Alan and I just returned from five days in Methven, skiing what is possibly the best kept ski secret on New Zealand’s South Island, Mt Hutt. Conveniently located just over an hour inland from Christchurch, the area combines rural charm and alpine adventure.
The picturesque rural town of Methven lies at the foot of the Southern Alps and serves as the ski centre for the region. The small town provides a surprisingly good choice of accommodation, restaurants, cafes, resorts and pubs. Our favourite eating was at the Dubliner, an Irish pub with a welcoming open fire and delicious hearty food.
Our home for five days was at the Brinkley Resort just down the road from the town’s two major pubs. It has a restaurant, tennis court, a pair of hot tubs with mountain views and a choice of apartment or motel style rooms.
Mt Hutt is 26km from Methven and is one of the highest ski areas in the southern hemisphere with the largest skiable area of any of New Zealand’s commercial fields.
We were lucky to be treated to consecutive days of fantastic weather with bluebird conditions with practically no wind. Plenty of people were enjoying the good weather, with a few taking advantage of the hot tub at the top chairlift.
As you make your way up the long and winding road towards Mt Hutt ski field, two things quickly become apparent: the lack of guard rails on much of the road and the steepness of the mountain face that lingers just over the edge. The road is one of the highest in the country and was built by a group of hard-headed Kiwis in 1970. Determination, dynamite and some heavy road clearing machinery resulted in an exciting road.
In wintry conditions the drive takes about forty minutes and requires extreme caution when the weather is lousy although on our visit it was an easy but dusty drive up.
Mt Hutt boasts the longest vertical chairlift access of any mountain in New Zealand and if you’re going skiing on the South Island, outside of the Queenstown region, you’re probably doing it here. Mt Hutt also has one of the longest snow seasons in New Zealand.
The excellent on field facilities include an award-winning ski and snowboard school, quad and six-seater chairlifts and snowboard terrain park. Kids under ten years receive free lift tickets so it’s a fabulous skiing option for young families. There also very good heli-skiing.
The area is also a great summer destination offering walks, mountain biking, fishing, hot air ballooning and 4WD safaris plus tandem skydiving, and jet boating.