Mt Cook MacKenzie28/02/2013
A popular winter destination
Historically a scenic route between Christchurch and Queenstown, now Kiwis and visitors alike stop, stay and play in the alpine wonderland because there’s so much to do. A distinctive blend of affordable on and off-the-snow fun, picture postcard scenery and high country hospitality.
The range of ski options, from beginner to extreme, is ‘snow bunny’ heaven with three public ski fields – Ohau, Mt Dobson and Roundhill – as well as advanced heli, glacier and cat-skiing.
The new Winter Park at Lake Tekapo extends the range of on-snow activities with a slope dedicated entirely to tobogganing and snow tubing, and an area set aside for just frolicking about in the snow.
Off the snow there’s plenty to choose from, including luxuriating in hot pools, ice skating, curling, hiking, and breath-taking scenic flights. The more relaxed can enjoy spa treatments, sample amazing local food and wine, or just sit back and absorb the majestic surroundings.
Mike and Louise Neilson’s Ohau Snow Fields and lodge operation recently picked up New Zealand’s Snow Sports’ supreme award for best large ski field service provider in New Zealand, as voted by the public through the www.snow.co.nz website. The award requires excellence in the areas of Best Staff, Best Access Road, Best Lift Department, Best Kept Toilets, Best Café Satisfaction, and Best Snowsports School. Mike and Louise are proud of their team and say the award is especially meaningful because it was voted for by the public.
Ohau’s laidback, friendly atmosphere is particularly popular with southerners who often book dinner, bed and breakfast packages at Lake Ohau Lodge and enjoy a great social day up the mountain.
The slopes opened in 1956 when Harry Wigley (Mt Cook Company) installed a rope tow but now Ohau features a groomed basin of about 125ha with a chairlift, platter and a snow mat (magic carpet) and two progressive terrain parks. Its advanced backcountry skiing is legendary, with access to around 600ha of powder-bowl slopes.
People come from near and far for the hiking opportunities and stunning views from Lake Ohau across to Aoraki Mount Cook. The Neilsons believe continued investment in improving the ski area is very important to keep things “fresh” for their visitors. Last year $2 million was spent on snowmaking, which resulted in 23 new snow guns being installed. The next two steps of the three-stage development will see an extra 55 snow guns and a second chairlift installed as well as a new three-storey base building and snow school.