A club operated ski area in Canterbury, New Zealand 115km from Christchurch. The terrain is a series of rolling bowls with runs to challenge all levels of snowboarders and skiers. The surrounding basins provide superb untracked 'back country' terrain for the more adventurous. Operated by a mix of volunteer club members and professional staff, the ski area is open to everyone, and members are very welcoming. Three levels of on-snow accommodation available.
The awesome terrain, fresh snow and irrepressible club spirit all combine to create a memorable ski experience. This is different to any "resort" you have ever been to. If you are a confident skier or rider, you will have a ball.
- 1 Location
- 2 Pros
- 3 Cons
- 4 Contacts
- 5 Planning
- 6 Resort Facilities
- 7 Ride Guide
- 8 Other
- 9 Resources
Off Highway 73 (the road between Christchurch and Arthur's Pass) in the Craigieburn Range.
- Three levels of on-snow accommodation.
- No lift queues.
- Usually open more days per year than any other South Island ski area.
- Powder, powder, powder. Usually the best snow in the region.
- Sheltered from the nor-westers that close many other Canterbury fields.
- Friendly club members, keen to help you have an awesome time.
- Laid-back and friendly.
- A unique slice of Kiwiana - classic kiwi skiing at its best.
- Rope tow lifts, take a bit to get the hang of, but there are plenty of members to help you. Beginner Snowboarders often struggle.
- Single lane gravel road. 4WD/chains/skills required, or take a ride with a transport operator. (But unlike many other ski fields there is no steep exposure off the edge of the access road. It is sheltered and within the forest all the way.)
Phone: +64 3 318 8713
Fax: +64 3 318 7270
Marketing/tour operator enquiries:firstname.lastname@example.org
Sign up to weekly winter email newsletter: email@example.com
Postal: PO Box 2718, Christchurch
- Fly to Christchurch and get transport from there.
- Near the date of your trip check SnowPool which is a great car pooling site to see if you can get a ride with someone
- Cars can be hired at the airport, but that can be an expensive option.
- Black Diamond Safaris, 0800SNOWORK Snowork Tours and Alpine Expeditions are three Christchurch transport companies that go up to the club ski areas like BR, in 4WD wagons.
- The road is gravel & suitable for cars, Chains often required in winter, 4WD is very useful also but not essential.
- If you are driving up yourself, post your ride on SnowPool so others can share the petrol costs with you (and you'll be doing them a favour)
If you are not confident driving on gravel roads in winter conditions, you could park at the picnic area and public shelter just after the turnoff from the highway, and hitch up from there. Anyone will give you a lift.
If you are coming in a camper van, please do not drive beyond the tractor shed (where the big yellow grader is parked). Above there the road is a bit steeper and narrow. Passing traffic will give you a lift up the next two zig-zags to Hanomag (main)carpark.
Three club lodges, open to everyone. Three options to suit everyone's budget from fully serviced DBB with chef, to "club style" DBB with shared duties and self cater backpackers (BYO own food with this last option). You need to book ahead with all options, especially for the weekends. Linen is available at an extra cost with the fully catered option.
Midweek multiday pacakages in the fully serviced and club style options get a one hour complimentary group ski/board lesson each day (Mon to Fri).
A few options, depending on budget, etc. You will need a vehicle for transport to and from the ski areas. On the other hand, staying off mountain allows you to choose the best one on the day, and try them all in a week.
Flock Hill lodge has a variety of 1-2 brm motel units, cottages and backpacker accommodation a few kms from the bottom of the Craigieburn and Broken River access roads. You can self-cater in the units, or eat at their restaurant. This can be really good value for two couples willing to share a unit and vehicle hire, and self-cater their food (brought from a supermarket in Christchurch).
Backpackers or motel accommodation at Springfield. Springfield is about halfway betwen Christchurch and BR/Craigieburn, (i.e. 45 mins from BR/Craigieburn carparks, 30 mins from Porters) and a similar distance from Mount Hutt, in a different direction.
Also there is Bed+Breakfast at Castle Hill Village (about 20 mins from BR or Craigieburn carparks).
Castle Hill Village is a collection of approx 70 private houses (and one B+B) just off highway 73. Some are available for hire, and can be a good option for families and groups. Note that you must self-cater, and all food must be brought from supermarkets in Christchurch, there are no service shops in the village, and no petrol (though leaving Chch with a full tank of gas is plenty for the return journey, and a week of to-ing and fro-ing to the skifields).
Or you can even tent/vehicle camp for free at the bottom of the BR access road (brrrrr...) where there is a 3-sided public shelter to cook in, a stream to get drinking water from, and a long drop toilet in the bush.
2009: non members NZ $60 adult all day (8.30am-5pm). Members $36 adult all day (ask about membership - see the website). Student non member $50, member $30. Children under 13 years ski free
Internationally trained ski & snowboard instructors resident and they know their stuff. A great way to improve your technique in the powder or off piste. Really good value group and private lessons. These are available to everyone.
Multiday ski-sleep packages in the fully serviced or club style options get a complimentary one-hour group ski lesson every day (Mon to Fri).
No ski hire on the mountain. You need to sort this out in Christchurch before coming up. Tow belts are provided free of charge on the mountain. Gloves protectors can be purchased or hired on the mountain.
McEwing's is at 200 Yaldhurst Road, Christchurch, the road heading out of town towards the ski areas. A few minutes drive beyond the city limits, at the small settlement of Yaldhurst itself, is Gnomes Ski Hire at a Shell service station.
It's all nutcracker rope tows, with hiking for the fit and or more adventurous. It only takes a few runs to get the hang of the rope tows. The staff and members are really helpful showing learners how to ride the tows. The snow makes this worthwhile! See http://wikiski.com/wiki/index.php/Club_skiing_in_NZ#How_do_I_ride_a_rope_tow.3F "Rigger's Gloves" (ideal for rope tows) are sold at Broken River for about $35.
Mix of professionals and volunteers who know the area well, and work hard to keep it safe for all. Ski patrol room downstairs at Palmer Lodge in the middle of the ski area. The professional staff collectively have over 15 years experience working at Broken River so have a good handle on the conditions.
- Carpark at 1120m (locally known as Hanomag carpark)
- From there take the newly upgraded goods lift with your gear. This is new for 2009, and was named the Tyndall Tramway. Load yourself, your skis, packs and other equipment onto the lift, and in 4 minutes you'll be up at the ski lodge - its a spectacular ride up the mountain through the native Beech forest on a funicular railway.
- If you prefer you can enjoy a 20-25 mins walk on a track up through beautiful native forest. Bring sturdy boots. Track can be slippery, 4-point instep crampons are very useful, and sold at the ski area for about $30.
- Beyond the lodges another 10-15 mins walk up a track and a long stairway (known as the "Stairway to Heaven") takes you to the Access Tow loading platform (the lowest point of the lift system).
Alpine and telemark skiing. Snowboarding. Socialising at Palmer day Lodge and in the on-mountain accommodation lodges.
Great evening meals prepared by the chef in Lyndon lodge. Alternatively, assist with cooking in BR Lodge, or self-cater in White Star Chalet.
Palmer Lodge (day lodge on ski area) has a full communal kitchen to prepare your own lunches and free tea. There is also a communal BBQ out on the deck. There is a canteen selling pies, noodles and other snacks, plus drinks.
Bars & Entertainment
Entertainment is a few quiet ones with friendly club members after a hard day skiing the steep and deep. Alcohol available on mounatin.
Souvenir t-shirts, beanies, caps, and fleeces available. Limited lunch food on mountain, along with sunblock and a few other little extras.
Lots of kids ride at BR. But they are tough little nuts who grew up there. Its very social for the kids and they have a fantastic time.
Small and obvious right outside the day lodge, as well as another area near by.
On the learners slopes around the day lodge and on intermediate slopes on the lower half of the mountain.
The upper slopes are untracked and ungroomed. Bring yer fat skis. Lots of undulating slopes in the two main basins. Allan's Basin, adjacent to the main Broken River Basin is a MUST - a huge tranquil basin with nothing but you, the cheeky keas and untracked powder snow. A real backcountry experience but within the patrolled boundary. Also lots of potential of ski touring along the range either side of Broken River.
For the experts, plenty of steep chutes and double black diamond stuff.
Out of Bounds
Yep. Lots of that, either side of the patrolled area boundaries. Enough to keep you happy for several days!
Bring your transceiver, probe and shovel, and ski with mates who know their snow safety skills. Speak to the friendly ski patrol before heading out back to ensure you are up to date with the conditions.
People tour the backcountry on Alpine Touring or Telemark gear, and skins. Not much scope for fishscale bases. Skinny nordic skis aren't much use but could be used with skill and determination! Tours between the ski areas are possible, e.g. BR to Craigieburn Valley (15-20 mins), BR to Mount Cheeseman (2 hours or so), BR to Olympus (5 to 7 hours one way).
- See Craigieburns for more details of tours between the ski areas of the Craigieburn Range.
Parks & Pipes
Rad natural terrain and a few rails too. Build a jump and have some fun, that's the spirit.
Not enough skiers to make many bumps, but a few form in limited areas for brief periods.
The whole mountain is one big powder zone, day after day. Allan's Basin is exceptional - Cornice Bowl in Allan's Basin pictured here.
Happy Valley in the main Broken River Basin is sheltered from the wind, and usually great snow. Not a tree to be seen anywhere!! The whole ski area is very sheltered from the strong NW winds and can generally stay open when other fields are closed due to high winds.
The nippers have a fun time playing in the snow outside Palmer Lodge, the day lodge. Watch out as you'll also see them ripping through some of the steep and deep terrain.
The ski area hosts social activities most weekends. The Retro weekend held in Juy is always fun and the FreeHeel Fun Weekend held in early August draws telemarkers from far and wide. The Boarder Cross weekend is just about as exciting for spectactors as competitors!
BR is naturally sheltered from the wind that shuts Mt Hutt. Gets lots of snow from the North-West direction, which blows snow over from the back of the ridgeline, like a vast natural snowmaking gun.
Variable in the amount of snow and when it falls. But usually 75cms is plenty to ski on, since the base terrain is alpine grassland rather than rocks.
Sometimes late season has a deeper snow pack. BR is famous for its spring skiing. In recent years Broken River was the last NZ ski area to close in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2008. 2008 was remarkable for the even and consistent frequency of great snow throughout the season, leading guests from Japan and Canada to compare BR favourably with their home ski areas. 2009 was another season of frequent powder top-ups that just seemed to get better as the year went on.
In 2007 BR was only closed 3 days in the whole season due to adverse weather (Compare to "Mt Shutt" down the road!) In 2003 and 2004 Broken River was open for more days (116) than any other ski area in NZ or Australia.
See snow depth graph (source= snow.co.nz). Month name is at middle of month.
Broken River Ski Area is made up of two hanging alpine basins, in the Craigieburn Range. The Craigieburn Range is the eastern-most range of the Craigieburn Forest Park, situated close to Arthur's Pass National Park. The Craigieburn Range is on the western boundary of the Castle Hill Basin on the eastern side of the Southern Alps.
The ski area evolved with the creation of the North Canterbury Ski Club (later changing its name to Broken River Ski Club) in the early 1950's. The Club started off with a membership of 12 people and has grown since then to about 350-400 people. Everything you see at Broken River has been built by, and maintained by club members - the mountain road, carpark, lodges and lifts. Stand back in awe. Club Members are very proud of their ski club and invite you to come and experience the place they call home.