Richard Hayes Digital

What makes a skifield unforgettable?

Roundhill Skifield, Tekapo

So, what makes a skifield unforgettable? The snow? The weather? Or is it the company you had that day? It’s probably a combination of the above.

We all have those days. The ones you tell yourself you will never forget. In 2023, we had one of those experiences: an exceptional day skiing at Roundhill Skifield in Tekapo, New Zealand.

It started with a two-week ski trip through the South Island of New Zealand, with skiing at The Remarkables, Coronet Peak and Cardrona in Wanaka. The snow conditions in Queenstown at the time were very scratchy (and that’s being generous), with limited cover on many trails, but hey, we certainly made the most of it on the skiable runs.

After hearing the forecast that a significant snowstorm had just hit Canterbury, we headed to Tekapo as fast as we could pack our gear. It turned out to be a great call!

Now, back to the original question: What makes a skifield unforgettable? For us, on this trip, it started with our approach to Tekapo. The Mackenzie District is unique. Your sense of scale is thrown. The Mackenzie District feels like a giant’s playground. The hills thrust themselves up from the plains, giving you the impression of large jelly moulds on a tabletop.

Oh, the colours! Pinks, greens, and browns, contrasted by the white of the snow. So good and we haven’t reached Tekapo yet.

what makes a ski field unforgettable? Tekapo Landscape

Let’s imagine a perfect winter wonderland postcard. Snow had fallen to the lake’s edge in Tekapo, so the whole town and landscape were a brilliant white contrasted by the lake’s turquoise. It was the stuff of dreams. I had never skied Roundhill Skifield before. It was all set to be an exciting day.

One of the great things we love about travelling is comparing landscapes; we do it all the time. It’s amazing how similar landscapes are all around the world. As we drove around Lake Tekapo to Roundhill, the natural beauty of the lake and mountains brought back memories of Lake Tahoe in California.

The road to Roundhill Skifield is an easy drive; it rolls through farmland and is well-maintained. You hit the main tar-sealed section of the mountain road to the skifield after about 15 minutes.

When arriving at Roundhill Skifield

You first notice it is a round hill! It’s funny that!

After a leisurely unpacking, as that is the vibe of Roundhill – very chill, we ventured to the ticket office, which, by the way, is a shed; however, a big shed but still a corrugated iron shed.

When we weren’t transfixed by the view, we noticed the ticket prices board on the wall. It was surprising to see an old-fashioned red price board. In today’s world of doing everything digitally, it was refreshing to see something as basic as a board, not a digital screen or online. Showing our age here!

Tickets were bought, and it was onto the lifts. At Roundhill Skifield, there are no chairlifts, only rope tows and T-bars. Again, this added to the feel of skiing “old school” with no modern comforts removing the connection with the mountain.

After all, the joy of skiing is being immersed in the environment, with all the discomfort that comes with it.

On the T-bar, to the top, you can’t help but notice the imposing hill on the right, Australasia’s biggest vertical drop. It’s enormous and steep! It only opens when there is enough snow. Luckily, it was closed, so skiing that run wouldn’t be a problem. However, another day, possibly?

Now, about the snow. It was fresh and chalky, with an air of spring skiing about it. Older powder off the trail. It was the perfect mix of snow we all love. You didn’t feel the need to leave the trails; the snow was so smooth and forgiving that you just kept skiing the groomed runs over and over and over again. 

You feel you ski “on the mountain” at Roundhill not “in the mountain”. On other skifields you can find yourself disappearing into gullies and chutes, never do you feel enclosed at Roundhill, it is wide open. The sky is big, Lake Tekapo is always visible on the right and the runs super-wide and super-groomed.

There were no queues; in fact, there were no people! Hang on, is it Sunday? Wow! We had the mountain to ourselves for the morning, and in the afternoon, a few people arrived – however not enough to create queues. That alone would have been good enough to make this day one of the best skiing days on the South Island ever!

Now comes the good part: as I’m sure you do, we always judge a skifield by its facilities. So when it came to lunch, we headed to the cafe, a simple building full of glass windows for the view. There’s no point in hiding that! 

I am a big fan of toasted sandwiches, the ultimate food group – there is not much you can’t put in a “toastie” So when their menu said you can choose your fillings and they make them fresh for you, I nearly fell over – who does that?

I have never seen a cafe on a skifield do this before. By the way, it was the “best” toasted sandwich with the best view. Five-star food!

But it’s not the skiing or the facilities that make Roundhill so special. Although the skiing is very good, the unforgettable attraction of Roundhill is the view! It is staggeringly gorgeous. Today, with the low snow coverage, the image was the quintessential ski postcard.

Yes, we were lucky with the snow that had just fallen, but if you’re not there, you won’t experience it. Is that the true message of this article?

Finally, and probably the best part, was skiing with my friend of over 30 years. We enjoyed each other’s company and slightly pushed each other, as blokes always tend to do. It doesn’t matter what age. We laughed, skied, ate, and drank, but mostly skied our legs off.

I believe this day was one of the most privileged days of my life. I got to ski and journey with my best mate on a two-week ski trip throughout the South Island, culminating to this day at Roundhill.

That day had all the elements we talked about, such as snow, views, weather, and the company of friends, which created an unforgettable skiing experience at Roundhill.

Is there an answer to the question we asked at the beginning of this article, or is it ultimately more about creating as many unforgettable moments as possible, whether on a skifield or not, in your lifetime?

The more you ski, you will create moments that you will never forget.

90 / 100

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