Moored on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, the far-flung country of New Zealand offers some of the best skiing spots in the world if you are looking for under-developed mountain environment and spectacular scenery. With the right conditions, the terrain is world-class and you can even find some great spots for helicopter drops and backcountry skiing. The icy blasts from the Antarctic, the warm burps of sub-tropical air from the north, the lack of big-resort commercialism and the amazing accommodations you can find all add to the allure for the explorers and the young-at-heart skiers looking for something new. We’ve put together some of the best skiing spots in New Zealand.
Winter in Queenstown is relatively quiet and calm, but it still offers arguably the best base for skiers visiting New Zealand. Surrounded by two of the most popular mountains in the country, Coronet Peak and The Remarkables, Queenstown stands out as the prime destination to experience skiing in New Zealand.
Coronet Peak is closer and, with its relatively dry climate and low elevation averages around seven feet of snow per season, meaning the cover can be icy at times. The resort offers steady, fall-line, intermediate-levels runs. However, if you visit when the snow is cold and soft, you can also be able to enjoy some great entry-level backcountry runs too.
With its three terrain parks and some steep and exciting hike-to terrain, The Remarkables is more suited for seasoned skiers who are willing to venture beyond the resort boundaries. It also gets more snowfall than Coronet Peak at roughly 18 feet per season.
While skiing near Queenstown you can stay at the luxurious five-star Nugget Point Queenstown Hotel to experience this destination in a unique and unforgettable way. However, if you are looking for a more private stay, the Matakauri Lodge has just 12 suites with all the comfort and amenities of a bigger hotel.
For a more tranquil version of Queenstown closer to New Zealand’s best ski field, you have to visit Wanaka. The Treble Cone is blessed with an average of 17 feet of snowfall and has a 2100-foot lift-serviced vertical, making it the longest in the country. Combining incredible natural beauty with the awesome backcountry terrain, Treble Cone is also pretty close to Cardrona, where you can find four terrain parks, a monstrous big-air kicker and two half-pipes; one of which conforms to Olympic standards and has 22ft walls.
As far as places to stay, Wanaka offers plenty of options. One of the most attractive ones is The Oakridge Resort, featuring ten heated rock pools, a spa, and a restaurant. You can also make base at the Wanaka Luxury Apartments which are just a few steps from shops, restaurants, and the lake.
At Canterbury, the skier will find a variety of experiences ranging from one of New Zealand’s larger, more commercial mountains (365 hectares of terrain, 13 feet of snowfall on average each season) in Mount Hutt, to the relaxed, fun-loving and raw terrain of the New Zealand Clubfields. These basic club-run areas are regarded as the heart and soul of New Zealand skiing. After a challenging access road and a hike to the base huts, you will enjoy some of the steepest and most challenging lift-accessed terrain in New Zealand in an uncrowded surrounding. Broken River and Temple Basin are among the most popular mountains in the area.
High Peak Lodge is the place to stay in this region. It offers chalet-style accommodations and has packages that include airport transfers, food, transport up the mountain of choice, and ski guiding. Plus, it has the Canterbury backcountry’s clubfields and heli-skiing at its doorstep.
Tekapo is a small town located roughly halfway between Christchurch and Queenstown. It is home to some of the most under-used and unknown mountains in New Zealand, including the great ski mountain Roundhill. Roundhill has recently been transformed from a small beginners/family area to something much more challenging by the addition of the world’s longest rope tow, which is nearly a mile (1.47km) long and can be a bit challenging for the beginner skier. However, it opens up to a big slope that’s a big hit for locals and visitors. In the town of Tekapo make sure to stay at the Peppers Bluewater Resort for comfortable lake-view rooms and apartments.
Approximately an hour and 15 minutes drive away, Ohau Snow Fields sits just above Oahu Lake Lake Ohau and is a big bowl-shaped field with a friendly atmosphere and under-skied backcountry terrain. Here, you can relax at the highly-rated Lake Ohau Lodge that offers many different grades of accommodations ranging from private rooms to bunks. This is where the US ski team stay and train every winter.
Mount Cook and The Glaciers
New Zealand’s highest mountain, biggest glaciers, and highest snowfall are all in the Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park. Being a national park, there are no ski-lifts here, but taking a helicopter ride or a fixed-wing plane to the top adds to the adventure and excitement. Make sure you use a fully-qualified alpine guide as most of the terrain is expert-only. However, there are also intermediate-level areas like the Tasman which are two wide open glacier slopes through a drop of up to 1000m.
Enjoy the majestic scenery of the area by staying at one of the 14 bunks of the Tasman Saddle Hut in the middle of the Tasman Glacier. Or check out the amazing views of Aoraki/Mount Cook from the Hermitage Hotel or the less expensive Aoraki/Mount Cook Alpine Lodge.