New hut to revive historic Canterbury ski field

A new eight-bunk hut is under construction at the old Mt Potts ski field by Alpine Huts in a bid...
A new eight-bunk hut is under construction at the old Mt Potts ski field by Alpine Huts in a bid to boost local ski tourism. Photo: Ashburton Guardian via Local Democracy Reporting
A new hut being built at an old ski field aims to bring visitors back to Mt Potts in Canterbury for skiing.

Alpine Huts Ltd is building an eight-bunk hut on Mt Potts in a bid to boost local ski tourism.

Alpine Huts director Tom Evatt hopes to have the hut ready for public use this winter.

“I’ve imagined it more for ski touring but it’s a hut at the end of the day and will be used by anyone who wants to head into the mountains for hunting, hiking, or skiing.”

Evatt was motivated by the demand created by similar alpine huts on Glenmore Station in the Cass Valley, out the back of Lake Tekapo.

“As ski touring’s popularity has grown the demand for accommodation has increased because it’s pretty hard-core winter camping.”

Mt Potts is an ideal location and viable as a backcountry ski area, Evatt said.

The Department of Conservation approved a concession application in September last year for the hut and associated structures for accommodation at the Erewhon Park ski field on Mt Potts, which had been established in 1964, for recreational backcountry ski-touring.

The site is listed as a ski area in DOC’s conservation management strategy and was used by a heli-skiing company until 2011.

However, it has been abandoned as a ski area.

In his application, Evatt stated it would be “uneconomic to open and operate a traditional ski field at Mt Potts”.

“There is an opportunity to re-invent Mt Potts as a backcountry ski area destination for ski touring and split boarding with minimal investment and infrastructure.”

Snow sports opportunities “are increasingly under threat due to the effects of climate change and the failing economics of existing club fields”.

“A fresh approach needs to be taken to continue to provide snow sport opportunities which is precautionary in so far as any infrastructure maybe ultimately be removed and is light in terms of its environmental footprint.”

He has been granted the lease for the construction of one permanent hut – a 19m2 structure with an additional 2.2m2 deck, as well as two seasonal temporary winter yurts, toilet facilities, and a storage shed.

The yurts will be erected on permanent timber decks in the autumn for the winter and removed in the spring.

The storage shed will house the temporary accommodation in the summer, as well as firewood and hut supplies.

The accommodation is for public use and will use a website, also under construction, for online bookings and paying the hut fee, Evatt said.

There is an existing access road which allows people to access the area on foot or using e-bikes, or people can be lifted in by helicopter, he said.

By Jonathan Leask, Local Democracy Reporter

■ LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air.