The mighty Southern Alps can be seen from most places in Selwyn, silhouetted against the sky. Our rivers flow down from the high passes over the plains and out to the sea.
Mountains and hills play an important role in spiritual and cultural belief as the gateways to the Atua (spiritual world). Early Maori made tracks through the Southern Alps to bring pounamu (jade) from the West Coast to Canterbury. The slopes were thickly forested and many species of native birds like kākā, kererū and kiwi provided food and feathers for the people.
Early European settlers were most concerned with finding a way through the mountains. Arthur’s Pass was named after the surveyor Arthur Dobson and from 1865, it was used as the best route to transport metal in the ‘Gold Rush’. When the Otira Rail Tunnel was built in 1923, it was the second longest tunnel in the world and provided a direct connection for the two coasts.
Now we explore the mountains for leisure. Skiers and snowboarders have a wealth of opportunities with Selwyn’s six skifields. Tramping trails snake over the ridges and past waterfalls, from the challenging tussock slopes to the limestone outcrops at Castle Hill. Listen to the pull of the mountains and breathe the fresh air in Selwyn.