We recently got back from a 10-day winter adventure trip on the South Island. Travelling from Christchurch to Twizel, we dived into the winter activities of skiing, mountain biking, trekking, quad biking and lounging in hot pools along the way. It was a super trip, even with an almost-3-year-old who had plenty of tantrums stored up her sleeve… Thankfully nothing that a hot chocolate and a ski lift couldn’t fix.
As soon as we flew into Christchurch, we hired a car and met up with some friends. The plan was to hit the slopes early the next morning but rain stopped play and we adjusted our itinerary in line with the weather forecast. First stop, mountain biking.
Christchurch Adventure Park
Day 1 of the trip started us off on an adrenaline high as we raced around Christchurch’s mountain bike park with some friends. It was fun and family-friendly with kids facilities at the base (trampolines, kids bike race track and restaurant with indoor activity area). Parents can take it in turns to watch the kids or take the chairlift to the top of the mountain. The kids enjoyed riding up and down in the chairlift too!
Mount Ohau Ski Field
The way we worked a ski trip with a 2-year old was mainly by tag-teaming: one of us got half a day of skiing whilst one of us hung out with Sophia on the slopes. Mt Ohau, a small family-run slope near Twizel, was our first experience of a South Island ski field. We followed the sunshine to Twizel, and after spending the morning hiking around Mount Cook Village, we drove to Ohau for Jez to have afternoon of snowboarding. Sophia and I rode the ski lift to the top of the mountain and back, built snowmen then chilled out by the log-fire in the cafe with some hot chocolates before pelting Jez with snowballs on his return.
Mount Dobson Ski Field
The day we went to Mt Dobson, near Fairlie, Jez and Sophia tobogganed then relaxed in the cafe cabin with some colouring-in as I snow-ploughed the afternoon away. Mt Dobson was similar to Mt Ohau but less busy. High winds caused the main ski lift to close just as we reached the mountain top, which thankfully didn’t affect me as I am a complete novice skier. The last time I skied was on my school trip to France, when I was 11 and all I could remember was the snow plough, which came in extremely handy. I grabbed a lesson on the beginner slope then progressed to the ‘Bunny Platter’ on which a 450m incline was plenty for me! Good times, one face plant at a time!
On the day that Jez hit the slopes of Mt Dobson for a full day, Sophia and I drove down to Lake Tekapo, explored the lake and church and went to the divine Tekapo Springs. We soaked in the hot pools for hours overlooking the stunning southern alps. With the air temperature of 4 degrees, the 30 degree hot pools were heavenly! Tekapo Springs also has an ice skating rink and tube park, which we didn’t have time to use on this occasion but it is a very cool winter adventure park for kids and adults too.
Mount Hutt Ski field
Mount Hutt was one of the larger, busier, commercial ski fields that we went to. Filled with people, family-friendly and loads of fun, it has an amazing kids facility called Skiwiland, which is absolutely ingenious. It’s an Early Learning Centre on the mountain (!) that you can check you kid into for the morning, afternoon or full day. There is lots to do at Mt Hutt: loads of different runs, bars, several chair lifts as well as mountain-top hot tubs, restaurants and cafes. We spent a couple of hours on the slopes with Sophia in the morning, mainly throwing snowballs, tobogganing, jumping on the bouncy castle and coaxing her to have a go on the magic carpet, mostly to no avail.. As it was our final day of skiing, I think she had well and truly had enough of the cold so after lunch we checked her into Skiwiland and went off skiing by ourselves. Following a few spectacular meltdowns, face down in the snow, everyone was happy to have a breather in the afternoon! Sophia raved about her fun time at cosy indoor Skiwiland.
Mount Cook Village
We couldn’t possibly visit the South Island in winter without exploring the beautiful and famous, Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, with it’s epic lakes and backdrops of snow-covered mountains. It is one of the most stunning scenic drives that we have ever been on and had us stopping every couple of minutes to take photos. When we got to Mount Cook village, it was properly freezing so we layered up and set off on the Hooker Valley Track. It was a comfortable walk with Sophia to the Swing bridge and back, just far enough to enjoy with a toddler before she got too cold or tired.
On one of the days that we couldn’t find any ski fields open, due to poor weather on the mountain tops, we explored the area around Twizel and Tekapo. We stopped off at High Country Salmon Farm to feed the salmon and sample the sushi from the glacial lakes. Regardless of how I feel about farmed salmon, it was undoubtedly the most delicious I’ve ever tasted. We worked our way around many a coffee shop, stopped off at too many playgrounds to count in between showers and soaked up the beautiful scenery at Lake Pukaki and Lake Tekapo.
- Turning up to collect a take away order that we had phoned through and there being no record of our order….because we had phoned the restaurant in that chain that was 400km away, rather than the local one!
- Sophia having a melt down, face down in the snow.
- Sophia quad-biking and thoroughly terrified herself by locking onto the accelerator and pulling a 180! Nothing ventured, nothing gained…. ‘She’ll be ‘right’ and all that.