Mt Dobson New Zealand 2012 - A Closer Look


In this article I take a closer look at one of my favourite skifields from the 2012 season and post some extra pictures in addition to those in the New Zealand trip report.

Name - Mount Dobson
Location - Canterbury, South Island, New Zealand.
Closest town - Fairlie and Lake Tekapo.
Closest airport - Christchurch Airport (Domestic and International) is about two and a half hour's drive away.

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Fresh snow on Mt Dobson - 21 September 2012
2012 Season Snow Cover

While 2010 was a year notable for a fantastic early start to the season in June, 2012 had some great skiing, particularly in August and September at Mt Dobson.

By mid-August, Mt Dobson had two metres of snow cover across the skifield. It was to stay this way well into September and there was still 1.5m in early October despite a run of sunny, warm days.

For our two visits there on this trip, the last section of Mt Dobson's long mountain road was surrounded by a spectacular white mountain landscape with no tussock or rocks in sight.

All in all a great year in 2012, and the fine and  fair weather in September meant fewer closed days than on previous visits in other years.

Lifts & Altitude

Mt Dobson is one of the higher altitude skifields on the South Island. The base area and ticket office at the Dobson car park is at 1725 metres. This is higher than the top of Coronet Peak and just about level with the top of the Home Basin six-seater at Treble Cone.

Dobson T-bar and Shirt Front - 29 September 2012
The highest lifted point is 2030 metres, accessed from a T-bar, while the other high point is accessed by a three-seater chairlift that loads just below the car park.

Usually when you arrive nice and early at Dobson the T-bar is running providing access to the main valley first.

The chairlift then opens up the West Valley, and a platter or poma drag lift provides learner and beginner terrain. The T-bar and poma are often self-service.

The three lifts together give access to a lot of terrain, and a little hiking can open up significantly more.

The Runs

Taking the T-bar up the centre of the main valley, you can offload early for cruisey, short blue runs - known as the M1 - down the front of the valley. This is where most of the few groomed runs are.

Taking the T-bar all the way up to 2030m brings you to a ridge with narrow cat tracks in either direction.

The East Trail can take you all the way back to the base area, or you can launch into some steeper off-piste at any point around the bowl.

When the snow cover is good, this bowl offers lots of fun, rolling terrain of varying steepness. In freeze-thaw conditions, the Sunny Run is the first to soften in the sunshine.

When there is fresh snow or powder, the first runs are typically straight down the Shirt Front from the top of the T-bar, as in the video. The 21st September was one such day - freshies all day!

West Valley with options out wide - 21 September 2012
The West Trail provides access to some black off-piste runs and another way into the West Valley.

West Valley has gentle, rolling terrain for intermediates, as well as a nice natural halfpipe under the chairlift.

Going out wide gives a taste of what is accessible with a little hiking. There are lots of options if you traverse this way, and you can even ski below the chairlift and walk back up.

On a good day Dobson is a lot of fun, uncrowded and good value for money with stunning views over the surrounding mountains and to lake Tekapo.


Mt Hutt New Zealand 2012 - A Closer Look


In this article I take a closer look at one of my favourite skifields from the 2012 season and post some extra pictures in addition to those in the New Zealand trip report.

Name - Mount Hutt
Location - Canterbury, South Island, New Zealand.
Closest town - Methven
Closest airport - Christchurch Airport (Domestic and International) is about one hour's drive away.

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Mt Hutt from Methven
2012 Season Snow Cover

It has been a great year for Mt Hutt, particularly towards the end of the season.

At the beginning of August 2012, Mt Hutt had less than a metre of snow, but even then it had better conditions than many other South Island ski areas. By the middle of that month the measured depth had almost doubled with the heavy August snowfalls.

By late August, Hutt was sitting on 2m-plus snowdepth, and that was how it was to remain until October with regular top-up snowfalls.

The reality at the skifield was certainly reflected up high during our September visit with fantastic off-piste cover across the upper mountain.

However, the cover at the bottom of the Towers Triple Chair was getting dodgy at the end of September due to a warmer season with snowfalls only at higher levels.

The 2012 season was a vast improvement on 2011, where snowdepth failed to top 1 metre. It was somewhat similar to the good season in 2010, but great promotions (half-price lift tickets on weekdays in September) capped some fantastic visits.

Lifts & Altitude

The Summit Six and Virgin Mile Ridge - 16 September 2012
The Mt Hutt base area and car park is at 1620m. A brilliant high-speed six-seater chairlift rockets you to 2086m. All of the ski area and backcountry can be accessed from here - the easier terrain is down the middle, and the ridges, chutes and backcountry are accessed from the sides.

A slower four-seater chairlift accesses the terrain parks, halfpipe and easy slopes from the base area.

A three-seater, the Towers Triple Chair, extends Mt Hutt's terrain below the base area to 1438m. This provides a fantastic total vertical, as well as making more varied terrain available.

The Runs

A wide easy green run is accessed from the Quad Chair, as well as Broadway for developing intermediates. These are good runs for progression, but then its up to the top if you want more variety.

Virgin Mile Ridge - Platter Splatter and Bob's Knob groomed - 19 September 2012
The blue runs from the top of the Summit Six are accessed from a cat track that can be a little busy. But the views over the Canterbury plains to Christchurch and the Pacific Ocean are well worth it!

Grooming was fantastic at Hutt in September 2012 and the runs down the middle were wide corduroy for fast turns on nice snow. The key runs Morning Glory and Fascination are always a great way to start the day.

Hubers is a little steeper in sections and adds some variety while you wait for other areas of the mountain to open up.

The steep, short and fast Race Hill is worth a go at this time, but can become slick quickly.Virgin Mile Ridge with Platter Splatter and Bob's Knob groomed - 19 September 2012

In Spring, International usually opens next and you can link the runs from the top of the Summit Six all the way down to the very bottom of the lifted ski area. The temperature difference can be noticeable!

Towers, International & South Face - 19 September 2012
The Virgin Mile track takes you from the top of the Summit Six along a ridge that provides a wealth of launching pads on powder days.

In previous years there have been few groomed options from the Virgin Mile, but this year there was some great grooming - High Dive, Platter Splatter, and Bobs Knob were groomed, and there was off-piste, advanced skiing all the way across at The Bluff's.

Towers, and the other areas either side of International make for interesting and diverse off-piste, whether its the narrow and fun Log Chute or making your own runs by going wide to the right from Towers and taking a line down towards International again.

Thanks for the great Spring days Hutt!