Why a Mt Hutt ski holiday is a must for families

There's more than a hint of old-school Kiwi charm at Mt Hutt, where the snow is deep, the terrain pristine and just about everyone has a nickname.

Family skiing on the snow of Mt Hutt
  • Words: Rachel Oakes-Ash
  • June 2018

Everyone has a nickname in Methven, the farming town at the base of Mt Hutt, just over an hour’s drive from Christchurch. Stay for a few days and you’re likely to meet Cheesey, Sloppy and Spud. Single monikers that need no surname and rarely have anything to do with the person’s real name. You might even end up with one of your own.

Come winter and Methven’s main street with the originally named Blue Pub and Brown Pub fills with visitors in ski coats bedding down in a handful of lodges, motels and hotels to make the most of the 365 hectares of prime Canterbury snow-laden terrain known as Mt Hutt. The appeal is the four-metre annual snowfall and the vertical rise of 683 metres.

Like the better-known ski fields down south, you do have to drive to get to the chairlifts. Mt Hutt is a 35-minute drive from Methven (most visitors hire a rental car at Christchurch airport) from Methven but the rewards are plenty. Half of the resort is dedicated to intermediate skiing and the rest suits advanced skiiers. For the record, the Austrian and American ski teams have chosen to train at Mt Hutt over the years.

The snow capped peaks of Mt Hutt
The snow capped peaks of Mt Hutt

On the slopes

Skiing and boarding is above the tree line with wide-open bowls. Those with a steel heart and strong thighs can take on the chutes and steeps of Towers, while more cruisy types take in the Canterbury plains views and hit the groomers on Broadway. There’s a terrain park high on the mountain and a “first tracks” guided run every Saturday and Sunday if you don’t overdo it at après.

Kids aged five and over can join the Kea Club ski school, while the Skiwiland Early Learning Centre caters for children from three months. But the best news is that kids stay, eat and ski for free, all season. Participating accommodation providers offer free beds and meals, and Mt Hutt offers a free lift pass for every child under 10 when accompanied by a paying adult.

While Queenstown has big lights and lakeside vistas, Methven has old-school Kiwi charm. You will find the nicknamed folk you met in the pub skiing or snowboarding on the mountain next to you, after they’ve done the morning’s farm chores.

The proximity to Christchurch means you’ll spend the weekend in the company of city folk taking some time out on the slopes, too. Cantabrians are known for their laid-back ways so you’ll be surrounded by a friendly crew likely to have been skiing here for decades.

Girl sitting on a snow with a snowman
Building a snowman

Après ski

Singles and couples without kids hit the Blue or Brown Pub for après drinks and live music. Be warned, some of the pool table rules in these parts include nudie runs.

Families love the bar at Ski Time, where owner Aussie-turned-Kiwi, Pete Wood, holds court each afternoon. The Ski Time restaurant also has good child-friendly fare for early diners and there’s apartment and hotel-style accommodation on offer here too.

For Guinness and Irish craic, head to The Dubliner at The Lodge, or for an afternoon round of golf and fine fare by the fire, take a short drive to Terrace Downs Golf Resort and Restaurant. Aqua on Main Street is known for authentic Japanese cuisine.

Primo e Secundo is an eccentric little café with one of the best breakfast menus of all the ski towns. Old-world Kiwi recipes and great coffee are served in the middle of a cracking vintage homewares store.

View of the mountains from Terrace Downs Resort
View of the mountains from Terrace Downs Resort

Off the slopes

If you fancy an alpine-lodge feel consider Breckenridge Lodge opens in new window while Brinkley Resort opens in new window offers self-contained accommodation and an on-site restaurant. Terrace Downs opens in new window offers luxury accommodation in apartments, town houses and stand-alone homes 15 minutes from town.

The adventurous can book a multi-day heli-skiing experience with Methven Heli Ski opens in new window and stay on a working Kiwi farm in stylishly renovated cottages at Glenfalloch Station opens in new window right next to the heli pad. You’ll be in good hands – founder and heli guide Kevin Boekholt spends his northern winters guiding for Canadian Mountain Holidays Heli Ski and runs his own Greenland heli ski adventures each May.

When the skiing and snowboarding gets too much, rest your legs in a jet boat on the stunning Rakaia Gorge. But if you can’t get enough of the Southern Alps, sign up for a Black Diamond Safari opens in new window for some intrepid field skiing suited to advanced off-piste skiers.

The rest of us can just have a good lie down.

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