Lewis Pass Tops

Lewis pass tops offer a classic Kiwi mixed tramping and ski touring experience.

This area is on the main divide and gets its snow from the westerly quarter. Often early season storms from the SW can miss the Canterbury ranges further east but might put a good cover on the main divide. In a case such as this it’s worth the drive from Christchurch just for something different.

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The access is via a well-marked track that climbs 400m through the bush to the tops. At the high point of Lewis Pass (A on map) there is a small car park for a couple of cars. It is just above the highway and access suits 4WD vehicles. For other cars it may be better to park the vehicle back at the entrance to the St James Walkway a few hundred metres East of the pass.

After an hour or so walking up the steep-ish track you reach the bush edge (B) at 1300m. If you have judged the snowfalls accurately you will be able to put on skis at this stage. Skin up the moderate slopes of the Lewis Tops to point 1568 (C). The best slopes to ski down are south of here, 250 vertical metres to the bush edge.

One might choose to do laps of this slope, or go further along the range for an explore. One could make a camp in the headwaters of Deer Valley under Mt Technical. However with such a short access track it makes more sense to drop back to the cars and sleep at Maruia Springs, which has the luxury of thermal pools and beer.

If you are returning from the Western end of the range, and afternoon cloud limits visibility, it will help your navigation back to the access track if you keep the steep slopes of the Maruia face on your left, i.e. keep going N of east and don’t veer into the Deer Valley. A GPS way point at the bush edge would be very wise.