Trip Report: Broken River, NZ.
On Blister’s trip to New Zealand last year, we talked about how distinctive Canterbury’s ski culture is compared to any other place in the world we’ve skied. On this trip, we spent time at another Canterbury club field: Broken River.
Broken River Ski Area not only has one of the most relaxed and friendly vibes of any club field we’ve been to, it also has a very cool history.
The History of Broken River
In the early 1950s, young members of a local youth recreational club decided they no longer wanted to spend their winters exclusively ice skating, they wanted to ski, too.
The established club fields at the time didn’t work for the young men and women, so they decided to build their own.
Nearby members of the Canterbury Mountaineering Club (now the Craigieburn Valley Ski Club), showed the young skiers exciting terrain in the adjacent valley. In 1951, twelve founding members of the Broken River grabbed their picks and shovels and began constructing a road through the valley to the ski field.
If you’ve ever spent time in New Zealand’s beautiful beech forests, you know that the terrain is steep and the vegetation is thick. Before the road was completed, members carried in all the necessary building materials for the huts on their backpacks for all six kilometers.
And in order to get the tow running, they mounted an old Rugby car engine on a sledge so that the engine could use its own power to winch itself up, from tree to tree, all the way to the bottom of the basin. Pretty rugged.
In just five years, the members built 5 kilometers of road, cut a foot track to the ski field, constructed a 24-bunk lodge, installed the first rope tow, and finished a day lodge in the ski basin. As one Broken River member noted, the young skiers’ “only assets were muscles and a great deal of enthusiasm.”
Broken River Today
These days, Broken River is much easier to get to, but definitely still makes for an adventurous trip. After driving up the narrow road to the parking lot, visitors and their bags can ride the inclinator up to the lodge. The inclinator runs from 8:30-11:30am and from 3:30-5:30pm—but you may want to double check the times when you visit, since if you miss or decide to skip the inclinator, you’ll face a 40 minute walk to the hill, with you ski gear.
Broken River’s ticket office and Lyndon Lodge are right at the top of the inclinator. The Lyndon Lodge sits in on a beautiful perch in the beech forest, and has an incredible view looking out over the valley.
Staying at Broken River
Guests have the option of staying at the Lyndon Lodge, which serves a delicious dinner, and breakfast is available, too. And the view from the dining room is spectacular.
Plus, over dinner, there’s a good chance that a long time BR club member will share stories with you about the club from the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s.
Above Lyndon, there are two other hostel-type lodges that are self-catered.
From the ticket office and the lodge, it is a short walk up to the access tow. Like the other club fields, Broken River does not have chairlifts, only rope tows. While it may take a minute for new users to get the hang of them, they are a fast and efficient way to get up the mountain, and club and staff members are more than happy to help you get the hang of the nutcrackers and rope tows.
The Palmer Day Lodge
As I mentioned before, Broken River is very friendly and welcoming for families. This inviting atmosphere is most evident at the Palmer Lodge, which sits immediately below the ski field.
The large sunny deck can often be seen with kids running around playing in the snow, or people cooking their lunch on the grill. And you will almost always be joined on the deck by a Kea or two, natural born entertainers.
Inside, the lodge has a pool table, and serves excellent, homemade pizzas
While it is a lot of fun to hang out at the lodge, Broken River has some pretty fun terrain as well.
In addition to the main bowl and chutes easily accessible from the tows, there is some awesome terrain that is within short hiking distance on either side of the ski area.
Here is a photo gallery to help round out the picture of Broken River.
(Click on images to enlarge.)