This blog was originally published in September 2018 and updated August 2019.
And as much as we love the above resorts, at The Snow Chasers we’re all about exploring. So recently we threw the snowboards in the back of the ute and headed north (from Queenstown), hoping to discover some new riding territory. And to our surprise there are quite a few ski areas within a 3-hour drive from Queenstown, namely Mt Ohau, Round Hill, and Mt Dobson. On this particular trip, we visited Mt Dobson (in the Canterbury region) but are planning on riding the other two very soon (Mt Ohau August 2019) – watch this space!
Mt Dobson, or affectionally known as Dobo to the locals, is located between Tekapo and Fairlie, about 280kms north of Queenstown and 200kms south of Christchurch. The access road leaves the Fairlie-Tekapo Rd (8) about 12kms from Fairlie and is approx. 14km to the carpark. The road is not too challenging or narrow but having a 4wd is definitely the best option – 2wd access is OK but expect to fit chains even with the lightest snowfall.
Mt Dobson Mountain Statistics
Base Area Elevation: 1615m
Highest Lifted Point: 2030m
Vertical Rise: 415m
Skiable Area: 400+ hectares
Terrain: 25% beginner / 50% intermediate / 25% advanced
Lifts: 1 x Triple Chair, 1 x T-Bar, 1 x Poma, 1 x beginner rope tow
Operating Hours: 9am to 4pm
For a little bit of fun, I thought I would perform a suggested warm-up routine!
There is no on-mountain accommodation available at Mt Dobson so look to stay in either Tekapo (absolutely magic views over Lake Tekapo) or Fairlie. You could try Burkes Pass or Kimbell too but there are limited options in these small towns. And if you’re in Fairlie or passing through, be sure to drop into the Fairlie Bakehouse – pies and cakes to satisfy everyone!
Tickets and Facilities at Mt Dobson
The carpark is right at the base, with less than a 2-minute walk to the ticket office.
Lift tickets will set you back $84 for a full day and $58 for a half day (from 12:30pm). There’s one small café serving mainly pies (from Fairlie Bakehouse), coffee and snacks. With the carpark so close, we noticed the locals would picnic out of their cars – some even had little camping ovens! A cool option if you had time to plan.
The mountain is serviced by a fixed triple chair, one T-bar, one Poma and one beginner’s rope tow. The beginner area is pretty small but the Poma-serviced runs are very mellow so no problems for newbies. That is, if they master the Poma – we had to have a couple of attempts on our snowboards! People on skis, or at least those who knew what they were doing, didn’t seem to struggle as much.
Dobo does a pretty good job on their groomers – plenty of terrain to explore if you don’t want to ride off-piste. As there hadn’t been much new snow recently, we mainly rode the Saddle Chair to make the most of the freshly groomed runs. Just under the chair is a natural halfpipe that we had a heap of fun on. There are also plenty of little side hits to keep things interesting. It was pretty much blue runs off the chair – fun but not too challenging. Riding to the top of the Fairlie Ridge T-Bar allows you to drop some interesting terrain, like Early Morning and Top Fence. We rode these but had to be a little reserved, carefully avoiding the rocks. We still managed to find little pockets of pow, even though the last snow reported was only 2cm the day before.
And that’s the great thing about riding out-of-the way places – you still find fresh lines even though it hadn’t snowed in a day or two. And no lift lines either – straight on every time! Most of the day we really felt like we had the mountain to ourselves.
Without a doubt, we were looking at lines we'd love to drop on a powder day - Mt Dobson would offer some pretty amazing terrain on a (or recent) powder day. At a guess, I think we really only got to ride half the mountain due to the lack of snow – a visit will be scheduled on a pow day!
Ski Resorts Off The Beaten Track
There was definitely a different vibe at Mt Dobson compared to the larger commercial ski fields. Although still classified as a commercial ski area, it has a club field atmosphere – very relaxed and uncrowded. Just be prepared as the facilities and lifts are not the same as the commercial ski resorts but if want to explore new terrain, have uncrowded lift lines, slopes and lunch areas, then Mt Dobson is a great option for skiing in New Zealand.
If you’ve been to Mt Dodson or have another favourite out-of-the-way New Zealand ski resort you’d like to share your thoughts on, or have any questions, please leave a comment below.
Until then, keep searching for the perfect line!
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Mick is a lover of speed runs and hitting every feature on the mountain. Ex road bike and motocross racer with plans to dabble in mountain bike racing. Spends a lot of time looking at fast cars and bikes. Jen’s instagram model and selfie camera holder due to long arms. Sometimes an optometrist.