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.

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