Mon 26 February 2024

Welcome to powder paradise.

I lean toward the middle of the road, as if my body weight will shift the shuttle bus away from the cliff edge. I resist the urge to look at the view of Mt Hutt Ski Area; my stomach flipping at the thought of veering off the snaking dirt road. My kids are unfazed, as is my husband. But I breathe a big sigh of relief when my feet touch the snowy ground outside the base buildings of Mt Hutt, on New Zealand’s South Island. 

NZ ski resorts are notorious for their perilous access roads, and Mount Hutt Skifield Road has to be one of the hardest to stomach. Yet, the snowy slopes waiting at the top are said to be the most impressive in the country. Mt Hutt has been voted NZ’s best ski resort at the World Ski Awards not just once but nine times. But is it really as good as judges think?

The facilities

Despite the narrow road, I’m impressed by the staggered parking areas, from where you can catch a regular, free shuttle for the final stretch. The drivers are friendly and efficient, off-loading everyone’s skis and boards neatly in front of the base buildings. Here, it’s easy to locate the ticket office and ski hire. Upstairs, there is a main cafeteria serving burgers and hot chips (at usual high prices). The espresso bar is more appealing, with barista-made coffee, paninis and delicious Afghan biscuits, a traditional NZ chocolate treat. The best spot is Ōpuke Kai, an apres-ski bar with fantastic views of the slopes and live deck music in the afternoons. Inside is cosy with an a-la-carte menu and mulled wine. In comparison to other NZ resorts, Mt Hutt’s dining isn’t as varied as Cardrona’s, but is superior to that at The Remarkables and Coronet Peak.

The terrain

Boasting wide runs and big bowls, Mt Hutt has 365 hectares of skiable terrain, serviced by three chairlifts. From the top of the main Summit Six Chair, at 2086 metres, it’s easy to see why this resort has won awards. To skier’s left, there’s a ridgeline, off which a steep face of snow leads to a bowl that would be heavenly in powder. To skier’s right, there are a handful of intermediate groomers, along with a fast red (high intermediate-advanced). Out of sight are black diamond and double diamond runs.

A large portion of the resort is for advanced and expert riders, however there is a separate, almost-flat area with a magic carpet to make the beginner experience as comfortable as possible. There is also a wide, cruisy green run (Highway 72) and a fun tunnel (Hoods Hollow).

The atmosphere

One of the things I love about Mt Hutt is the easy-going vibe, where it’s seemingly safe enough to stuff a backpack in an outdoor pigeon hole or under a bench seat and leave it there while you ride. It certainly makes the resort an easy option for families needing to carry extra layers, and anyone wanting to pack their own lunch. That said, the bag-drop isn’t exclusive to Mt Hutt.

The verdict

Mt Hutt is certainly worth visiting, especially on a fresh snow day when you can slash its steep faces and fly into its bowl. On an icy day, skiers who love hard and fast groomers will be in their element. Intermediates could possibly get bored over multiple days, but there’s enough for beginners. Mt Hutt’s biggest competition is all-rounder Cardrona. But if you’re in the area or in nearby Christchurch in winter, definitely carve out a few days at Mt Hutt.

*Mt Hutt’s 2024 ski season will run from June 14 until October 13.


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