Mt Olympus to Cheeseman ski field is a suitably popular backcountry ski route, and is close to Christchurch. There are many good touring options in easy to moderate terrain.
We did this tour starting at Mt Olympus, (after a good night of partying at the Olympus lodge) and heading to Cheeseman, but it can also be skied from Cheeseman ski field to Olympus. Both fields are on the east side of the Craigieburn Range; Cheeseman ski field to the north, Olympus ski field to the south. To the SE is Porters Heights ski field. Another option is to join the Craigieburn ridge from Porters Height.
We used the rope tow to get as high as possible, as we could save some time, and use it to ski in the many sunny bowls on the route. You can ask Patrol if they wouldn’t mind if you leave your nutcracker tow grip and belt at the top near the bullwheel. Or as another skier if they wouldn’t mind returning it for you to the lodge; should your plan be to not return to the Mt Olympus ski field.
From the top of the rope tow, the initial slopes are the steepest, getting up and over Mt Olympus. The snow can be firm and I would expect that on many occasions, early in the morning, one would be most likely to be bootpacking up. If conditions are really firm then crampons could be required, and there is some exposure. This is the crux of the trip and classifies the tour as moderate.
The rest of the route to Cheeseman skifield is easier and involves travel along a broad ridge. On occasions this may have been stripped of snow by the wind and require travel on either side. The resulting windslab to the lee of the winds at the head of the bowls would be worth considering. Most basins lead back to the bottom of the ski fields so there are many ‘bail out’ options. It is good to note that Craigieburn ridge is exposed to the wind, and would be uncomfortable in inclement weather.
There are multiple basins and bowls along the way offering lots and lots of really fun diversions to ski in. There are some lovely couloirs and crags in the head of the Ryton Valley to ski from, and around Mt Olympus itself. The Ryton Valley also offers some wonderful skiing, and can be used to get back to the bottom of the My Olympus Road. As an option, one could play in the Ryton basins, then ski down the Ryton Valley (with good snow cover) and stay overnight in the Mt Olympus Bottom Hut (bookings can be made thru Mt Olympus ski area). This is a good option if the Mt Olympus Ski Area top hut is fully booked already. It is relatively easy to hitch hike back up the Mt Olympus ski field the next day. Or an hour’s skin or walk will get you back up to the lodge.
Some slopes catch the sun perfectly for lovely corn skiing, whilst shaded slopes can hold powder for long periods.
Time takes around 3 hours each way without spending much time exploring and skiing. So a good option is to spent the night at Cheeseman ski field lodge before returning to Olympus.
Best time of year is August to early September.
This trip was late August 2017.