“ Address: Bottom of Mountain Road / Ohakune / New Zealand / Tel: 0064 6 385 8888 „
The Powderhorn Chateau is a luxury hotel located on the outskirts of a small skiing town called Ohakune, about half a day's drive north of Wellington. If you are driving through the area, I strongly recommend it as a place to stay. We came here in April 2009, which is Autumn in New Zealand and not ski season.
Surprisingly enough for a luxury hotel, the price is affordable by UK standards (even given the current terrible exchange rates), because New Zealand is generally a lot cheaper. Prices are currently around NZD$200 (about £90) per room per night in the summer and NZD$230 (about £100) in the winter. If you can't afford this for your whole trip, I can recommend a camp site half a mile further down the road for you instead for $6 a night where you can stay for the rest of your holiday!
It is located at the southernmost edge of the Tongariro National park, on the southern foothills of Mount Ruapehu, a very active volcano which is also home to the North Island's two ski areas (Whakapapa and Turoa). Turoa is the ski field that is serviced by Ohakune - all the accomocation is down in the village and skiers must daily brave the narrow knife-edge winding road leading up to the resort - but, hey, this is New Zealand and the locals don't do things by halves, particularly their famous love of adventure sports.
As well as skiers, this is also a good place for hiking. The Tongariro crossing is one of the North Island's most celebrated trails and has the added advantage that it is only one day long. The area is in the middle of nowhere though, so if you leave the main road, you quickly reach places that feel like there are no humans for many miles around.
The rooms were large and spacious and came with the standard set of television, ironing facilities, fridge with minibar, telephone and tea making facilities. There was one queen bed and one single, a sofa, a table, a bathroom and a walk in closet that was larger than many rooms I've stayed in. Many of the rooms have balconies and some have spa baths.
The chateau has an opulent feel of a hunting lodge, ski chalet and luxury hotel all rolled into one. The walls are made of varnished log, the carpets thick and luxurious. Surprisingly, given the carpets, it was not at all dusty, but was clean and easy to breathe throughout. Lifts operate to every floor, though we generally found it quicker to walk than wait. There are lots of steps in the building, but ramps or lifts everywhere help with the accessibility.
There is an executive suite called "The Mansion", which is where Peter Jackson stayed during production of Lord of the Rings. More recently, it homed the comedy duo Flight of the Conchords when they were filming New Zealand scenes for their latest series. If it isn't occupied, you may be able to get a look around, like we did. The suite contains several bedrooms, nearly as many bathrooms, and a lounge area with a bar. There is also a guest book kept in that suite which all the big stars who stayed at the chateau signed. At NZD$750 per night (about £350), it was out of our price range, but affordable to a group.
Sadly, we were only staying for one night, so we didn't get a chance to adequately try out all the amenities the hotel had to offer. These included a hot pool, laundry, a games room, internet and conferencing facilities.
We did try out the restaurant and the breakfast bar, both of which offered a wide range of food, including for vegetarians. They were very helpful at dealing with other food requests (no dairy). Breakfast was included in the price, and the dinner cost us about £20 per person, including wine.
There is a supermarket nearby in the village and an ice cream shop that must not be missed. Next door to the hotel is a ski shop, though we didn't visit as we were there out of ski season.
===Lord of the Rings connection===
The chateau has a strong Lord of the Rings connection - when the Mordor scenes were being filmed nearby, much of the cast and many of the crew were housed here. You can request to stay in a star's room. If you pay NZD$20 (about £8), you can get a certificate stating that you stayed in that particular star's room and get a key fob for the room number. We stayed in Andy Serkis' room, though we didn't find any graffiti saying that Gollum was there!
Our experience with the staff was that they were warm, friendly and helpful in a chatty kind of way - do talk to them as they have some very interesting tales to tell (Their lips were, of course, sealed about the stars!).
When we asked if there were a microwave we could use to warm through some food, we were told that there wasn't but that they'd sort something out for us. Ten minutes later, a takeaway bag was presented to us with everything neatly packaged in separate boxes.
This was my favourite hotel in New Zealand. Warm, friendly and luxurious, I couldn't have asked for anything more!
Review cross-posted elsewhere