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The Ultimate Guide to Skiing in New Zealand

May 10, 2022 11 min read

Free Australian Shipping on orders over $50 🙌

The Ultimate Guide to Skiing in New Zealand

Written for Auski by Pink Lemonade Social

Why Skiing in New Zealand is a Great Choice for You

New Zealand is a great choice for skiing and snowboarding because of its proximity to Australia. It has snow, mountains and other facilities that are all necessary for skiing, plus with its close proximity and incredible alps, it’s a great choice for Aussies looking for an incredible ski season including some of the best ski resorts in the world.

If you're thinking about crossing the Tasman Sea for a winter getaway, here's everything you need to know before pulling out your passport (finally)! We've got you covered on everything from the best time of year to visit the ski fields to which resorts are best, how much it will cost you, and where to stay to get the most of your trip.

Where to Ski in New Zealand

What to Expect from a Ski Holiday in New Zealand

New Zealand has many of the best snow and ski accommodation in the world. It is a perfect destination for powder hounds! New Zealand has about a dozen ski resorts, which are ideal for individuals, groups, and families looking to hit the slopes. Some are large commercial operations with grand lodges, extensive ski schools, and advanced snow-making equipment. Other clubs are smaller-run businesses with limited facilities but still a welcoming attitude towards visitors that all New Zealand businesses are known for.

What are the Best Places for Skiing in New Zealand?

With so many options, it’s easier to break them down based on North or South Island, allowing you to choose which island to make your base for your trip. The below list is aimed at adult skiers and boarders, see further down for best ski locations for families.

North Island Skiing & Snowboarding

Whakapapa and Turoa, the North Island's two major commercial ski areas, are located on Mt Ruapehu. Taupo, the nearest major town, is approximately one hour away. The drive between ski fields takes about 40 minutes, and passes for both ski areas are completely interchangeable.

Turoa

Turoa is known for its wide, open runs and has the highest vertical drop of any Australasia resort. It is also New Zealand's tallest ski resort, standing at 2,322 metres and features 500 hectares of skiable terrain (20% beginner, 55% intermediate, and 25% advanced terrain).

There is no on-snow lodging at Turoa. Ohakune, located 17 kilometres from the Turoa ski area, is the North Island's major après ski town, offering a variety of accommodation, nightlife, shops, and services. Accommodation is also available in National Park, which is located halfway between the two ski areas.

Whakapapa

Happy Valley in Whakapapa has New Zealand's largest learner's area, which is serviced by a dedicated slower-speed chairlift. Whakapapa terrain is more narrow and steep than Turoa terrain, making it ideal for intermediate and advanced skiers and features 550 hectares of ski lift-accessible and patrolled terrain (25% beginner, 50% intermediate, and 25% advanced terrain).

Again there is no on-snow lodging at Happy Valley. Whakapapa village, 6 kilometres from the ski area, has a variety of accommodation options ranging from backpacker to luxury. Accommodation is also available in National Park and Ohakune.

Snowboarding and Ski Accommodation in New Zealand

South Island Skiing & Snowboarding

The resort towns of Queenstown and Wanaka have the highest concentration of major commercial ski areas in New Zealand. Snow Farm, a dedicated snowboarding and cross-country skiing field, is also located in this region. Mt Hutt ski field is located a little further north, about an hour's drive from Christchurch, and is surrounded by a cluster of smaller club fields.

Mt Hutt

Mt Hutt near Christchurch has a diverse terrain and is well-known for its long snow season, race training facilities, and proximity to a number of club fields. With 365 hectares of skiable terrain (excluding Rakaia Saddle Chutes, 25%beginner/novice, 50% intermediate, and 25% advanced), 5 freestyle terrain parks and a summit that is 2086 metres high, Mt Hutt is a great choice for those looking to escape the busier Queenstown region. Accommodation is available in Methven, which is 25 kilometres away from the base lodge.

Wanaka and Queenstown

Both resort areas provide a plethora of off-piste activities as well as a full range of lodging options, and being the more popular choices for skiing, accommodation is more expensive.

Coronet Peak

Coronet Peak has a multi-million dollar base lodge and advanced snowmaking facilities (plus children under the age of five ski for free). Sitting at 1649 metres above sea level, and only 18 kilometres from Queenstown, Coronet Peak features 280 hectares of skiable terrain (25% beginner, 45% intermediate, and 30% advanced.) with two terrain parks as well as a kids fun zone.

The Remarkables

The Remarkables have a northerly, sunny aspect with wide open bowls, extensive off-piste terrain, and the Homeward Run backcountry ski run. Sitting at 1943 metres above sea level, and a little further out (28 kilometers/40 minutes from downtown Queenstown), the Remarkables features 385 hectares of skiable terrain (30% for beginners, 40% for intermediates, and 30% for advanced) plus three freestyle terrain parks for all skill levels, as well as The Stash Burton signature terrain park.

Cardrona

Cardrona is well-known for its fantastically family-friendly offering and terrain, making it the number one choice for those with kids. Sitting at 1670 metres above sea level, located halfway between Wanaka and Queenstown, Cardrona features 345 hectares of skiable terrain (25% beginner, 25% intermediate, 30% advanced, and 20% expert). Cardrona also plays host to the most extensive terrain parks and pipes in the Southern Hemisphere, with four terrain parks for all levels, two halfpipes (one Olympic/World Cup standard), a gravity cross course, and a big air jump. Whilst it’s easier to stay off the mountain, there are 15 on-mountain apartments that require reservations in advance.

Treble Cone

Treble Cone is known for its congested slopes, long trails, and the largest ski area and skiable terrain in the Southern Alps and is popular for its free skiing and riding terrain. Sitting at 1260 metres above sea level (summit peak 2088 metres), located 26 kilometres from Wanaka, Treble Cone features 550 hectares of skiable terrain (10% beginner, 45% intermediate, and 45% advanced terrain) plus a man-made terrain park that include the Jazz Intermediate Park and the Jazz Kids Trail.

Where to Stay in New Zealand for Skiing & Snowboarding

Want to go skiing in New Zealand but aren't sure where to stay? In contrast to many other parts of the world, on-mountain accommodation at New Zealand ski resorts is uncommon, and true New Zealand ski-in ski-out accommodation is extremely rare. The majority of accommodation in New Zealand is located off-mountain in towns such as Queenstown, Wanaka, Methven, Lake Tekapo, and Ohakune. These New Zealand ski towns have plenty of après activities, and you'll definitely get a taste of genuine Kiwi culture. Below you'll find New Zealand accommodation to suit your preferences and budget, which we have grouped into the few on-mountain, and the more common off-mountain.

New Zealand Snow Accommodation

Ski Resorts in New Zealand with On-Mountain Accommodation

Cardrona Ski Resort offers on-mountain lodging in 15 apartments of varying configurations, all of which are only a one-minute walk from the lifts. Given the scarcity of convenient on-mountain accommodation in New Zealand, these units sell out early in the season. Instead, most people stay off-mountain.

The small Otago Ski Club has limited on-mountain accommodation at Coronet Peak. The dormitory-style lodging is not ski-in/ski-out, but rather a short walk to the lifts.

Whakapapa on the North Island has some accommodation within club lodges just below the ski field. Otherwise, most people stay in Whakapapa Village, where there are a few hotels and a holiday park.

On-mountain accommodation is available at New Zealand club ski fields, but it is not always ski-in/ski-out. It is recommended to book accommodation off-mountain, as it’s super easy to nagivate mountain access from any hotel.

Off-Mountain Accommodation / Ski Towns in New Zealand

Queenstown is a small city on the beautiful Lake Wakapitu and is extremely popular with tourists. Aside from skiing, there are numerous attractions to keep tourists entertained, as well as a variety of adventure activities such as bungy jumping, jet boating, and heli skiing. The nightlife is also well-known throughout the world. There are numerous Queenstown accommodation options, ranging from 5-star resort hotels to inexpensive motels, as well as a large number of Queenstown backpackers.

Wanaka is a chic and stylish town on the shores of Lake Wanaka. Restaurants and bars abound, and various tourist activities are available, but they are more understated than in Queenstown. Wanaka accommodation is of exceptional quality, with a variety of opulent bed and breakfast lodges in addition to a couple of resort hotels. There are also backpackers for those on a tight budget.

Methven is a small rural town with a spectacular view of Mt Hutt. Methven has a much more laid-back culture and no-fuss attitude than Queenstown and Wanaka. Methven accommodation is inexpensive, and the town has lodges and a couple of luxurious bed and breakfasts in addition to a large number of Methven backpackers. There are no luxury hotels in Methven.

Where to ski and snowboard in New Zealand

Off-Mountain Queenstown Accommodation

If you’re planning on skiing or boarding at either The Remarkables or Coronet Peak then Queenstown is your base. When it comes to Queenstown lodging, you'll be spoiled for choice! There are bed and breakfast options in addition to the standard Queenstown hotels, motels, lodges, and backpacker hostels. Not all Queenstown accommodation is within easy walking distance of the town (so research on a map if you’re planning to enjoy the apres scene), and you'll also need transportation to get to the ski resorts. If you do not have a rental car, consider the proximity of your Queenstown accommodation to bus stops for shuttles into Central Queenstown and bus stops for the inexpensive shuttles to The Remarkables and Coronet Peak ski resorts. You can also pay a little more for a hotel pick-up service to the ski resorts, again check with resorts before booking.

Queenstown Accommodation:

Top end:Hilton Queenstown Resort, Hotel St Moritz, QT Queenstown, Millbrook Resort
Mid-range: The Rees Hotel, Oaks Queenstown Shores Resort, Heritage Queenstown, Swiss-Belsuites Pounamu
Budget: Novotel Queenstown, Hurley’s of Queenstown, Coronation Lodge, Double Tree by Hilton Hotel, Garden Court Suites, Tahuna Pod hostel

If you’re planning to hit Cardrona or Treble Cone, Wanaka is the best place to stay. From both locations during the ski season, book a return bus trip from multiple stops in town to Cardrona or Treble Cone. If you prefer to drive, both ski areas have parking; Cardrona is 40 minutes from the heart of Wanaka, and Treble Cone is 35 minutes. Allow for extra time for traffic and bad weather.

Wanaka / Cardrona Accommodation:

Top end: Distinction Wanaka Alpine Resort, Lakeside Apartments or Wanaka Luxury Apartments, Millbrook Resort
Mid-range: The Moorings Wanaka, Edgewater Hotel, Te Wanaka Lodge or Oakridge Resort,
Budget: Wanaka Hotel, Fairway Motel, Wanaka Top 10 Holiday Park, The Zula Lodge & Backpackers

 

Methven Accommodation:

Top end:  Fable Terrace Downs Resort, Central Apartments Methven,
Mid-range:  The Lodge, Mt Hutt Lodge, Cedar Chalets, Stonechrubie, Ski Time Methven, Brinkley Resort
Budget:  Abisko Lodge & Apartments, Snow Den Lodge

 

Whakapapapa/Ohakune/National Park/Turoa Accommodation:

Top end:  Powderhorn Chateau, Tongariro Suites, Rocky Mountain Chalets
Mid-range:  Chateau Tongariro Hotel, Snowman Lodge & Spa, Snowhaven,
Budget:  Discovery Lodge Tongariro, The Park Hotel Ruapehu, Plateau Lodge, Pipers Ski Lodge,

Top Skiing Locations in New Zealand for Families

Top Skiing Locations in New Zealand for Families

#1. Cardrona (South Island)

If you want to ski at Cardrona, the best place to stay is in Wanaka, about an hour from Queenstown. Daily shuttles run from the town centre to Cardrona, where you'll find a ski resort for everyone in the family. Children as young as three months old can attend ski school, while parents can test their slope skills on more intermediate runs.

#2. Mount Hutt (South Island)

If you want to spend the day at Mt Hutt, it's recommended that you stay in the quaint town of Methven, just outside of Christchurch. With wide open terrains, new ski lifts, and the opportunity for children under the age of 10 to ski for free, this is a no-brainer for those looking for a great experience without the high price tag!

#3. Coronet Peak (South Island)

Coronet Peak is the closest and easiest ski resort to Queenstown, located only 16 kilometres away. Coronet Peak, one of New Zealand's most popular ski destinations, is an excellent choice for families, with plenty of gentle slopes and ski school options.

#4. The Remarkables (South Island)

The Remarkables is a must-see destination on the New Zealand ski scene; located 24 kilometres outside of Queenstown, slightly further out from Coronet Peak. There aren't many ski school or childcare options for children under the age of four, so The Remarkables is a better option for families with older children who are still finding their feet (or skis) on the runs, as these slopes are definitely for beginners.

#5. Treble Cone (South Island)

Treble Cone, located just 20 minutes from Wanaka, is the largest ski area in the South Island. There are still ski school options for children over the age of four, but keep in mind that the more advanced terrain is not for beginners!

Best Family Ski Resort Accommodation in New Zealand

#1. St. Moritz Hotel - Queenstown

Choose the St. Moritz hotel simply for the breathtaking views of Queenstown's Lake Wakatipu and a luxurious stay for you and your family.

#2. The Rees Hotel - Queenstown

With 60 hotel rooms, 90 apartments, and five private, three-bedroom, three-bathroom lakeside residences all within walking distance of Queenstown's town centre, The Rees Hotel is a great option for families.

#3. Cardrona Alpine Apartments - Cardrona

With relaxed self-contained lodging, the elegantly designed Cardrona Alpine Apartments are ideal for families who want to make Cardrona their home away from home.

#4. Beechtrees Cottage - Methven

Enjoy a rustic and charming cottage stay in Methven with a view of Mount Hutt from the living room. This holiday home features 3 bedrooms, and 2 bathrooms with a shower and a bath.

#5. Edgewater Hotel - Wanaka

Experience one of New Zealand's most beautiful properties on the shores of Lake Wanaka. The expansive grounds are so beautiful that you might not want to leave.

Edgewater Hotel offers a variety of accommodation options to meet your needs, including studios, suites, and apartments with lake views.

When is the ski season in New Zealand and when is the best time to ski in New Zealand?

The start of the ski season will be determined by when the first significant dusting of snow falls. However, the season typically lasts from early June to mid-October. Keep an eye on the official ski resort websites for the most up-to-date information on when lifts will be opened. The best months to hit the powder in New Zealand are August and September, so make your reservations accordingly.

When is the best time to ski in New Zealand?

What's the Weather Like in Winter in New Zealand?

The climate in New Zealand can be quite diverse and changeable. In winter, the temperature in New Zealand can differ between the north and South Island. The average temperature is around 16°C in the north island and 10°C in the South Island.

Is it expensive to ski in New Zealand?

The age-old question: is it cheaper for Australians to ski in New Zealand or Australia? It's difficult to say definitively whether skiing in New Zealand is more expensive because there are so many variables to consider. Flights, car rental, lift passes, ski rental, lodging, and meals can all add up, but there are ways to stay within your budget. Book early to get early bird multi-day passes, compare all-inclusive packages, and keep an eye out for deals. Given that both the Australian and New Zealand governments want to encourage cross-border travel to stimulate their economies, you can bet there will be some great deals floating around online. Travelling with friends can also help to lower accommodation costs. Making a longer vacation out of your ski trip to New Zealand is also a great way to mitigate costs. New Zealand has some of the best mountains to ski in the world, and those avid for an incredible ski trip, or those who want to get out after years of border closures will certainly appreciate the trip to NZ. Do your research, decide on a budget, and you'll save money!

Costs of Snowboarding in New Zealand

Costs of New Zealand Ski Lift Passes

Destination

Ski-in and ski-out?

Distance

Lift pass price (1 day, adult)

Lift pass price (2 days, adult)

Lift pass price (3 days, adult)

Is there a resort village

The Remarkables

No

45mins from Queenstown

$139

$258

$327

Yes

Cardrona

Yes

1hr from Queenstown

$150

$280

$300

Yes

Treble Cone

No

1.5hrs from Queenstown

$150

$280

$300

Yes

Coronet Peak

No

20mins from Queenstown

$139

$258

$327

Yes

Mt Hutt

No

1-.45hrs from Christchurch

$139

$258

$327

Yes

Turoa

No

4hrs from Wellington

$84 (weekday), $149 (weekend)

$168 (weekday), $298 (weekend)

$252 (weekday)

Yes

How to Get There

The first thing you need to do is book your accommodation for your stay. You will need to book early as the best snow and ski accommodation can be booked up months in advance. If you are staying for more than one night, you should also consider booking your flights in advance as well. There are a few different ways of getting there and around; air, bus or hire car, and it’s worth researching which way would be most convenient for you and what your budget allows.

 


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