Mt Hutt: Yin, yang and pizza on the slopes

By Barney McDonald

Barney McDonald revels in a powder-perfect Mt Hutt day

A day's snowboarding is made perfect by a slice from Hutt Pizza. Photo / Doug Sherring
A day's snowboarding is made perfect by a slice from Hutt Pizza. Photo / Doug Sherring

Travel stories and snow seem to go hand in glove for me. The first time I hit the slopes was in 1987 for a newspaper travel story. It was the weekend before I was due to leave the country on my debut trip overseas, so it seemed like a fun way to say goodbye to New Zealand. I wasn't disappointed.

Since skiing Whakapapa that first time, I've graduated to snowboarding, finding the style and camaraderie of boarding less inhibiting than skiing. Many skiers would disagree. Although I picked up skiing almost instantly, I've had to work hard at improving on a board.

On the rare occasions I do get on to the mountain, I've battled the icy winds often encountered on both sides of Mt Ruapehu and struggled to perfect my technique while striving not to hurt myself.

Thankfully, that wasn't an issue at Mt Hutt. On a glorious blue-sky day, just weeks after the blizzard that enveloped the South Island, I found my mojo again on the mountain.

It wasn't where I left it because I'd never been to Canterbury's premiere ski resort. It was simply lost in my inability to improve when ice made edging hard, wind made my clothing diaphanous and whiteouts made visibility a joke.

Conditions at Mt Hutt were sublime. No wind, powdery trails, sunshine, acceptable queues despite the triple chair being out of action, a pizza oven at the top of the quad and eye-watering views over Canterbury Plains.

Pizza oven, you ask? Hutt Pizza is an igloo positioned just as you alight the chairlift. Staffed by Kalam Hollis-Ristow the day I was there, it featured $15 margarita, pesto optional. It's the first year Mt Hutt has had the oven and it presents a unique way to eat lunch or a snack.

There is also a story that goes with the unavailability of the triple.

The chair was inadvertently knocked out of commission by an avalanche initiated by staff after the immense snowfall that made the base so good. It added a novel spin to the term "controlled avalanche".

For those who usually venture further south to Queenstown or Wanaka, Mt Hutt presents a great option for Cantabrians and a reason for northerners to be a little unpredictable and bypass the obvious.

For accommodation options near the mountain, Methven compares to Ohakune for fans of Turoa.

It's a small town, has the basics but also boasts the high calibre restaurant The Last Post Cafe. The mushroom sauce steak is outstanding and so is the Kahlua, espresso and icecream affogato for dessert.

We stayed at Brinkley Resort, just off State Highway 77 heading into Methven township. The place has the feel of Swiss chalets arranged in a tiny village centred on the reception area and the resort's own bar and restaurant.

The 80 self-contained apartments and studios were recently refurbished so there is a hint of character amid the modern styling.

The twin outdoor spa pools, hot rather than tepid, are just what Dr Feelgood ordered after a painstaking day carving up the slopes like a butcher with bloodlust.

An easy hour's drive from on-the-mend Christchurch, Methven and Mt Hutt complement each other.

Mt Hutt is your reason for getting up in the morning. Methven is your excuse for coming off the mountain. Yin and yang are sated.


Barney McDonald travelled to Mt Hutt courtesy of Christchurch & Canterbury Tourism. See christchurchnz.com

- Herald on Sunday

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