Ski Selwyn Six Road Safety Tips

In the Selwyn district, winter driving conditions can be challenging.  It can be exciting heading up to the ski areas but make sure to drive to the conditions and take care! In the mountains in winter daylight hours are shorter, temperatures colder, and we have increased rain, fog, ice and snow. 

How can you prepare for winter driving?

  • Check traffic and travel updates on the NZ Transport Authority site before you leave, or phone 0800 44 44 49.
  • Remember you may have limited mobile reception in some areas. Check the route before you head out.
  • Allow extra time for your journey in case you are delayed.
  • Check the weather forecast for your travel times and be prepared for incoming weather, it can change rapidly.
  • Consider staying the night - the ski areas all have their own mountain accommodation. Just check availability with them first.
  • Make sure you are well rested and plan where to have a break if needed. The Darfield Bakery, Sheffield Pie Shop and Springfield Service Centre are popular options!
  • Dress for the conditions, carry warm clothes, a torch and keep a survival kit in your vehicle in case you get stuck. Snacks and water are a good idea too.
  •  Ensure your car is roadworthy and keep at least half a tank of fuel in your vehicle in case you get diverted onto another route. The last stop for gas heading west is the Springfield Service Centre. They can also assist with any mechanical issues and stock a full range of chains.

What should you do on the road if it is wet or icy?

  • Drive slower than you normally would – it only takes a split second to lose control.
  • Avoid sudden braking or turning movements that could cause you to skid.
  • Accelerate smoothly and brake gently.
  • Use your highest gear when travelling uphill and your lowest downhill.
  • For vehicles without anti-skid braking systems, to avoid skidding or sliding pump the brake pedal in short rapid bursts rather than pressing long and hard.
  • Drive at a safe travelling distance. In winter, especially in poor weather, double the two-second rule and leave a safe distance between you and the car you’re following.
  • When travelling in fog, rain or snow, drive with your lights dipped for increased safety.

What about ice and snow?

  •  Take care in shaded areas where roads freeze sooner and ice may not thaw during the day.
  • Bridges may also stay slippery for longer than other road surfaces, go slow.
  • Frost is more severe at daybreak, so be prepared for this. 
  •  Watch out for maintenance vehicles.
  • In the event of an emergency,  dial 111.

The most common route to the ski areas is to head west from Christchurch on the Great Alpine Highway. Travelling west on State Highway 73 you'll pass through the small towns of Darfield, Sheffield and Springfield.  From Springfield you will head over Porters Pass and soon be at the turnoff to Porters, followed by Cheeseman, Broken River, Craigieburn Valley then just beyond the village of Arthur's Pass you'll reach the Temple Basin car park and goods lift.  The exception when travelling from Christchurch is Mt Olympus where you take Highway 77 through the small town of Windwhistle. Allow extra time to stop, enjoy the beautiful views along the way and take it easy.

Snow Chains

Snow chains are an essential piece of kit on New Zealand roads in winter. Often the ski areas will require that chains are carried at the very least, especially for two wheel drive vehicles. You can check the ski area road requirements before heading up to be sure of what will be required.
It is possible to hire chains but it is best if you know how to fit them in dry, daylight conditions before having to use them on the roadside.

  • When using chains, make sure they are fitted to the driving wheels (e.g. for a front wheel car, chains go at the front)
  • Fitted chains should be firm but not tight
  • After fitting chains, drive a short distance then check them again to make sure they are secure
  • Carry warm gloves and torch or headlamp
  • Drive slowly when using chains

Even driving with chains doesn't guarantee you're safe on the road, take it slow, watch for black ice, and enjoy the trip.

Transport Options

If you don't feel comfortable driving in mountain conditions, there is always the option of getting a ride.
Temple Basin is accessed by a walking track so this could be an option to consider as you can avoid driving up an actual mountain and use leg power instead!
Smylies in Springfield offer a bus service from Christchurch or Springfield to any of the Ski Selwyn Six ski areas excluding Temple Basin for a reasonable price. 
You can find out more about their services here:
Black Diamond Safaris offer specialist club field transport and ski guides. They can pick you up from Christchurch, Methven or anywhere in between and offer everything from basic transport to full daily guiding services.
Porters offer a shuttle service from the chain-fitting area on the access road, read more about the options here:

Stay safe and have a great trip this winter at the Ski Selwyn Six!

Ski Selwyn Six Road Safety Heading West Ski Selwyn Six Road Safety Cover Ski Selwyn Six Road Safety Cheeseman Carpark Ski Selwyn Six Road Safety Arriving at Cheeseman