The five ski-fields listed below (from east to west along SH73) are easily accessible from the highway, four of them in the Craigieburn Range and one, Temple Basin, around 50km further west above Arthur’s Pass. They predominantly offer traditional, inexpensive, Kiwi ski-club-style winter sports with spectacular views, reliable snow and virtually no queues. There are no gondolas, cable cars or chairlifts: T-bars, platter lifts and “nutcracker” rope tows are the go. Most have equipment rental and some offer on-field accommodation. The season generally runs from July to September, although October is often good; for snow conditions check wsnow.co.nz.
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Tickets, passes and Transport
All fields offer their own season tickets, though many go for the multi-mountain Chill6 Pass (wchillout.co.nz), which covers all the fields below plus Mount Olympus. The Chill11 Pass additionally covers Hanmer Springs, Mount Lyford, Roundhill and three other fields. Smylies in Springfield runs regular shuttles to Porters and other fields; check their website for prices.
Porters 96km west of Christchurch, off SH73 via a 6km unsealed road t03 318 4002, wskiporters.co.nz. The region’s main commercial field with the longest single run in the southern hemisphere, easy access and good learners’ packages. A free shuttle runs from the chain-fitting area to the main car park (bookings essential). Expansion plans (to be developed 2013 onwards) look set to make this the biggest field in the northern South Island with a sealed road, alpine village and gondola lift opening up Crystal Valley. Runs: 2 beginner; 3 intermediate; 9 advanced.
Mount Cheeseman 112km from Christchurch along SH73 t03 344 3247, wmtcheeseman.co.nz. Well-appointed family-oriented field with good facilities, a friendly atmosphere and a wide variety of runs for intermediates, plus off-piste for those with greater experience. Runs: 2 beginner; 3 intermediate; 8 advanced.
Broken River 120km from Christchurch at the end of a 6km access road, off SH73 t03 318 8713, wbrokenriver.co.nz. An excellent intermediate field with good powder until late in the season, occasional night skiing and fine boarding. Runs: 2 beginner; 7 intermediate; 10 advanced. A free inclinator (passenger-carrying goods lift) runs from the car park to the ticket office. It’s possible to ski between Broken River and Craigieburn.
Craigieburn Valley 120km out of Christchurch and another 6km up a side road t03 318 8711, wcraigieburn.co.nz. This thrill-seeking field has three rope tows accessing the mostly steep runs. No ski hire. Runs: 0 beginner; 6 intermediate; 15 advanced.
Temple Basin SH73, 4km west of Arthur’s Pass t03 377 7788, wtemplebasin.co.nz. Renowned among snowboarders for its 430m drop and great off-piste for those who know their stuff. Floodlit for night skiing, it offers a variety of runs and basic, on-field accommodation. From the car park it’s an hour’s walk up to the ski-field, though there’s a goods lift for your gear. The Mountain House runs shuttles here. Runs: 6 beginner; 10 intermediate; 8 advanced.