If we were to cross the Earth through the centre, we would find New Zealand on the other side. They are our antipodes, the farthest geographical point and the first country in the world to welcome the day. So what is the skiing like in this remote country? Are there even any worth-to-be-mentioned ski resorts in New Zealand?
New Zealand the land of the long white cloud
Mainland New Zealand is split into two main islands: the North Island and the South Island. The north is more densely populated and is known for being volcanic territory. The south, by contrast, has a pronounced mountainous landscape intersected by the world-famous New Zealand Alps and is sparsely populated.
Separated from the rest of the world, their closest neighbour is Australia, 3,000 km away, a fusion of cultures and races has created an identifiable identity for its residents, the Kiwis.
The Kiwis, (the colloquial name for New Zealanders) are a laid-back, peaceful and respectful people with a strong sporting, risk-taking and adventurous mentality. Across the entire length and breadth of its territory, a vast range of activities can be enjoyed, including, not surprisingly, winter sports.
In August, when you’re soaking up the sun on a seaside beach, just think that on the exact opposite side of the planet there might be someone else enjoying New Zealand’s finest powder.
Holidaymakers travelling to New Zealand over the summer months (winter in the northern hemisphere) may not think of winter sports. Nonetheless, the country’s ski slopes are arguably among the most breathtakingly beautiful in the world. Doubtless you’ve already gazed at them without knowing it by watching Lord of the Rings.
The two main islands of New Zealand both allow you to ski from winter through to spring. Yet with its cooler climate and more mountainous terrain, the South Island naturally is home to the best ski resorts in the country.
Ski Resorts in the South Island of New Zealand
Mt. Hutt Ski Resort
Just over an hour’s drive from Christchurch is Mt Hutt and the quaint little town of Methven caters for all your needs with its picturesque South Island charm and traditional Blue Pub and Brown Pub. Hutt is well known for its heavy annual snowfall.
It’s also known for high winds, so make sure the resort is open before heading down the road.
Once you get there, you’ll find plenty of wide open spaces and pristine, groomed runs across 365 hectares of skiable domains with a lodge at its base for resting or refueling. And on a clear day, you can see across the Canterbury flats to the ocean on either side.
Coronet Peak and The Remarkables Ski Resorts
Locals consider Coronet Peak, a 20-minute drive away, to be “their place”, so avoid going on weekends if you don’t like crowds. Even without Aussies, it will be pretty busy. The slopes open from 8am to 9am, there’s night skiing on Wednesdays and Fridays with a mid-mountain bar and the best snow in the country to ensure continuous coverage.
You’ll have 280 hectares of terrain to ski or board, spectacular views of The Remarkables and the resort has its own 6-person chairlift gondola so you won’t have to wait long.
Both Coronet and Remarks have relatively new glass and steel buildings at their bases for great views with retail, equipment hire and food outlets.
Cardrona Ski Resort, home to the New Zealand’s Olympic halfpipe
Queenstown and Wanaka are battling it out for Cardrona Alpine Resort, which is halfway between the two in the Crown Range. “Cardies” is known for open family pistes and big parks. This is home to New Zealand’s Olympic halfpipe and is the venue for the FIS World Cup events that are usually held during the Winter Games.
With 400 hectares of skiable domain, with an almost even breakdown of beginner, intermediate, advanced and extreme, there’s certainly something for everyone. Soho Cat Skiing is at the back for now. Plans for the future are to put a chairlift in this area and create New Zealand’s largest ski resort covering 900 hectares.
Cardrona has an outstanding ski school programme for newbies and an attractive range of food outlets. The pizzas at Captains Basin are known to be legendary by locals!
Treble Cone Ski Resort
Wanaka claims Treble Cone as its own, and rightfully so, since it takes a 15-minute drive across Lake Wānaka to the access road to the slopes and then a detour to the top. Treble Cone ski resort, boasts the best views of any resort in Australasia, let alone in New Zealand and potentially in the world, overlooking the Southern Alps and the lake.
Treble Cone is a huge mountain, South Island’s largest ski resort with 700m of vertical height. Great for families at the front with lengthy groomed trails and then it gets twistier at the back on “The Saddle” where the snow is heavy and the slopes are steep.
Some people walk to the top for even more fun “freshies” on a snowy day. Alternatively, try the Motatupu Chutes if you’re brave and experienced (and preferably with a guide), where Motatupu Chutes will test your mettle.
Ski Resorts in the North Island of New Zealand
Whakapapa Ski Resort: largest ski domain in New Zealand
Skiing or snowboarding has its own unique appeal on Mount Ruapehu, in the navel of the North Island. Although the mountain is still an active volcano, it’s the friendly locals who make a ski holiday here all the more worthwhile.
At one end of Ruapehu you’ll find Turoa, a 15-minute drive down a road, and on the other side is Whakapapa, a 45-minute drive from Ohakune, whilst you can stay in the National Park’s much calmer town if you choose. Whakapapa’s 550 hectares (the largest in New Zealand) feature a separate beginner’s area with its separate chairlift, popularly known as Happy Valley.
Meanwhile, the remaining resort is large and has slopes to suit all levels.
Turoa Ski Resort
Towering above the central North Island, Turoa is home to Australasia’s steepest vertical drop, at 722 metres – not surprisingly, Turoa is often referred to as ‘The Giant’. South-facing slopes can have seasonal dry powder, which makes Turoa a fantastic downhill playground for skiers and snowboarders of varying levels.
So after a tough day on the challenging slopes, discovering secret powder hideaways and going big on the naturally groomed half pipe, guests and locals alike descend the mountain to Ohakune for dinner, relaxation and to recapture the day’s adventures.
There are endless gullies, drops, natural blows, wide trails and parklands of world-class scenery. Most of the scenery resembles frozen waves.
Manganui Ski Resort
Manganui ski resort is a family-friendly, once in a lifetime mountain experience, nestled in the Egmont National Park on the foothills of Mount Taranaki. Operated on a volunteer basis, Club members are expected to assist with autumn maintenance, beekeeping and the operation of the camp through the winter.
The learning run is a gentle slope with a suitable short route and adequate space. Intermediate T-bar is an easier medium level, with undulating, open land. The pistes tend to be rather narrow, yet generally not packed. The only time you may have to queue up at the cable car is towards the end of the day. For this reason, and the pleasant club atmosphere, the T-bar slopes are regarded as one of North Island’s best places to learn to ski.
Top Tow is significantly steeper, with large open faces, 1/2 pipe natural valleys, diverse terrain and breathtaking views. The majority of the runs are advanced, though intermediate skiers can have fun and be confident on them provided the snow conditions are suitable. There is no ski area in New Zealand that has the same type of terrain as that found at Top Tow de Manganui.
Getting there on a good day makes for a genuinely memorable skiing experience, even though the mountain is bound by coastal meteorological patterns, which means that snow conditions can alter overnight.
Snow Planet Ski Resort, the only year-round ski resort in New Zealand
The only in-door ski resort in New Zealand, Snowplanet is where guests can experience the exhilaration of snow sports and the atmosphere of a snow town just a 30-minute drive north of Auckland. Hit the slopes or unwind by the fire in the restaurant.
Whether skiing, snowboarding, tubing, tobogganing or fine dining at Snowplanet’s great 7 Summits restaurant and bar, Snowplanet is the ideal place to be. Over 200 metres long, Snowplanet’s piste features a Terrain Park with jumps and rails, in addition to a ski line and a beginner’s zone.
So if you like snow sports, or are looking to learn, Snowplanet is the place for you.
The Snowplanet offers a number of additional services: rental equipment, clothing hire, coaching as well as instruction and training. Learn how to ski and snowboard at Snowplanet. It is ideal for a family day out, a day out with work colleagues, a school trip, or simply a fun place to hang out and have a blast.