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Porters Alpine Resort is a fantastic, family friendly ski field just an hour from Christchurch. It has a great range of trails, with a small but really good beginners area, perfect for progressing further up the mountain.
Porters has extremely reasonable ski passes and rentals, making it ideal for families. The best part is that kids 10 and under ski for free, a great savings on lift passes. All you have to do is hire skis/boards or bring your own. A 2020 beginners pass for youth (under 18s) is $39 and $59 for adults, and a full mountain pass is $69 for youth and $99 for adults.
The turnoff to Porters Alpine Resort is just over an hour from Christchurch on the West Coast Road to Arthurs Pass. Then it's just another 20 minutes or so up to the skifield, depending on the weather conditions.
Porter Heights Access Road (the skifield road) is well signposted on the left hand side, coming from Christchurch.
The last main village is in Springfield. Make sure you fill up with fuel here as there are no other fuel stations close to Porters. Besides the cafe at Porters, this is also your last chance for a cafe stop or coffee.
Some ski access roads around New Zealand can be pretty hairy drives. So if these types of drives make you feel a little on edge, then rest assured that the access road to Porters is a really good one. It is only 9km from the main road and is dual carriageway on the majority of the road. It is quite steep near the top (and no safety barriers) but is definitely not a scary drive on a dry day.
Even in the winter, there are many days when you do not require chains and can drive up the dirt/gravel road right to the top of the skifield. But the best part, is that if you do require chains, they also run a shuttle which is free for all skiers and snowboarders (a small charge for accompanying members of your party)
So if you are a little apprehensive about mountain roads, they aren’t even an issue at Porters Alpine Resort.
If you are interested in some great snow play, or if you have beginners skiers, then this is a great field for the whole family.
The beginner slopes are wonderful for kids. They have a very gentle small slope with their Sunkid magic carpet lift which is perfect for little ones and those who are learning the basics. Then once they have mastered this, the kids can tackle the “longer beginners mountain” to practice their turns and stops. This easy run has a platter lift to pull them up the mountain.
These two beginner areas are right next to each other, making it a little easier if you are managing kids in both places.
Intermediate and advanced skiers have a great range of trails, with 40% being intermediate, and 45% advanced and expert. There is a chair lift to the top of the easy rider intermediate trail, then t-bars to access the other trails
Porters also has a great little area for toboggans and sleds right behind the main buildings. This is the perfect place to introduce the young ones to the snow, build a snowman or have a snow fight. It’s also a great place to relax when the older ones become a little tired of skiing and just want to sit and eat snow (pick the cleanest snow though right?)
Toboggans can be hired onsite for $15. The snow fun can be accessed for free. You don’t need a pass to take the kids for a great day in the snow, so bring them up!
The staff at Porters are excellent. From efficiently helping you find your rentals, to even giving the kids a hand getting into their boots, they are some of the friendliest around. They go the extra mile, even if they aren’t in charge of your kids. For example, a child fell over on the magic carpet, and an instructor from a group lesson, quickly jumped over and gave him a hand before the parent had a chance to get there. It has a family feel, where everyone just looks after everyone else.
If you want to improve your skills, or you want to get up to speed a little faster, then lessons are a great idea. They have private lessons, as well as group lessons available. They can even take your wee ones and will have them standing and stopping in no time at all.
Accommodation at a ski field is quite a rarity in New Zealand. While this isn’t a traditional ski in, ski out type lodge, it is only a few kilometres down the hill. This is great for families or those wanting to be the first up the mountain, without having to get up and drive at the crack of dawn. Beat the traffic and get the best park when you stay onsite.
Porters Lodge have private rooms, as well as shared dormitories. A private family room has six bunk beds (2 double bed bunks and 2 singles) and there is room for a portacot if you have a younger one to bring along. The rooms are extremely warm, and all your linen and towels are provided, so you just need to turn up.
Bathrooms are shared, with a couple of toilets and showers in each male/female block. There is a drying room downstairs that is well heated and will dry even the most sodden snowsuit overnight.
The highlight of the lodge is the beautiful shared lounge and dining area. The wooden lockwood style lounge almost has a wooden log cabin vibe and the big fire in the centre of the room makes it all snuggly and warm inside.
Plenty of couches make it a lovely place to relax, while you grab a well deserved drink from the bar and some hot chips for the kids. Kids will enjoy the toy corner with a great selection of toys for the young ones, as well as free wifi or tv.
A great thing about staying at Porters Lodge is that you don’t have to cook. Their onsite cafe and restaurant is open for lunch and dinner, as well as breakfast for guests who stay overnight.
The dinner menu changes often, but you are likely to find meals such as burgers and fries, chicken nuggets and chips for the kids, a soup of the day, a hearty stew, salad and some warming desserts. Prices are also very reasonable, with most main meals under the $25 mark. Kids meals are from $8.
Breakfast has a great range, from toast and cereals, with canned fruit and yogurt, to cooked options of scrambled eggs and bacon or crepes (which are delicious). There is something for everyone and if the kids are Weetbix stalwarts, they even have those too.
We had two days on the mountain and an overnight at Porters Lodge and the whole experience was awesome. I took up four kids (2,5,6,11 by myself I might add) and the beginners area was perfect for all of them, who have only skied a few times.
The platter lift is such a great progression to “riding a real mountain” and I was able to supervise both the kids up there, as well as the younger ones on the magic carpet. Even my two year old could ski down the magic carpet slope on the softer slower snow by the end of day 2 which was just magic!
For beginners, I really loved the platter lift progression before having to head up a “huge mountain” so I highly recommend it to those with limited skiing experience. I also really liked that it wasn’t super busy and never felt congested, even on a weekend day in the middle of the season.
The kids also loved the toboggan area and having that close to the cafe and main carpark made it really easy to access, and there wasn’t much tredging through the snow at snail pace to get there.
We highly recommend Porters Alpine Resort for kids and beginners! We will definitely be back.