Laps of the Gods at Mt Olympus

Written by on July 22, 2018 in New Zealand - Comments Off on Laps of the Gods at Mt Olympus

Kiwi club fields don’t get more legendary than Mt Olympus. The local skiers are getting legendary too, like NZ’s latest Freeride World Tour sensation Craig Murray.
Him and bro Charlie Murray are members here, and Charlie has the downlow on why Mt Olympus is so good.

freeskiing at Mt Olympus

Unlimited terrain when it’s on at Mt Olympus © Brett Evans / Black Diamond Safaris

Mt Olympus is a club field in the heart of the Southern Alps, only 90 minutes drive from Christchurch. New Zealand’s club fields are a unique experience, and Olympus is one of the best of them.

When we ski at Olympus we usually stay up for the weekend. It is pretty hard to resist when there is an on-mountain lodge equipped with everything you could want on a ski weekend. Day trips are achievable also, with the lifts running till 4pm every day.
From the city, you cross the beautiful Canterbury Plains and then begin to transition into the foothills. This part of the drive passes through the high-country stations which New Zealand is famous for. Amazing lakes and rivers can be seen along the way. The road turns to gravel as you pass through the stations. You then begin to climb up into the mountains. The road gets a little rougher and narrower crossing mountain streams and tussock filled plateaus. Soon enough you arrive at the bottom hut.
The bottom hut is a basic hut with running water, electricity, kitchen and a hot shower. The hut sleeps around 15 people and is a great cheaper option, being only $40 per night. After radioing ahead from the radio in the hut you get the all clear and low down on road conditions and can continue up the road. Three steep zig zags later and you arrive at the carpark, a slight widening in the end of the road that can fit 40 cars at a push. We pop into the container and grab the tow belts provided.

Mt Olympus access road

May be easier to let someone else do the driving © Brett Evans / Black Diamond Safaris

Mt Olympus welcome sign

Where else do you radio ahead on arrival at the bottom? © Brett Evans / Black Diamond Safaris

The lift system at the club fields is unlike anything most places in the world, where rope tows have long since been replaced by fancier lifts. But it’s a simple, low cost system that works. The ropes spin on pulleys running up the mountain. To hook on the ropes you wear a belt or harness with a clamp attached on a short bit of chain – the nutcracker. To grip to the rope, you place the clamp around the rope and hold it shut with your hand.
The advantage of the rope tow is you can let go at any point and you come off the rope. You can also jump on at any point, giving a lot of freedom and changing the way you can ski the mountain. It is very easy to lap features that you want quickly. It can take a few goes to get the hang of the rope tows, but once you have figured it out you can lap 400 vertical metres quickly and easily.
Riding the first tow for a few minutes you arrive at the Top Hut. The top hut is a lodge with anything you could possibly need. On arrival, we head straight to the ticket window/café and order a coffee from the barista. With a coffee and lift ticket we head out onto the rest of the mountain.
There are two more long rope tows above the top hut, which provide access to some of the best terrain I’ve ever skied, and a learner tow.
There are steep cliffs and chutes, along with fun rolling terrain for less experienced skiers. On an average weekend we usually share the mountain with between 20 and 50 other skiers. After a few days you get to know everyone skiing up there.

Unlimited terrain at Mt Olympus

The terrain choice is huge – off the rope tows and beyond © Brett Evans / Black Diamond Safaris

Our gang usually sessions the jumpline, which is a series of natural wind lips, and ski a few cliffs before heading in for lunch. Just $15 paid in the morning gets you an amazing hot lunch cooked by the in-house chef. A beer is $3 for a cheap one or $5 for a nicer one. So with a beer and lunch in hand we sit out on the deck in the sun and have a munch, while hopefully watching some groms sending some cliffs on the mountain.
Then with a full stomach we head back out for an afternoon of shredding. The rat pack usually comes out in force, with big trains and great entertainment.
As the sun begins to sink in the sky the rat pack slowly thins out and moves in the direction of the bar.
Once last lap is called we all stock up with a few brews and head up to the top of the mountain. A ten minute hike from the top tow puts you onto an incredible ridge looking down into the Harper and Avoca rivers. A few beers enjoyed up on the ridge watching an incredible sunset and it is time to ski down before it’s too dark to see.
Arriving back at the lodge we head straight for the outdoor hot tub via the drying room, where we strip off our ski gear. The hot tub can fit around 20 people, and has the most incredible vista down around the basin and beyond down the valley towards the plains.

Once we’ve had a good soak we put on some dry clothes, or in some cases a questionable outfit from the dress up box, and head up for dinner.
Dinner is a three-course meal cooked by the talented chef. After a big feed and a dessert it’s time for a bit of music and the odd bit of dancing. Being a Saturday night there’s usually a few people keen to party, so inevitably the disco lights and big speakers come out.
Once it gets a bit late a comfortable bed can be found in the warm, dry bunkrooms downstairs. The entire lodge was remodelled in 2015, so it is very tidy and has great modern showers, bathrooms, drying room and bunkrooms.
If you ever get the chance to experience the club fields in Canterbury, and in particular MFC’s favourite Mt Olympus, then jump at the opportunity. These areas are club owned and are the friendliest, most relaxing places you can ski in the world.

Mt Olympus top hut at night

The top hut is a welcome sight at night © Brett Evans / Black Diamond Safaris


On the average weekend at Olympus there are between 20 and 50 people skiing, with around 40 also staying the night up on the mountain. These people are a mixture of rugged farming families and young frothers trying to find fresh tracks and cliffs to jump off.
We fall into the second category as much as we like to think we are rugged farmers.
The ‘Top hut’ at Mt Olympus is a lodge style building with a kitchen & chef, bar, hot tub, dance floor, hot showers, drying room and around 50 beds spread throughout a number of bunkrooms. This hut is located above the first main rope tow, which makes getting food and beer up to the hut an all inclusive bonding exercise. Families and club members and everyone in between grab whatever back packs they can find and shuttle the food from the carpark up the rope to the hut.
The great thing about Olympus and the other club fields is that the whole thing is owned by a club as opposed to a ski resort which is owned by a company. Each one of us members is an equal owner of the mountain. This is an amazing thing to be a part of making you really feel like it’s your mountain and the members that you share it with. Everyone is friendly, generous, and the beer keeps flowing from the licensed on mountain bar.

Getting there Christchurch airport is around 90 minutes drive from Olympus. It’s 4WDs only to get up, easier to organise a lift from the bottom hut – or Methven with Black Diamond Safaris.
Tickets $NZD 75 for non-members; Ski Weeks $NZD 1068 for 6 nights accommodation, 7 days lift-passes, meals from Sunday night to the following Saturday lunch, hot tub plus access to the fancy dress box. They have EFTPOS. A volunteer Ski Patrol operates.
More info http://www.mtolympus.co.nz Day trips from Methven http://blackdiamondsafaris.co.nz

Getting to Mt Olympus

Christchurch airport is around 90 minutes drive from Olympus. It’s 4WDs only to get up, easier to organise a lift from the bottom hut – or Methven with Black Diamond Safaris.
Tickets $NZD 75 for non-members; Ski Weeks $NZD 1068 for 6 nights accommodation, 7 days lift-passes, meals from Sunday night to the following Saturday lunch, hot tub plus access to the fancy dress box. They have EFTPOS. A volunteer Ski Patrol operates.
More info http://www.mtolympus.co.nz Day trips from Methven http://blackdiamondsafaris.co.nz

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