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Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Best skiing for a decade in Canterbury

Mountains of 'powder-perfect' snow in Canterbury make best skiing for a decade

Canterbury's 16 ski areas are all clear and ready for more action, after a record-breaking school holiday season.

"With an ice-skating rink in the heart of the city and 16 ski areas within one to three hours of the city, Canterbury is a winter paradise for snow-lovers," says Kath Low, General Manager Marketing, Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism (CCT).

"Great air fare deals and exceptional value accommodation packages at www.christchurchnz.com make this the best winter ever to come to Christchurch."

A heavy blanket of snow, and forecasts of lots more to come on the Southern Alps has skiers and snowboarders revelling in some of the best conditions in a decade.

"Conditions are 'powder-perfect'," says Arthur McBride of Alpine Guides in Mackenzie district. "On the Tasman Glacier we have bluebird days and boot-top powder from the top to the bottom of our runs."

At Porters, just over an hour's drive from Christchurch, more than 10,000 skiers enjoyed perfect conditions during the school holidays, a record number, says Porters' General Manager, Uli Dinsenbacher.

"A steady stream of south-easterly systems and low wind snowfalls have left the mountain with a 1.2 m average snow base and 1.7 m at higher levels.

"The snow has packed in well and there's a good base for the remainder of the season. With more snow to low levels forecast for later this week, Big Mama looks more exciting than ever.  It's one of the steepest, longest straight runs in the Southern Hemisphere and there's a terrain park for snowboarders, plus good ski touring out along the ridge," he says.

Porters is just one of the 'super-six' ski-fields in the Selwyn District, all within easy driving of the city. Superb club-field experiences are on offer here at Mt Cheeseman, Craigieburn, Broken River, Temple Basin or Mt Olympus. 

Mt Hutt, near Methven, opened early this year with a record first day base of 1.5m in late May. Regular snowfalls since have ensured fantastic conditions with an average base of 1.7m. It is one of the highest ski fields in the Southern Hemisphere and its altitude, combined with its battalion of snow guns, guarantees a long season.

The mountain is set for some spectacular skiing action from now until 20 September as several World Cup Teams are here in training for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. The International Race Training Arena at Mt Hutt will be set alight by athletes reaching speeds of up to 120 km/h in the downhill training course. Teams this year include Switzerland, Sweden, Germany, New Zealand, and Australia as well as Olympic hosts Canada.

The Mackenzie area, a leisurely half day's drive from Christchurch, has seen an amazing start to the ski season, with huge numbers of skiers at popular areas such as Ohau, Mt Dobson and Roundhill, as well as the heli-skiing thrills of Tasman Glacier.

"After the huge numbers of school holiday visitors and fresh snow on the way, it just gets better," says Prue Blake of Destination Mt Cook Mackenzie.

"Tekapo township is a wonderful base for a skiing holiday with plenty of apr├Ęs-ski activity on hand at Alpine Springs thermal pools, ice rink and snow tubing with magnificent views of the lake," she says. "Mid-winter Christmas festivities at the new Peppers Bluewater add even more magic."

CCT's Kath Low says no other region in New Zealand can compete with Canterbury as a winter destination.

"A lot of investment has gone on in the region's top ski areas, as well as into our city's new winter experiences. We've now got world-class facilities that allow us to offer visitors the experience of a life-time. Our club fields are a brilliant experience too. There's never been a better time to come here for a winter ski holiday."

For more information on skiing, the Ice Dome in Christchurch's Cathedral Square and other activities and bookings go to www.christchurchnz.com or to the i-SITE Visitor Centre in Cathedral Square.

Photo credit: Canterbury skiing by Trevor Streat, Alpine Guides

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