Skiing and snowboarding are two of the most popular winter sports in New Zealand. There are a number of ski fields and ski resort areas in both the North and South Islands which, in addition to world-class facilities, have spectacular alpine scenery. For the truly adventurous, backcountry skiing, heliskiing and snowcat skiing are also available in some places. Here is information to make the most of winter snow fun in New Zealand.
When to Ski
The New Zealand ski season generally runs from June until late October (winter until mid spring). School holidays can be particularly busy so are worth avoiding if possible.
The weather can be very changeable in mountain areas. It is always best to check a weather forecast and ski report before heading out for the day. Most of the major resorts operate websites with information about the weather and ski conditions that is updated throughout the day.
Where to Ski: New Zealand Skifields and Resorts
There are a total of seventeen commercial ski and snowboard areas in New Zealand and a number of other fields operated by private clubs. Although the two largest are in the North Island, the rest are in the South Island, in various places along the Southern Alps.
North Island Ski Resorts
Whakapapa and Turoa
These are the two largest ski fields in New Zealand and are both on the slopes of the same active volcano, Mt Ruapehu. And yes, it is a very active volcano - in fact, one of the most active in the world. The last eruption was in 2008 and the mountain is continually monitored for signs of unusual activity. Don't let that put you off, however - the skiing is great!
Whakapapa, the larger of the two is on the northern slope and Turoa is on the southern side. Both are approximately four hours drive from Auckland or Wellington and about an hour and a half from Taupo.
South Island Ski Resorts
Not all of the commercial ski fields in the South Island are listed here; these are the major resorts.
Mt Hutt, Canterbury
Mt Hutt is just a little more than an hour's drive from Christchurch and offers wide views of the Canterbury Plains from its slopes. It generally holds the reputation for being the first ski field to be open in the Southern Hemisphere each year.
Hanmer Springs, Canterbury
The alpine resort village of Hanmer Springs is 2 Â½ hours north of Christchurch and is one of the most popular tourist destinations in New Zealand. Most visitors come to soak in the thermal hot pools which are open all year round. However Hanmer Springs also has a fine ski area. There is a good range of accommodation, bars and restaurants in the village itself. Being only 15 minutes from the ski field, Hanmer is a popular winter weekend destination.
Being only 18 kilometers from Queenstown means this is a very popular area. It is worth a visit for the view alone, which expands out over two Queenstown lakes, Lake Wakatipu and Lake Hayes. Due to big investment in snowmaking equipment, Coronet Peak has some of the best snow - and one of the longest ski seasons - of anywhere in the Southern Hemisphere.
Facing Coronet Peak across Lake Wakatipu is this excellent ski field. It is slightly further from Queenstown (28 kilometers, 13 of which are along an unsealed road.). This resort caters especially for families although it has plenty to offer for all.
Treble Cone is the largest ski resort area in the South Island and is 26km (35 minutes) from the town of Wanaka. Its three large basins are suitable for all skill levels, although this resort is regarded as the best in New Zealand for advanced and off-piste skiing.
If snowboarding is your thing, Cardrona is the place to be; there are parks and pipes purpose-built for snowboarders and it is the host for the New Zealand National Snowboarding Competition. However there is a full range of ski facilities as well. Cardona is a short distance away from Treble Cone, close to Wanaka or 1 hour from Queenstown.