Roundhill Ski Field NZ
Roundhill ski field in New Zealand used to be aptly named. The Roundhill ski area was very small and sat atop a smooth topped dome – a little round hill with perfect beginner terrain that was incredibly popular with families. Roundhill’s reputation as a great family and beginners’ hill still stands, but 2010 saw a remarkable transformation of this NZ ski field.
With the introduction of a new super long nutcracker ropetow
, the ski area has expanded way beyond the little round hill to a huge adjoining face. The lift accessed vertical drop is now a whopping 780 metres, the longest of any NZ ski area. Terrain size has also significantly increased from a wee 60 hectares to about 500 hectares (1,236 acres), making it one of the largest New Zealand ski resorts.
However just because Roundhill has become a mega ski area doesn’t mean that it’s foregone its back-to-basics culture. Even though Roundhill is a commercial ski field you could be forgiven for mistaking it for a NZ club field
considering the simplicity of the facilities and the very friendly vibe.
Roundhill Ski and Snowboard Terrain
The “old” part of the ski terrain is mainly serviced by three lifts. A T-bar provides access to various groomed intermediate runs, a green trail, and a terrain park that includes various jumps. T2 (another T-bar) provides access to a blue slopes, whilst a platter lift and a couple of baby ropetows service the novices’ area that conveniently sits adjacent to the car park, aka The Beach. With cars parked on the edge of the slope, parents lounge in the sun on their deck chairs and dive into their Eskies (chilly bins) for refreshments whilst watching the kiddies learning to ski. Thankfully (or regrettably?) no one wears their bikinis!
The new terrain off the Heritage Express Rope Tow essentially consists of a big face that’s long, wide and steep. You might get vertigo at the top! A long traverse to either side of the ropetow provides infinite (but very similar) lines, and considering the ski area is almost deserted, there’s a good chance of finding virgin snow. The only downside may be the quality of the snow considering that the big slope bakes in the sun and is prone to melt-freeze cyles. Mornings may potentially be hell whilst afternoons may be absolute “bluss”!
Where is Round Hill Ski Field?
Roundhill ski area is located in the Mackenzie District, 32km from the township of Lake Tekapo
(a 35 minute drive) which is the approximate half way point on the highway between Queenstown
and Christchurch. Tekapo is 227km southwest of Christchurch and 257km northeast of Queenstown, and Aoraki Mt Cook
is not far away as the crow flies.
The access road to Roundhill is not paved, yet relative to other NZ ski field roads the drive is a breeze. The road is not particularly steep and there are no nasty scary drop-offs. And unlike its NZ counterparts the Roundhill car park is not muddy.
Other ski fields in the Mackenzie District include Ohau
and Mt Dobson
, and like Roundhill they are “off the beaten track” so skier traffic is at an absolute minimum.
Roundhill has no on-mountain accommodation. Nearby Tekapo has a lot of lodging options including various Lake Tekapo hotels
, motels, backpackers, bed and breakfasts, and rental houses. Much of the accommodation is reasonably priced.
Roundhill Ski Area Facilities
The ski field facilities and services are somewhat basic, but more than adequate for the essentials. The day lodge has a licensed cafe and many visitors just brown bag it (or chilly bin it), whilst the Von Brown Hut is a fabulous spot for apres ski drinks. Equipment hire is available including ski, snowboard, toboggan, and nutcracker and harness rental. Roundhill also provides very inexpensive ski and snowboard lessons with the Benzeenees Snowsports School – fantastic name!
Why Ski Tekapo at Roundhill?
Roundhill has stupendous views across Lake Tekapo and the surrounding mountains, and is very inexpensive relative to the big New Zealand ski resorts. Roundhill has also been long recognised as a fantastic mountain for families or anyone learning to ski or snowboard.
The new ropetow has not just provided Roundhill with a facelift – it’s completely reinvented itself as a ski field for advanced, expert and backcountry riders. In the right conditions the new area at Roundhill may have powderhounds doing circles considering the lack of crowds and the big big vertical. Porters ski field are proud of their run “Big Mama” that they claim is the longest steepest single slope in the Southern Hemisphere, but Roundhill has now made a mockery of their claim to fame. The new saying at Roundhill is “Big Mama: Who’s Your Daddy?”!