The Powderhorn Chateau: Don't overlook Ohakune's prize winter gem during the warmer months

Not ready to say farewell to open fires and ski slopes just yet?
Not ready to say farewell to open fires and ski slopes just yet? Photo credit:

It's fair to say my and my partner's arrival to the Powderhorn Chateau didn't exactly go as planned.

As we arrived late, the lovely reception team informed us our key would be waiting in the outdoor lockbox, which we tracked down with only a modicum of difficulty. We journeyed up to our room dreaming of a hot shower and falling into bed  - and upon walking in, found what only can be described as a 'bombsite': an unmade bed, pizza boxes and blankets strewn on a fold-out couch, and towels spilling out of the bathroom. 

We slowly backed out - terrified the occupants were still in there and would exit the bathroom with the unwelcome vision of us bags in hand - and pottered on down to the empty reception, rang through to the bar and begged the manager for help. 

It was a rocky start but I always say the sign of any place, be it a hotel, restaurant or retail outlet, is not whether a mistake is made. It's how they recover from it. 

And the Powderhorn Chateau was a masterclass. 

Brushing off apologies and completely understandable explanations of staffing issues after the COVID-19 pandemic, in the snap of a finger were shuffled into a new - better - room and promised free cocktails upon our foray into the bar the following evening. The whole saga took less than five minutes and we danced for joy upon seeing the newly renovated bathroom in our replacement room. 

And as I said, everyone makes mistakes. Earlier in the same week, I had referred to an interviewee called Jane as 'January' in one of my pieces, so I felt them on a spiritual level. 

Powderhorn hotel
One of the Powderhorn's luxurious balcony rooms. Photo credit:

You'll probably recognise the Powderhorn Chateau as a North Island winter hotspot, with an interior which looks like something straight out of an ice skating-themed Disney film. 

With its rustic log cabin aesthetic, five-star restaurant and bar boasting an impressive open fire, it's built a reputation as being the place to be during peak ski season. But in spring the rivers gush past with melted snow off the mountain and activities like hiking, biking and the last of the season's skiing are on your doorstep. 

The picturesque Powderkeg restaurant and lounge area.
The picturesque Powderkeg restaurant and lounge area. Photo credit: Powderkeg Restaurant.

Our spring getaway to the Powderhorn earlier this month convinced my partner and I that it holds its own as much in the 'ber' months as the winter months preceding them. 


The bed:

I will think about the bed at the Powderhorn until the day I die. It was one of the comfiest things I've ever slept in - like sinking into a perfect white cloud. Whether you've been skiing, hiking, biking or just pottering around Ohakune township, your body will thank you for letting it rest and restore. I voiced an audible "Oh my God" as my body, stiff from its long Auckland drive, sank into this fluffy embrace. 

Set your alarm for earlier than necessary so you can doze in and really savour it. If you're also there without children, smugly snuggle and listen to kids pelt down the corridors at 7am ready to hit the slopes - followed by the weary 'thump thump' of their parents in tow. But on that - keep in mind the Powderhorn walls are particularly thin. On our second morning, we were woken from slumber by hearing every intimate detail of the couple in the room next door thoroughly enjoying each other's company. Luckily for us, it was only for about three minutes. 

The fluffy white beds are like literal clouds.
The fluffy white beds are like literal clouds. Photo credit:

The service:

There are many reasons the Powderhorn has a 'fabulous' rating on, with the service being the major one. The staff are attentive, professional and extremely kind. Everyone from the reception team to the restaurant's front of house to the cleaners made us feel at home. An absolute must-do: park yourself up at the Powderkeg bar and enjoy a cocktail made by Callum, whose chat has you feeling like you've just popped over to a mate's house for a drink. My espresso martini (don't judge me) was one of the best I've had, but I couldn't help but be jealous as I watched him expertly make my boyfriend's rum Old Fashioned, burning the orange peel and offering several rum varieties to choose from. 

Pull a chair up at the bar and get Callum to fix you a drink.
Pull a chair up at the bar and get Callum to fix you a drink. Photo credit: Newshub.

The music:

Unexpectedly on our second night, there was a gig on - a proper gig complete with music and people. For these Aucklanders who had emerged straight out of level 2, this felt speak-easy style delightfully illegal. It wasn't, just to be clear. All social distancing regulations were (kind of) adhered to. Even though Madi Gras was cancelled this year, it felt like we had our own tiny Madi Gras, dancing in the dining room-turned-dance-floor as New Zealand drum and bass artist MC Tali sang, "it feels so good to dance again". Along with around 20 others, we boogied our hearts out before calling it at midnight, shattered after a day on the slopes and very aware of the hike we had planned for the next day. 

With winter having passed many of us by in what feels like a fleeting flurry of lockdowns and pandemic-induced uncertainty, it would be easy to overlook the chateau in the heart of ski-central Ohakune as another victim of COVID-19 and make vague plans to go next year. But this hotel is outstanding and when staying in the peace of the warmer months, feels slightly like you've inherited a manor house from some distant deceased relative you can swan around in. 

If you're looking for a spring-time escape but you're not quite ready to brave ocean waters just yet, cozy up at the Powderhorn and enjoy the last of the chill in the air. 

Sarah and her partner stayed at the Powderhorn Chateau courtesy of