Briar Peters road trips to New Zealand’s Mackenzie region to hit up Mt Dobson after a snow storm.
After a northern winter season in Val D’Isere that was dryer than your mouth after a New Year’s eve party, and a sub-par NZ season prior, I was ready for a decent face shot or ten. the 2017 winter has seriously dumped on the Canterbury and Mackenzie regions of New Zealand, if there is a place to be skiing this season it is here.
I had been eagerly and enviously watching the snow reports and storms roll over the country, throw themselves full steam ahead at Canterbury and Mackenzie and fizzle out before it reached us down here in Wanaka where I reside.
Then, one fine bluebird morning my work schedule and a snow storm aligned and the news was out, the Mt Dobson road in Mackenzie had been cleared and was open. The mountains were calling. A quick pack of gear, caffeine fuel up at the Coffee Shack and fellow powder pig, Treble Cone ski patroller Colas, and I were off in a cloud of smoke.
The Mt Dobson road is a 15km scenic drive through farmland near the remote town of Fairlie to the ski field itself. Expect to see livestock as you negotiate paddocks towards the snow line.
The giant smile of none other than Mt Dobson founder Peter Foote greeted us when we arrived, already fulfilling the Mt Dobson motto of the friendliest ski area around. It’s all hands on deck here and he helped us find a park in the highest car park in New Zealand (1725m).
Peter and the Foote family have owned and operated Mt Dobson for the last 38 years. His son Bruce now manages the business alongside his brothers Allan and Richard. Peter applied for consent of the ski field in 1972 after many winters scoping out the best terrain to create a ski field to remember.
Four years later they started building the picturesque road which took three years to construct. In 1984 the Fairlie Ridge T-Bar was opened, and in 2001 the Ophua Saddle Triple Chairlift. They now boast the longest beginner platter pommer in New Zealand – 466m long.
There are no lift lines at Mt Dobson, even after a 60 centimetre snow storm. The resort has around 120 riders mid week and only 300 to 400 on a weekend, and 700 on a peak weekend, so there are always fresh turns to be had. This year Dobson already has well over a 2 metre snow base and counting.
Within the South West facing basin the snow was impeccable, and the bluebird day with sun until well after 4pm when the lifts closed made for a day to remember. After skiing, and hiking as much as we could to make the most of the 3km wide basin, we were toast.
Mt Dobson is family friendly, everyone offers a smile and a good old kiwi yarn. The café hosts some of the happiest skiers and boarders I have seen in a long time as they bite into their famous hot Fairlie pie with their stoke levels well above capacity after riding some of the most picturesque powder in New Zealand.
If that isn’t already enticing enough Mt Dobson has some epic specials to get you up and riding with Mates Rates Monday (two lift tickets for the price of one), and Chicks Tuesday where all the ladies young and old get to ride at half day price. The Mount Dobson Ski & Snowboard Club also offers some great benefits to being a member such as half day rates for a full day pass, discounted lessons at ski school, a range of fun social events, development clinics and competitions, as well as much more.
Or if you fancy riding more than just one of the many fantastic club fields in NZ then grab yourself a Chill Pass which will allow you to ride at Mt Dobson and many more.
Need to know
You can drive to Mt Dobson from Christchurch (2 hours), Wanaka (2.5 hours) or Queenstown (3 hours). Tekapo or Fairlie are both close by for accommodation and great places to eat and drink.
If you have some energy left in reserve after your epic snow day, then why not take your day from epic to ultimate and check out stars in the largest Dark Sky Reserve in the world on a Mt John Observatory tour with Earth and Sky.
Read more: Check In With a Kiwi Local