New Zealand Ski Resorts

For many European, Asian or North American skiers the thought of as long hot summer is just too hard to handle. But come June, many head down to the Southern Hemisphere to continue their quest for an endless winter of powder snow.

New Zealand is split into two Islands, the North and the South. It is possible to ski in both Islands between June and October, but the two islands have very different characteristics. New Zealand’s ski areas are also split generally into two categories, commercial and club fields. They vary in size although the commercial fields tend to be larger, with the club fields often consisting of just one or two rope tow lifts.

Large or small, many of the ski areas in New Zealand offer great skiing for all abilities and some of the club fields are legendary for their backcountry and challenging skiing.

The North Island has two major commercial fields both situated on Mt Ruapehu. These are Turoa and Whakapapa. Mt Ruapehu is a volcanic mountain which towers over the surrounding landscape. They can get huge snowfalls here and the season runs well into late October.

There are also a few club fields on the North Island, Tukino which is also situated on Mt Ruapehu and Manganui, located on the stunning volcano of Mt Taranaki. These club fields offer a different experience from the commercial fields. Don’t expect high tech chair lifts and huge mountain restaurants here. But do expect friendly faces, peace and quiet (maybe not on a weekend or holiday!) and an experience you won’t forget.

The South Island has the majority of New Zealand’s commercial and club skiing areas. If you are from Europe, the first thing you will encounter when skiing in New Zealand is the fact that the accommodation is not situated on the ski slopes! There are some areas that have club accommodation at the bottom of the slopes, but this is not where you are likely to be staying. I do not use the words ‘ski resort’ when talking about New Zealand skiing as this implies a European model of a town and ski area operating as one entity. This is just not the case in New Zealand.

Saying that, there are some great places to stay when skiing in New Zealand and transport up and down the mountain on the commercial ski areas is usually pretty good. Queenstown in the South Island, which serves both The Remarkables and Coronet Peak ski fields, has a great choice of accommodation, restaurants and bars. If you like to party… this is the place. Wanaka also has a great atmosphere and serves Treble Cone and Cardrona ski fields and in the North Island, Ohakune is the place to stay if you want to ski Turoa. The best bet is to rent a car and drive up to the ski area every day. If this is not an option, then either your accommodation will provide this service or there will be a bus.

The other notable difference is the size of the ski areas, in New Zealand, compared to Europe. If you have skied in the French, Swiss or Austrian Alps, in resorts such as Val d’Isère, Meribel, Verbier or St Anton, you will be used to the possibility of not skiing the same run in a day or even a week. This does not happen in New Zealand, they are not comparable in size to these European resorts. Even the largest ski fields in New Zealand (Whakapapa in the North Island and Treble Cone in the South Island) are much smaller than all the well known European Alpine ski resorts.

But, size isn’t everything! The quality of snow and terrain in New Zealand ski areas is often excellent. Heli skiing is popular and relatively cheap compared to Europe and North America. The atmosphere on the slopes is great and skiing in New Zealand can be a real social event. The other advantage to a ski trip in New Zealand is that you can get to try out different ski areas. They might not be as large as European resorts but you can easily get to ski three or four different areas in one or two weeks.

Useful links for New Zealand Skiing:
Cardrona Ski Resort Website
Manganui Ski Area website
Mt Ruapehu website
Treble Cone Ski Area website
Tukino Ski Area website
Queenstown Tourism website

You may also want to check out the blog post, I wrote for NONSTOP Ski & snowboard, titled: Why go skiing in New Zealand?

In my next blog post, I will go into more detail about the different ski areas in New Zealand and how to plan a skiing trip in the Southern Hemisphere.

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Robert Stewart

Ski Editor at Snow.Guide

Rob has extensive knowledge and experience of winter sports and has been qualified to instruct and teach Alpine Skiing for over 25 years. He is also an experienced off-piste and backcountry skier and has competed in freestyle and freeride events around the world. Now a full-time ski writer and Director of Ski Press, Rob is Snow.Guide’s Ski Editor and contributes to many other snowsports, national and lifestyle publications.

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5 thoughts on “New Zealand Ski Resorts”

  1. Hey,

    Does anyone know good runs in queenstown? And when is worth heading out on the mountains?

    Thanks

    1. @Guy
      Hi Guy, thanks for your questions. Queenstown has two main skiing areas, Coronet Peak and The Remarkables. Both these areas are suitable for all levels of skiers and have a variety of runs. Where you ski depends a little on your ability, but both areas have easy, difficult and back country routes available. What standard of skier are you? If you can ski most runs then to be honest, you will be able to cover these areas fairly quickly and decide yourself what runs are the best.
      The ski season lasts between June and September. Generally snow is at its best in August, although this is also the busiest time to visit. September is a great time to ski in New Zealand in my opinion. The snow can still be very good and the crowds have thinned out.

  2. No mention of Methven and Mt Hutt? Scary road up to ski area and it’s known locally as ‘Mt SHutt because of the strong winds which cause it to close on occasion! We were lucky to be able to ski one day in the three we were there and the views from the top were like nothing experienced in Europe. Mountains reaching as far as the eye could see one way, and the Canterbury Plains stretching to the Pacific Ocean the other – awesome! We cut short our stay when we knew it would be closed and went to Christchurch a day early. We’d done all the runs that were there in a day anyway but it was definitely worth the trip to ski in august!

    1. You are right about Mt Hutt Angie. I’ve had the same experiences there myself, I just don’t know it that well as I only ever went there to compete once in a while. Thanks for the comment.

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