Mt Olympus Skiing Terrain

Mt Olympus Skiing Terrain

Our Terrain Ratings

Powderhound rating = advanced/expert terrain + powder + freshies + uncrowded

Our Terrain Ratings

Powderhound rating = advanced/expert terrain + powder + freshies + uncrowded
Mt Olympus Trail Map
  • Vertical (m)
    1,430 – 1,880 (450)
  • Average Snow Fall
    4.5 metres
  • Lifts (4)
    4 Rope Tows

  • Ski Hours
    9:00am to 9:00pm
  • Terrain Summary
    Beginner - 10%
    Intermediate - 55%
    Advanced - 35%

Mt Olympus Ski and Snowboard Terrain

Like many other club ski fields in NZ, Mt Olympus has lots of characteristics that rhyme with “eek” or “eep”. Sure it’s steep, deep, cheap and unique, but there are also gnarly lines that will make you shriek and freak, a lift system that is antique, and keas with plenty of cheek. Anyway that’s enough of rhyming, but if you want all the powder to yourself, go mid-week and take a sneak peak!

Mt Olympus is somewhat like the backcountry except that it has rope-tows to assist with transport up the mountain. It is essentially one large alpine bowl with a combination of challenging terrain (with steep narrow chutes, rocky outcrops and other sweaty-palm runs), and low angle wide open slopes well suited to the off-piste intermediate rider. There is also a very small area for beginners, but Mount Olympus is not particularly ideal for those on their “L” plates.

Officially the ski area only has 60 hectares of terrain. No wonder nearby Craigieburn thinks they are “The Big One” at 400 hectares. To put Mt Olympus into perspective, Jackson Hole in the US (another “The Big One”) is 1,066 hectares, and Whistler is 3,307 hectares, 55 times the size of Mt Olympus. OK the ski area at Mt Olympus is petite, but what it lacks in size it makes up for with character. And Mt Olympus provides the perfect gateway for hiking and backcountry touring so there’s an endless supply of untracked powder to sample.

Mount Olympus Lifts

The ski area is predominantly serviced by three successive nutcracker rope-tows as well as a small learners’ tow. If you haven’t experienced the joys of a NZ club field rope-tow as yet, see our advice on how to ride a nutcracker rope-tow. Don’t use your expensive spiffy gloves, use a glove protector, or buy a pair of heavy duty leather fleece lined riggers gloves (even if yellow isn’t your colour!). 

If you don’t have your own tow belt, there is a wide ranging selection in the small hut at the car park. By wide-ranging selection we mean that they range from really really crap to good. Choose wisely or prepare to embarrass yourself on the tow when your nutcracker fails to close properly and you come off the lift! Otherwise if you’re heading out with Black Diamond Safaris, you’ll have the pleasure of using one of their harnesses and modern nutcrackers, which will make things much easier.

Thankfully the rope-tows at Mt Olympus are relatively easy to load (compared to ski areas such as Craigieburn) because they start downhill or on a relatively gentle slope. The main tow is on the left, whilst the access and top tows are on the right, so snowboarders will a disadvantage on at least one of the lifts.

Beginners be warned. The Access Tow at the car park loads about a third of the way along the lift. It’s not the easiest of starts to your skiing day, especially if you’re carrying an overnight pack.

The top tow only goes to 1,880 metres of elevation yet the peak of Mt Olympus is 2,096m and The Sphinx 2,091m, so hiking is required to get to the goods. 

There is sometimes night skiing within a small area for those staying on-mountain.

Lift Tickets

Lift tickets are purchased at the Top Hut after you have ridden the Access Tow. Lift passes are reasonably priced. There are also very affordable family day passes.

Lift tickets can also be packaged up as part of a ski week.

Another economical way to visit Mt Olympus is the Chill pass. Chill offers multi-day passes that are valid at various ski areas including Broken River, Porters, Craigieburn and Temple Basin.

Mt Olympus Snow

The ski area is a south-facing bowl that is renowned for catching the powder. Located at the end of the Craigieburn Range, Mt Olympus gets snow from both southeast and northwest storms. Its aspect not only accumulates snow, but also keeps it fresher for longer and combined with low skier numbers means freshies last longer here than in most other NZ ski fields. When there is powder to be had, Mt Olympus has some of the best NZ has to offer.

Even though Mt Olympus often has great powder, this is New Zealand, so snow conditions can vary incredibly. Expect anything from deep pow to wind-packed snow, crust, bumps, or spring-time slop. There is no man-made grooming at Mt Olympus, only the natural grooming that the wind might provide.

Even though the lift accessed terrain snow can turn sour very quickly if the temps increase or god forbid it rains. However even if snow is feral in the piste areas, you can generally find decent snow if you hike and chase the sun.

Down the bottom of the Access Tow, below the car park, nasty rocks await just below the snow. These sharp rocks are the masters of ski destruction, be wary.

For the Beginner

There is a very small beginners’ area within a stone’s throw of the Top Hut lodge, but this is a “beginners area” as defined by the kiwis (where kids are built pretty tough!). It’s rather steep for a green run, and the ease of riding here is also dependent upon the natural snow conditions because there’s no grooming.

There is also the challenge of getting up from the car park to the lodge, although if staying for the week, novices only have to tackle this once. Options to get up to this area include a walk or a daunting attempt at the nutcracker rope-tow. Subsequently Mt Olympus is only suited to adventurous (and very fit) beginners. Small children can get a tow up behind an adult or sit over an adult’s leg whilst riding the rope-tow.

Intermediate Ski and Snowboard Terrain

There are various blue runs, but these are not groomed so they are only suitable for intermediate off-piste skiers and snowboarders. The terrain here will make the average intermediate skier who can competently manage a groomed blue run at a commercial ski resort feel like a complete amateur.

For the Family / Kids

Mt Olympus is only suitable for “hard-core” families. For families with small children (or those learning to ride), the beginners’ area has the advantage of being easily visible from the day/accommodation lodge. Other advantages for families are cheap (or free) lift tickets and family passes.

Parks & Pipes

Mt Olympus doesn’t have a man-made terrain park for shredders, only natural features including various hits on the Frozen Waves run. No one is in a hurry, so the other alternative is to stop and build a kicker yourself. The ‘speed hump’ in front of the top hut is as good a park feature as most would require.

Advanced Skiing Mt Olympus

There are various black runs within the lift accessed terrain. Those to the skiers’ left are generally more open, whilst those to the right have more terrain features including rocks, chutes, rollers and bumps. Some of the lines are quite challenging but the beauty of the treeless terrain is that you can pick whichever one takes your fancy.

Expert Ski and Snowboard Terrain

Hiking is required to get to the really awesome steep terrain, but check with ski patrol regarding the avalanche risk and have your backpack with safety gear in situ. Hiking up to the summit of Mt Olympus, Little Alaska or The Sphinx will reward you with some gnarly lines. Chutes 1, 2, 3, and 4 are all viewable from the hot tub, so make it look good when you rip them up!

To get the most out of Mt Olympus, consider hiring a guide via Black Diamond Safaris.

Mt Olympus provides backcountry touring opportunities to Craigieburn, Broken River or Mt Cheeseman.