New Zealand boasts excellent skiing and snowboarding options during the southern hemisphere winter courtesy of sleeping volcanoes in the North Island and the Southern Alps in the South Island. Unique to NZ ski resorts (which we call ski fields or mountains) are the apparent lack of trees, amazing natural terrain, and epic mountaintop views of national parks, lakes and other snow-capped mountains.
Let’s look at where you should head for your southern hemisphere snow sport adventure, where to stay, and some handy money-saving tips.
Where are the best ski resorts in New Zealand?
The skiing and snowboarding areas in New Zealand contrast highly from the North Island to the South Island, as do the towns and scenery that surround them.
In the North Island we ski and snowboard on NZ’s active volcanos; Mt Ruapehu and Mt Taranaki! This makes for an interesting undulating terrain with lots of gullies and rock faces to negotiate outside of the groomed runs.
The Southern Alps that run down the South Island create both amazing scenery and New Zealand’s most reputable ski resorts. Those surrounding Queenstown and Wanaka are the best known, and the adventure tourism these spots generate is second to none. The ski terrain at this end of the country is less exposed to the wind and being closer to the south pole the snowfall is more consistent than in the north.
Ski Resorts in the South Island of New Zealand
Dubbed the adventure capital of the world, Queenstown and nearby Wanaka are the pinnacle of snow sports in the South Island with a healthy supply of back-up activities should the weather not be suitable for snow shredding. Further up the South Island, excellent ski fields can be found within a 90-minute drive of Christchurch.
Ski Resorts near Queenstown
Known for its world-beating adventure activities, raging apres ski night life, and chic cafes, Queenstown has multiple ski resorts within a short drive of the city centre — the closest just a 20-minute drive away.
The closest and most easily accessed is Coronet Peak, with a paved road (not always a given for NZ ski resorts) leading to 280 skiable hectares and night skiing on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday evenings. Established in 1947 it’s New Zealand’s oldest commercial ski field and some say the best.
Across the Kawarau River from Coronet Peak is The Remarkables ski area. This 385-hectare area has three north-facing and sun-soaked bowls offering friendly terrain for families, freestylers, and everyone in between. The ski field’s natural snowfall is complemented by 100 snow guns pumping manmade snow onto the groomed areas.
Ski Resorts near Wanaka
Leaving Queenstown and the shores of Lake Wakatipu and travelling north over the Crown Range, you will come to Wanaka and the lake of the same name. Like Queenstown, Wanaka has plenty of year-round activities to enjoy, along with multiple world-class ski resorts.
Known as the most family-friendly ski resort in New Zealand, Cardrona Alpine Resort sits roughly halfway between Queenstown and Wanaka on the Crown Range. A veritable playground for beginners and intermediates, the ski area has wide-open runs, a gondola chairlift and simple-to-use surface lifts, A.K.A: Magic Carpets. More experienced skiers and snowboarders can find their wings in the terrain park — home to the NZ Park & Pipe Team.
A leisurely 25-minute drive from Wanaka township is Treble Cone Ski Area. A day of skiing or snowboarding at this fine resort can come complete with bluebird skies and spectacular views of Lake Wanaka below. Spread across two large basins, the mountain’s interesting landscape forms a freeride funfair as ski bunnies and snow savages can get creative with the plentiful gullies, undulating runs, naturally formed kickers and alluring off-piste. Check out the mountain’s website for free transport from Wanaka.
Where to stay near Wanaka and Queenstown ski resorts
Wanaka Kiwi Holiday Park & Motels is an ideal base when exploring the ski resorts near both Queenstown and Wanaka. The park has a wide range of roofed and heated accommodation types to suit every budget, from basic un-powered sites and cabins through to full kitchen cabins and even a three-bedroom house!
Ski Resorts near Christchurch
Located in the South Island region of Canterbury, Christchurch is in close proximity to the Southern Hemisphere’s highest concentration of ski areas, featuring Mt Hutt, Oahua and world-renowned club fields like Craigieburn.
A high and wide mountain, Mt Hutt is just 90 minutes from Christchurch and has a vertical drop of 683m — one of the longest in the South Island. Views all the way to the Pacific Ocean can be seen from the Mt Hutt Ski Area summit on clear days and the variety of terrain is sure to please families and skiers and boarders of all abilities.
A more homely, yet intrepid Canterbury snow field experience can be had by visiting any one of the ski areas in the Selwyn 6 — Porters Ski Area, Mount Cheeseman, Temple Basin, Mount Olympus, Broken River and Craigieburn. These areas range from the family friendly beginner and intermediate trails of Mount Cheeseman, to the easily accessible advanced off-piste terrain and infamous ‘nutcracker’ found at Craigieburn.
Where to stay near Christchurch ski resorts
We have three Kiwi Holiday Parks and Accommodation locations in and around Christchurch. Spencer Beach Holiday Park can see visitors sample sand and snow in the same day, Christchurch Kiwi Holiday Park and Motels has great heating, and Amber Park Motel & Caravan Park is our closest location to both Christchurch city centre and the aforementioned ski fields.
Ski Resorts in the North Island of New Zealand
New Zealand’s North Island ski resorts are all about volcanoes — Mt Ruapehu and Mt Taranaki to be exact. Both are active volcanoes but don’t pose an overt threat to the safety of the thousands of skiers and snowboarders that enjoy them each winter.
Ski Resorts near Taupo
Mt Ruapehu is the highest mountain in the North Island and its two ski areas of Whakapapa and Turoa are the largest ski areas in New Zealand. The are an easy and scenic lake-side drive from Taupo, and both have settlements at their base.
Situated on the southwestern slopes of Mt Ruaphehu, Turoa has the country’s longest vertical drop, at 722m. The town of Ohakune serves the ski resort and is known for its annual rowdy mardi gras parties each June.
Whakapapa is the closer of the two ski resorts to Taupo, and home to NZ’s largest gondola; the 1.8km Sky Waka. Travelling at a speed of six metres per second, the Sky Waka can transport 2400 sightseers, diners and skiers and snowboarders from the mountain’s Base Station to the Knoll Ridge Chalet every hour it operates.
Where to stay near Taupo ski resorts
A superb spot to rest your tired muscles after a long day on the snow of Mt Ruapehu is the Taupo All Seasons Kiwi Holiday Park. Soak sore bodies in the thermal plunge pool, enjoy the games room and make use of the huge communal kitchen facility.
Ski Resorts near New Plymouth
Way out west, Mt Taranaki overlooks the North Island city of New Plymouth. The mountain is home to a small ski area that is heavily reliant on the unpredictable natural snowfall in the area. Featuring three rope tows and one T-bar, the Manganui Ski Area slopes feature an ability split that favours experienced snow sliders: 65% advanced, 35% intermediate, and 5% beginner. Visitors should also be prepared for a 25-30 minute walk from the car park to the ski area.
Where to stay near New Plymouth ski resorts
Just 25-minutes from the Manganui Ski Area is Stratford Motels and Holiday Park. Boasting bush views and a heated indoor swimming pool, the park offers a variety of accommodation options to suit any budget.
How to Ski and Snowboard in New Zealand on a budget
Skiing and snowboarding aren’t the cheapest pastimes out there, but there are a few ways to stretch your budget and get maximum fun and value out of each and every dollar you spend (or don’t spend).
1. Pack your lunch
Don’t tap into your retirement fund just to cover the overpriced food on the mountain! Pack your own lunch the night before using more affordable ingredients from the supermarket. A thermos filled with coffee, tea or soup will help warm your bones and recharge your energy cells.
2. First chair to last chair
Be organised so you leave your accommodation early, allowing enough time for you to be ready and waiting at the front of the lift queue for the very first chair of the day. Then ski or board your heart out, only stopping for refreshments, until the lifts are closed for the day. This is how you get maximum value out of your lift pass. You paid good money for it, so make sure you use it to its fullest.
3. Ask about end of day food discounts
If you’ve eaten your packed lunch, but finish your last run starving, pop into the base café and ask if they discount the food left in their cabinets. A half-price savoury pie or sausage roll is unbeatable at the end of a full day’s riding.
4. Buy lift passes online and look for multi-mountain and multiday options
Search around online to get the best deal on your lift passes. This avoids the lengthy queues on the mountain, and you may find a multi-mountain or multiday pass that saves you some cheddar.
5. Think hard about where you’re going to stay
Finding somewhere to stay that’s close to the ski resorts you session will help you save petrol, and finding the accommodation type that best suits your budget is priceless.
6. Plan your equipment hire in advance and shop around
Shopping around for your equipment hire can save you money, and you may find somewhere that’s handy to your route back from the mountain to your accommodation. Also, try and get your equipment the night before your first day on the slopes and ensure it fits correctly to avoid delays in the morning. Remember — first chair to last chair!
We hope you enjoy your Kiwi holiday on the best slopes in the southern hemisphere. Don’t forget your sunscreen and stay safe while you shred the gnar!