Mt Potts

Helicopter access to Mt Potts

Mt Potts can only be accessed by helicopter in winter

Located near Mt Hutt and the small town of Methven, a couple of hours from Christchurch, Mt Potts is a private ski area accessible only by helicopter. At the time of my visit (as an expensive treat during my season in Queenstown), a helicopter dropped us at the base and then from there a snowcat was used to get us up to the top for each run, so it was a cat-skiing operation rather than a heli-skiing one. Not long after that, it was changed into a full-blown heli-skiing operation named Helipark NZ, with the snowcat dropped and helicopter access provided instead on a pay-per-run basis. This sounded, and apparently was, absolutely awesome – however, Helipark NZ closed in 2011 until further notice (for extensive renovations according to their website), and remains closed as of 2018.

Boarding the helicopter

Morning ride up to Mt Potts base station from the lodge

But if it does eventually re-open in some form or other, I can highly recommend it – it was an awesome day’s riding, as we were free to pick any line we wanted and never had to worry about avoiding beginners, watching out for idiots sitting in the middle of the slope below a crest, and all the other things you usually have to pay attention to; you just picked your line and then blasted down it with your biggest, most shit-eating grin plastered across your face. The terrain’s excellent and has plenty for intermediates as well as more advanced riders, though with this being New Zealand the snow’s hit-and-miss – for our visit, it was deep but with a hard crust on top, not perfect by any means but still by far the best day’s riding I had in NZ (…or possibly ever!)

Cat-skiing at Mt Potts

The snowcat used to ferry riders back up from the base station after each run

Another random thing about Mt Potts is its proximity to one of the more famous and striking locations used in the Lord of the Rings movies. Mt Summer, a small mountain standing alone in the wide river plain below Mt Potts, was used as the location for Edoras (the capital city of Rohan), which featured prominently in the second film of the trilogy (The Two Towers). We had a smashing view of it during our helicopter rides up & down, and even though the film set is long since dismantled it’s immediately recognisable to LOTR fans; it even turned out that one of our ski guides that day was a capable horseman and was an extra in the films as one of the Riders of Rohan. Being a massive geek I was stoked to see this place:

View of Mt Summer, used as the set for Edoras in the Lord of the Rings

View of ‘Edoras’ from the helicopter

…and how it looked in The Two Towers:

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