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Where is Broken River? Broken River ski area is located on the Craigieburn Range in the Canterbury region of New Zealand on the South Island. It is 118km (approx 1:45hrs) from Methven and is 110km northwest (90 minutes drive) of Christchurch, half-way between Springfield (47km, approx 55 minutes away) and Arthur’s Pass.

Other ski “resorts” nearby Craigieburn Ski Area, Mt Cheeseman, Porters Ski Area, Temple Basin and Mt Olympus (as the crow flies)

Getting There From Christchurch:
From Christchurch drive west on Highway 73 and follow the signs to Arthur’s Pass. Go through Darfield, through Springfield and over Porter’s Pass. The well sign-posted turn off to Broken River is 8 km past the Castle Hill village.

The drive up the hill is only 6km and it takes about 20 minutes depending upon road conditions. It’s an unpaved road and is definitely not suitable for campervans as they only “sort of” clear the road. The climb is not too steep, the road has beech trees either side and it is not in any avalanche paths so thankfully it’s rarely closed. The road is one-way so occasionally you’ll need to do some creative reversing.

From Methven:
The main route from Methven is via the number 77 and around to Springfield on the 73. The drive takes approximately 90 minutes.

The alternate adventurous route from Methven is to take the Lake Lyndon road towards Mt Olympus. From Methven go past Rakaia Gorge and take the turnoff to Terrace Downs. Turn right at Homestead Rd and when you get to the Mt Olympus turn-off, go straight ahead down Lyndon Rd instead of left. A sign will say the road is closed as it’s a fine weather road, so it’s only open if you’re game. It’s unsealed, has corrugations, is likely to be covered in ice and snow, and at times is right next to Lake Lyndon with no room for error. Real NZ driving! It’s not at all ideal for 2WD cars unless chained up. This white-knuckle road will hit the 73 highway after 14km, and from here it’s about 11km to Castle Hill and then 8km later is the Broken River turn-off.

If taking the alternate road on the way back to Methven, the turn-off is sign-posted as “Rakaia Gorge – fine weather road”. This alternative route takes about 1:40hours depending upon the condition of the road, so unless there’s no snow on the road it’s only a fraction quicker than the standard route.


Transport Providers Black Diamond Safaris are an independent operator who can provide transport to Broken River from Methven and Christchurch. The transport-only option can be expensive for individuals and it is more ideal for groups. They also offer a range of great tours including fully guided adventures and backcountry touring.

Getting From the Carpark to the Ticket Office When the Powderhounds visited BR, the carpark was covered in ice that was smooth enough to ice-skate on. It made the donning of ski boots an entertaining challenge! Wear sturdy shoes and if necessary don’t put your ski boots on until you get to the ticket office.

New for 2009 was the Tyndall Tramway inclinometer that takes passengers as well as their luggage from the carpark up to the ticket office and the first accommodation lodge (Lyndon Lodge). The inclinometer is a combination of modern and primitive all at the same time. It’s like a cross between the Axamer Lizum tram and the plywood billy cart you made as a child! Even though the “tram car” looks a bit simple, the cable system is really sturdy so you can relax and enjoy the short but steep ride up amongst the beech trees.

The inclinometer only operates from 8:30am to 11:30am and 3 to 5 pm. If you miss it then you have to do the old-fashioned walk up to the ticket office. Broken River might say that it only takes 20 minutes but who are they fooling? It’s more like a very sweaty 45 minute tramp unless you’re super-fit.

Getting to the First Rope-Tow From the ticket office and Lyndon Lodge it’s a 5-10 minute walk up to the other accommodation lodges (Broken River Lodge and White Star Chalet). The path doesn’t have steps in all places so it can be slippery and needless to say, don’t pack a wheelie suitcase if you’re staying in one of the top lodges. From the lodges, it’s another 5-10 minutes up steps to the first rope tow.

This short walk to the ropetow is one of the factors that keeps the crowds away (with more freshies for you), so take every step in a thankful manner.

Getting Down From the ski area confident riders can ski down a path to the Lyndon Lodge. The path is narrow and it can be icy so it’s possibly not the best track to race your mates down for first beers (unless you’re a little crazy!). The path isn’t always open and then the alternative becomes walking down all the stairs.

When snow cover is great (and avalanche risk is low), advanced riders can ski from Allan’s Basin right down to the car park (stay left) to enjoy 1,000 metres of vertical bliss.
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