Keeping it Real - Methven Mt Hutt

snow action team 10.08.2013

Methven, just over an hour from Christchurch Airport, is a quaint country town with access to an abundance of choices, both on and off the mountains. Unlike it’s boisterous southern cousin Queenstown, it’s rural, chilled, honest to goodness old school hospitality all held together by a wonderfully warm community that have a pretty charmed life. Living in country Victoria I know first hand the pleasure of frosty mornings, seeing tractors in town, the changing landscape of the seasons, the still silent nights and, most importantly, the genuine people who also call it home.

However, the regional setting is far from sleepy. Happy hour kicks off around 4 with après spilling into the streets at the Last Post Café, which also serves a mean steak, and continues into the wee hours at either the Brown Pub or Blue Pub, the recently reopened Steel Worx, the Bavarian Restaurant and Bar, Ski Time Lodge & LT’s, just to name a few of the 27 licensed venues in town.

Like any good ski town, there’s no need to eat at the same place twice. All of the above serve great meals, and there’s also Italian, Thai, Japanese and absolutely sumptuous fine dining at Shackletons. My coffee addiction was well catered for with plenty of cafés and bakeries open from brekky through lunch.

Choices proliferate when it comes to skiing too. From Mt Hutt to Heli, and Porters to the club fields, it’s possible to ski 8 ski areas plus thousands of hectares of heli terrain all within half to two hours drive from Methven. This made for an awesome trip as I skied 5 different areas in 10 days, plus a couple of days R’n’R and sightseeing. My only regret was that I didn’t stay longer. I would’ve loved to have skied at Craigieburn, Mt Cheeseman and Temple Basin, and had another crack at heli skiing – alas maybe next time.

Lodges, apartments, hotels, motels of varying ratings, comfort and style are scattered through town. Along with three ski shops – Jace’s, Big Als, and my personal favourite, Alpine Sports (opposite Abisko Lodge and the Last Post Café). Proprietor Jason soon sorted me with fatter boards, declaring after a quick look at my carvers, “This is what you’re after if you’re going to be skiing in these parts.” With the experience of 44 consecutive winters (north and south) between NZ and Austria, he wasn’t wrong either. He must have seen me a mile away, I ended up buying a pair.

The fact that Methven Sports Massage is located upstairs also made it attractive as I got my body tuned up at the same time as my skis. Gotta love the deep tissue action after a hard day of deep snow action.

Best of all at Methven is the silence at night. As in ‘country town silence’. Methven’s full of fun, the skiing’s brilliant, the nightlife is vibrant, but what’s missing are the hoards of people. You can’t help but kick back and enjoy it as a very peaceful, relaxed and charming launch pad to an abundance of amazing skiing options.

Mt Hutt Village is Methven’s more recent name, and clearly Hutt is the main show in town, dominating the horizon as the perfect backdrop to Methven’s lush and tranquil landscape.

Rather than self-drive opting for the ski shuttle is a no brainer. The road up from the foothills to the car park, albeit safe enough, is unsealed, winding, narrow in parts, and tough going when conditions are crap, but above all it’s picturesque – so why not kick back in the shuttle and enjoy the view?

I had the honour of meeting local identity Rusty McLennan, who recalls the day Hutt opened in 1973. Back then he’d park cars for 2 hours and score a free day pass for his efforts. At the 1990 World Cup GS event he foreran the course. Rusty takes his hat off to Doug Hood, who built the road, and without him it probably wouldn’t have happened. Despite the naysayers, Doug and his crew persevered and got the job done. The tradition continues as Doug’s son, Grant, has the road clearing contract today.

Another shuttle advantage is getting dropped adjacent to the impressive base facilities, from where the Summit Six whips us up to 2,086m.

It’s clear the Hutt team take their riding seriously as the place is immaculately groomed, signed and laid out. Corduroy, snow making and blue runs dominate the centre corridor, and a day doing fast laps on carvers is a good rush.

But the real fun is the ring of black runs that bound the ski area from the South Face through to the Rakaia Saddle Chutes. If you’re keen to ski off-piste virtually the entire 472 hectares is accessible from the summit down to the bottom of the triple chair.

It’s clear on the weekend Hutt is a favourite with Christchurch locals and tourists alike, though mid-week was free from crowds.

Even better, much to my delight and surprise, when the snow starts falling the place was virtually deserted. I took a private lesson in the fresh, which set me up nicely for the club fields and heliskiing later in the week.

In a tweet, Mt Hutt is a slick, international destination that ticks all the boxes. And in true Kiwi fashion, there’s a Mr Whippy van waiting with ice cream and hot donuts at the bottom of the hill for a therapeutic sugar shot – DW

[the ticket] methven mt hutt village

to stay We stayed at Abisko Lodge, which is in the centre of the village on the main drag and close to everything. Our hosts Luenne and Alex epitomize the friendliness we experienced all through town. The lead up to most of my ski trips is usually pretty stressful – full of emails, attempting to meet deadlines, making sure my clients are happy, etc. So it was really nice to be greeted with a smile, a fire place in the lounge and the offer of a glass of red. Choose from motel rooms to self-contained apartments.

Check their spring specials for September/October, a great time to ski at Hutt and enjoy the area. Book direct at http://abisko.co.nz

don’t miss Apart from skiing the region offers hot air ballooning, fishing, hunting, Ashburton Aviation Museum, Salmon World Acquarium, Stavely Ice Rink, golf, hot springs, wine trails, horse riding, jet boats.

more info For all local links/info check www.amazingspace.co.nz

For Mt Hutt www.nzski.com/mthutt

For airport & mountain shuttles www.methventravel.co.nz

For ski packages ex-Australia www.mysnow.com.au

Mt Hutt pic Tony Harrington / nzski.com

Mt Hutt pic Tony Harrington / nzski.com