Top tips for skiing the Selwyn Six

Friday, 18 August 2023

Top tips for skiing the Selwyn Six

Words by Sam Masters

The six ski resorts in Selwyn are the very soul of kiwi freeride. These are globally unique snowsports destinations that demand an adventurous heart – and deliver an unforgettable experience. 

If you are new to skiing in this area, it may take a couple of trips to get the hang of these resorts.

We also recommend that slackcountry* beginners take an avalanche course, to make sure you understand how to be safe when heading out on untracked slopes. 


Check out our article on avalanche courses available in Selwyn

*Slackcountry is a slang term for “easy-to-access backcountry terrain from a ski resort”. Sometimes referred to as "sidecountry".

Here are some top tips for skiing at Mt Olympus, Craigieburn, Broken River, Temple Basin, Porters and Cheeseman.


How to get the best snow

The New Zealand winter – heavily influenced by our maritime climate - is varied. When it comes to powder snow there are no guarantees; you need luck or total freedom. Make it a winter habit to wake up early (6am) when the resorts file their web reports and drop everything if you can when conditions are right.

Outrun any incoming cold front by staying in the on-mountain club field accommodation the night before the storm hits. Some club fields will open the tows before they open the road. This is the legendary ‘lock in’ that will see you track out the resort before most people get up to the field.

When it comes to finding powder snow, extensive research, experience and luck play their part. 

Best ski vehicle 

Regular maintenance, winter tyres, chains and a good dose of antifreeze are essential. The ideal winter vehicle has plenty of clearance, 4WD, an inexpensive paint job, a demister that works and enough power to smash through a snow bank. Hiring a vehicle is a good option, irrespective of make or model, a rental car is always an excellent off-road vehicle. 

Winter driving for legends

Momentum is your friend – at least on the way up. On the way down it is best to keep things well under control. On bullet-proof ice it doesn’t matter how fancy your vehicle is – above a certain speed threshold you are going to slide. 

The laws of snow chains

It’s easier to learn how to fit chains in your driveway than in a snowstorm at night. 

Whenever you need to fit chains, the road will be muddy. It is cheaper to buy chains that properly fit your vehicle, than to respray your car after the wheel arches have been flailed by loose chains.

The bigger the rush to get up the hill the more quickly your fingers will freeze (fingerless gloves anyone?).

Temple Basin

 Nor-west storm? It’s probably dumping. Take poles for the walk up to the lodges. Remember to keep your car keys in your pocket on the way down.  

Broken River

A record-popping snow pocket that gets more of the white stuff than any other resort in Australasia, except Ruapehu. The Tindall Tramway can bottleneck on a powder day. Walk up or get there early. 


Slackcountry options for the more adventurous include the sustained pitch to avalanche corner; one of the best powder runs in New Zealand.


When Canterbury is frozen solid, Big Mama still ripens up nicely with a bit of sun; time it right for one of the best corn-snow runs on the South Island. Closest ski resort to Christchurch (89km) for those watching the clock.

Mt Olympus

Discover an alternate alpine reality for mountain lovers. Just remember to book lunch by phone on your day of arrival (if you haven’t booked by 11am you may miss out).

Mt Cheeseman

Avoid the powder day frenzy elsewhere in Canterbury with lazy slackcountry laps in Tarn Basin.


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