Your guide to the best skiing and snowboarding in New Zealand
Winter in New Zealand happens during Northern hemisphere summer and all the snow bums make their way to this little corner of the world looking for some fresh pow with lots of faceshots and sending it down the gnarly slopes. Yeah, you might need a little dictionary to understand the lingo and make it through winter in NZ, especially winter in Queenstown which is the epicentre of winter sports in New Zealand.
Is skiing in New Zealand any good?
New Zealand is a fantastic destination for a ski or snowboard holiday but it does come with a certain set of kiwi quirks.
You know that dream of walking out you hotel door and being on the ski field already? Yeah, scratch that! The slopes are usually above the tree line in New Zealand so you'll be staying in the valley, where it doesn't snow, and commuting to the slopes each day.
Also forget about the comfy heated chairlifts with a wind shield. Actually, forget about the foot rest too and get ready to dangle your feet on your way up the mountain.
What are the ski fields like in New Zealand?
In new Zealand you'll find the big commercial ski fields, the kind you're probably used to, and the kiwi special, the club fields! As the name suggests, they're run by ski club who usually have a limited budget. The clubbies are small, the infrastructure is outdated but the vibes make up for it. Heck, in most cases you'll need a harness and a nutcracker to hook up to the tow rope, it's like skiing in the good ol' days!
At the other side of the spectrum we have NZ Ski who operates the three major ski resorts on the South Island - The Remarkables, Coronet Peak and Mt. Hutt.
When does the New Zealand skiing season start?
New Zealand winter starts in Late June and runs till late September. The ski season in New Zealand starts at mid or end of June and runs till mid-October. Depending on the weather and location most ski fields will open between the 20th of June and 1st of July.
When is the best time to ski in New Zealand?
August is the best month for skiing and snowboarding in New Zealand. The snow base is thick and August still gets decent snowfall while also having more clear days and less lift closures.
The Best Ski Fields in New Zealand
Now that we've set expectations, let's move on to the best ski fields in New Zealand.
While the clubbies are certainly something you will want to try for a couple of days, let's be honest, carrying a nut cracker with you for a week isn't exactly everyone's idea of a winter holiday, so this list focuses on the bigger commercial ski resorts. Or, you can get the best of both worlds and join this ski trip that takes you to all of the below ski fields and then some!
1. Mt Hutt
Closest Town: Methven, or 1.5 hours from Christchurch
Best for: Mt Hutt is easily one of the most well-known ski fields in New Zealand. In fact, it’s been voted New Zealand’s best ski field 5 years in a row!
Adult day pass price: $139
Available Infrastructure: For the cost of your pass you’ll get access to three chairlifts, two surface lifts, and over 365 hectares of terrain and 40 kilometers of runs. On top of that, there are two restaurants, two bars, and a rental department with everything you could need.
Recommended accommodation: The Blue Pub - It's lively, fun and the perfect place to go for après ski.
Located on the South Island, Mt Hutt is a popular place to visit for those living in Christchurch or on a road trip from Queenstown to Christchurch. When it comes to skiing at Mt Hutt accommodation is limited and the closest and most popular place to stay is in the small town of Methven. Located 35 minutes away this small town fills with skiers and snowboarders in the winter.
With over 40 kilometers of groomed runs, there is ample space to explore. In fact, Mt Hutt’s longest run is a whopping 1.5 kilometers long!
As what many consider to be New Zealand’s best ski field, Mt Hutt is a great place to check out. Imagine breathtaking views, lots of pow, and a fun atmosphere where you’ll hear the music pumping from below. It’s safe to say Mt Hutt is a favorite among locals and even a visitor like myself had a great time.
One of my favorite things about visiting Mt Hutt is the drive to get there. You’ll wind your way along the side of a mountain with panoramic views almost the entire way. It is absolutely stunning!
By Daniel from My Queenstown Diary
Closest town: Wanaka and Queenstown
Best for: Tons of different runs – this ski field is huge!
Adult day pass price: $140
Available infrastructure: 400 hectares of terrain, 3 chairlifts, one gondola, 1 platter lift, and 3 conveyor lifts, rental shop, on-mountain apartments, 8 different restaurants/cafes
Recommended accommodation: Cardrona Alpine Apartments - located at the base of the ski field they’re as close to a winter wonderland as it gets.
Cardrona Alpine Resort is the most visited ski field in New Zealand. Locals and internationals alike make the most of the winter months here. If you’re spending the ski season in Queenstown or Wanaka, then visiting Cardrona is very easy as the ski field is accessible from both towns. You can drive yourself (just be sure to carry snow chains) or take a ski bus from either town.
The Cardrona ski field is suitable for all levels. In fact, 25% of their terrain is for beginners and another 25% for intermediates, so if you’re just learning, it is the perfect place to start.
While Cardrona might have a reputation of being an entry level ski field, 50% of the slopes are actually for advanced riders who will love the off-piste areas and highly rated terrain parks in Cardrona.
For something extra special, stay at the Cardrona Alpine Apartments which are located right at the ski field base. Unlike in the European Alps, this should not be taken for granted with ski resorts in New Zealand.
By Bailey from Destinationless Travel
Closest town: Queenstown
Best for: Freestyle, freeride and views
Adult day pass price: $139
Available infrastructure: 385 hectares of terrain 4 chairlifts, 4 surface lifts, base building with restaurant, bar, cafe and rentals, Ice Bar on the slopes, ski & snowboard lessons
Recommended accommodation: St Moritz Queenstown - Beautiful hotel in the heart of town with fabulous views over the Remarkables.
The Remarkables, or Remarks for short, are just a 35 minute drive from central Queenstown and a fabulous ski field. We recommend you hop on the ski bus as the road can get slippery and the top car park is often full.
There is a fabulous beginners area at The Remarks with 3 magic carpets to get you started and you can get a special pass just for those. There are also beginner and intermidiate runs avaialable.
The more advanced riders will love the off piste possibilities and showing off at the freestyle park. Remarkables is by far the ski field with the most park rats in New Zealand. And boy they're steezy
The Remarkables are quite a sight already from the valley with it's jagged slopes, rising steep above Lake Wakatipu, but the views up top are even better! While the ski field doesn't overlook the lake, you can (and should) take a little hike from the top of the Calypso chairlift to the viewpoint. Then enjoy shredding down the fresh pow.
4. Coronet Peak
Closest town: Queenstown
Best for: Night Skiing
Adult day pass price: $139
Available infrastructure: 280 hectares of terrain, 40 km of slopes, 3 chairlifts, 4 surface lifts, 2 restaurants, 2 bars, a cafe, rentals department, ski & snowboard lessons
Recommended accommodation: Nugget Point - A boutique hotel at the foot of the mountain with a fabulous spa and gorgeous views.
Coronet Peak just a 20-minute drive from downtown Queenstown. This makes Coronet Peak the perfect option for an afternoon in the snow, especially if the weather wasn’t the best early in the day. You can hop on a ski bus to get up the mountain or driving up yourself on the well-maintained road. The views from the top are stunning.
The ski field itself caters for a range of abilities from complete beginners through to advanced. For the more adventurous there are also touring and backcountry skiing available.
Night skiing is available on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 4-9pm during the ski season. The mountain is floodlit with wide-open trails and gorgeous sunset views over Queenstown.
Coronet Peak is very easily accessible from Arthurs Point (a neighbourhood on the outskirts of Queenstown) and the drive up the mountain is easy and incredibly beautiful. The Night Ski sessions are great too. It's a completely different experience and there’s always a great vibe in the evenings with great music too.
By Roxanne from Faraway Worlds
5. Roundhill Ski Area
Closest town: Tekapo
Best for: Great value and worlds longest and steepest rope tow
Adult day pass price: $95
Available infrastructure: Platter lift, tow rope, T Bar.
Recommended accommodation: YHA Tekapo - located at the edge of the lake, this modern property offers views for days.
Roundhill Ski Area is a great club field and the closest ski field to Lake Tekapo. It has some of the best views in the country and you'll be carving down the mountain overlooking the incredibly blue Lake Tekapo. The ski field is a 45 minute drive from Tekapo, or 2 hours from Timaru and 3.5 hours from Christchurch.
Hitting the slopes is one of the best things to do in Tekapo in Winter, however you will need to bring ski gear with you, or hire in Fairlie, about 30 minutes away. Tekapo itself is only a very small township so it does not have a large outdoor store like most winter destinations do. That goes for snow chains too.
The beginners area has a gentle gradient and is huge, making it a great place to learn to ski. They have a platter and a row tow, no magic carpet here unfortunately.
Advanced skiers will be able to tick something off their bucket list: the Worlds longest and steepest rope tow. Then get an adrenaline rush, heading down Australasias biggest vertical drop (at 783m)!
You can’t miss their annual retro dress up event, where highlighter ski pants and 80's getup is a must. It’s a whole lot of fun and all the locals get into it.
By Jennifer Parkes from Backyard Travel Family
6. Mt. Ruapehu
Closest town: Ohakune, Whakapapa, National Park villages, or 1.5h from Taupo
Best for: skiing and snowboarding on the North Island
Adult day pass price: $149
Available infrastructure: 550 hectares of terrain, 11 lifts, a gondola and a high speed quad chair lift at Whakapapa and 500 hectares and 5 chair lifts at Turoa
Recommended accommodation: Tongariro Suites - conveniently half way between the two ski areas, this B&B offers fabulous views over Mt. Ruapehu.
Ruapehu is the biggest ski field in New Zealand and it is actually made up of two ski areas, Whakapapa and Turoa on two opposite sides of this majestic volcano. Yes, it's a ski field on top of an active volcano, how cool is that?
On a clear day the views from up here are to die for. Just imagine gliding down the slopes with Mt Doom and the sparkling Lake Taupo in the distance.
Mt. Ruapehu offers some of the best off piste rides in the country, including bowls, chutes, natural half pipes, gullies and drops. It also has some of the most modern lifts in New Zealand. If it wasn't for the unreliable and often bad weather, this would be the perfect ski field!
7. Heli skiing
Don't feel like sharing the slopes and waiting in line for the chair lift? Then heli skiing is for you! Hop on a helicopter, land on a mountain peak and carve your own lines down the powdery slopes for the ultimate New Zealand winter experience! This fun adventure is no joke though, you'll need to be a pretty good skier or snowboarder and be in decent shape.
8. Cross country skiing & Snowshoing at snow farm
Snow farm is located in the Pisa Conservation Area just off of the Crown Range road between Queenstown and Wanaka. Here you'll find kilometres upon kilometres of Cross country tracks, a small network of backcountry huts and the Snow Fun zone for sledding and tubing. Exploring this winter wonderland in the Pisa Range