigeburn, Dobson, Foxpeak, Olympus, Porter Heights, Roundhill and Temple Basin. These fields usually have just two or three drag lifts but contain limitless backcountry powder runs with no crowds. Not all the runs are marked so exploring and making your own lines can lead to many exciting opportunities. But don't forget transceiver, probe and shovel, and follow all the normal safety rules. It may also be worth taking an avalanche safety course - enquire at the lift pass offices for safety course info (some fields run them), daily conditions, danger areas etc.

Fields aside, if you've got some spare cash the best riding in Canterbury is heliskiing, for access to totally untracked powder and runs which last for as long as your legs can. There are a number of operators, most of which work out of Christchurch.

The two resort towns of the Canterbury area are Springfield and Methven. Methven serves the Mount Hutt area while Springfield takes care of all the club fields.

Mount Hutt is situated in the Southern Alps, south-west of Christchurch. The club fields are also in the Southern Alps but in the Craigeburn mountain range national park, north-west of Christchurch.

Christchurch is more of a town to live in than to visit on holiday although all the usual crazy Kiwi activities can be found here, like bungy jumping, skydiving, hang-gliding, rafting and generally anything else that involves trying to give yourself enough of an adrenaline rush to cause cardiac arrest.

On the Slopes

Mount Hutt - Hubbers Run from the top of the mountain to the carpark is the run for speed. Go to the top of the mountain, turn right and you're on it. Watch out on competition days as this is one of the areas used for slalom races.
Porter Heights - Big Mumma is the longest patrolled run here and when there has been fresh snow it's the best for speed. When there hasn't been snow for a while it tends to go a bit moguly. Go to the top, traverse left, drop in and enjoy.

Mount Hutt - The place for freestyle with parks this season. There's an intermediate/beginners park consisting of two parallel lines of boxes and rails followed by a line of various kickers. Then there's an expert park consisting of a line of bigger, longer boxes and rails and a serious kicker line. The halfpipe, the only one in Canterbury, is maintained daily for solid walls.
Porter Heights - This year will have one main park and a smaller beginners park. The main park, along the side of the first drag lift, will have about 20 features including rails, boxes and a few table tops. Below this there will be the beginners park with smaller jumps and a few boxes.

Off piste

Mount Hutt - South Face and Towers are the best and longest off piste runs. Go right to the top of the mountain and traverse left. Towers is the first run, South Face is a little longer traverse. Both start with couloirs but Towers joins a pisted blue run while South Face continues to the lowest point of the ski area and is a challenging black all the way.

Porter Heights - Bluff Face. Go to the top of the mountain and traverse to the right, almost all the way along the top track known as Adrian's Way. Once you've passed most of the main ski area basin you'll start going down a ridge. From the top of the ridge you drop in down the side of the main ski area valley. This side is the steepest part of the ski area and doesn't get much sun so can be icy if there hasn't been much snow.

Crystal Valleys, also at Porter Heights - unpatrolled off piste outside the ski area boundary, so ride at your own risk. Take the same approach as Bluff Face but instead of dropping into the main valley continue over the ridge to the valley on the other side. Continue down to where the valley flattens out then ride over the now slight ridge to meet the lodge and road. Brilliant views on a clear day which is really the only conditions to attempt this run in anyway.

Living in Resort

Methven for Mount Hutt and Springfield for Porters Heights have limited accommodation options for seasonaires. If looking in Methven there are two estate agencies dealing with rentals and they'll also know about single or double rooms becoming available. Try the Professionals on the High Street or McGregor real estate off Forest Drive. Otherwise the local weekly newsletter Snowfed and the information boards outside the two local supermarkets also advertise rooms available. However nothing trumps word of mouth and simply asking around.

In Christchurch try the real estate agencies such as Harcourts. Groups and individuals may both want to try the local paper the Press and the student radio station RDU's accomodation guide. In Christchurch generally the further away the suburb, the cheaper it is but some decent reasonable areas are St Albans, Ilam, Beckanham and Sydenham. Most flats are quite spacious by European standards and usual have a back yard, but be careful of dampness. Also electricity is relatively expensive so a fire is a useful and cheap heating option.

Bars and Clubs
Although Methven, the town at the bottom of the Mount Hutt access road, has two pubs known creatively as the brown pub and the blue pub, Christchurch is the place to go for food, drink and merry making.

Christchurch has two main areas for drinking in the city centre:
The Strip - a series of smart casual gastro bars running parallel to the tree lined river Avon. The highlights of which are: Montieths Tap Room for the best New Zealand beer on tap from the boutique Montieths brewery, and the Viaduct for a great selection of international beers and amazing tapas.

Struthers Lane, Bedford Row and Manchester Street - here you'll find the cheese-arama pubs/clubs and the more hardcore dance clubs, such as:

Grumpy Mole Saloon - cheesearama meat market.
Loaded Hog - see above.
Rockpool - pool salon with large beer towers for reasonable prices.
Cartel - cool laid-back Colombian themed bar with occasional good club nights.
Concrete Club - electronic club in a basement which feels like you've walked into an illegal warehouse party.
Base - longest running club in Christchurch, always decent.
Ministry - Where all the international big name, but mostly drum n base, DJs throw parties about once a month.

Also, look out for Speights Ale Houses dotted around the province. Despite being a chain they always offer decent atmosphere and a typical New Zealand country pub feel, with the decor to match. If New Zealand pubs where exported as much as their Irish counterparts they'd probably look like these.

Eating Out
Methven - Canterbury Hotel "the brown pub", typical NZ pub food of a mostly meat variety; mixed grills, steaks etc.
Blue Pub - slightly more upmarket pub food along with gastro pub style a la carte menu.
Christchurch - Little India all your favourite currys prepared by Indian chefs.
Saggio de Vino - European-owned Mediterranean restaurant with an exceptional menu and amazing food with first class presentation and service.
Anywhere along the strip area (see bars and clubs above) is decent.

Mountain Restaurants
Both Mount Hutt and Porter Heights only have one. Owned by the ski area, they are pricey and serve kiwi fast food; pies, fries and cookie times (New Zealand chocolate chunk cookie is very nice). Best to bring your own lunch.

Away Days
All the club fields are located west of Porter Heights. Access roads come off the main road that leads eventually to the west coast. All these fields are worth at least a day's riding. They are Broken River, Cheesman, Craigeburn, Dobson, Foxpeak, Olympus, Roundhill and Temple Basin.

Hanmer Springs is a small thermal resort one and a half hours west of Christchurch with open air thermal pools. The infamous Bungy Jump can also be done here, as well as rafting and jet boating.

Although hitchhiking is very easy and reliable in New Zealand the best option is buying a car. You can get a cheap second hand one through the local paper or one of the car markets. These are car parks where every weekend locals come to flog their old autos, but buy at your own risk. Something decent which will last you at least six months will set you back about $NZ 1000 - 2000 (about £400 - £600) and you'll probably be able to sell it for only a little less than you bought it for at the same place. Provided of course you don't decide to use it as a kinked box.

Thanks to Simon for putting the majority of this Guide together.

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