View From Above Mount Olympus Ski Field
Craigieburn Range, New Zealand Southern Alps
This is the view from above one of my favorite ski fields in New Zealand, the Mount Olympus ski field in the Craigieburn Range.
The Mount Olympus ski field is located on the Ryton Station, a 14589 hectare high country merino run. It is approximately two hours drive from the city of Christchurch. A four wheel drive vehicle is usually required for access from the bottom hut and car park at the base of the valley to the top car park. Transport to Mount Olympus from Christchurch, and guided days on the mountain, can be provided by friendly crew from Black Diamond Safaris, a local business operating out of the nearby town of Methven.
Mount Olympus ski field is one of a number of smaller New Zealand ski fields, run by non-profit ski clubs. In the case of the Mount Olympus ski field, it is operated by The Windwhistle Winter Sports Club. These 'club' fields have less extensive facilities, most with more basic 'nutcracker' rope tows for lifts rather than larger chair lifts found at the larger resorts, and usually without grooming of the snow. Most also have affordable on mountain dormitory style accommodation and day lodges, run by the ski clubs and maintained during the summer period by teams of ski club members, working as part of their ski club membership. It is expected that guests of this on-mountain accommodation participate in rostered duties, such as food preparation and cleaning of the facilities. It really is a different and more enjoyable overall experience when compared to the larger commercially run ski resorts.
This VR panorama was taken from a peak on the western side of the ski field, accessed by a 30 minute hike up the side of the mountain from the ski area. In the valley below is the Harper River, with the Avoca River flowing towards it. The Harper River flows into the Wilberforce River, and then into the Rakaia River; with Lake Coleridge, a lake created by glacier moraine, and the location of New Zealand's first state hydroelectric scheme which was built in 1911, nestled in the valley further to the left. The Rakaia River flows out through the visible mouth of the valley, in the distance to the left of Lake Coleridge, and across the Canterbury Plains into the Canterbury Bight (the Pacific Ocean) on the east coast of the New Zealand South Island.
The close high peak with the comb shaped rocky formation to the right of it is Mount Olympus, with the Mount Olympus ski field in the snow filled bowl below it. You can just make out the Mount Olympus Top Hut accommodation lodge and day lodge at the top of the access road that runs up the side of the valley, with the smaller rope tow motor shed nearby.
There are many different mountain ranges in the New Zealand Southern Alps, with quite a few visible in this small section alone. The closer mountain ranges in this image are Craigieburn Range, which Mount Olympus is part of, as well as the Black Range, the Grey Range, the Clay Range, the Birdwood Range, the Cottons Sheep Range, the Rollerston Range and the Cascade Range.
The northern side of Mount Hutt, a larger commercial New Zealand ski field, can also be seen on the right side of the valley mouth, overlooking the Canterbury Plains.
Unfortunately this year was one of the worst years for snow fall in New Zealand for a long time. Usually there is a much better cover of snow on these mountains at this time of year, in August, which should be the middle of the winter snow season. This lack of snow, and therefore customers to the ski fields, has created difficulty for some of these smaller 'club' ski fields which are run by non-profit ski clubs, as opposed to the larger commercial ski resorts. Many of these smaller 'club' fields had to close early this season, due to the lack of snow. I hope that this lack of snow is not related to the much reported global warming trend, as if so, it could mean the end of our enjoyment of these beautiful mountains during winter for snow sports and activities.