Where to Ski in NZ
Where to Ski in New Zealand?
Can’t decide where to go skiing in New Zealand and which of the New Zealand ski resorts to visit? How else does New Zealand skiing differ from that of elsewhere in the world?
There are dramatic differences between the New Zealand ski fields and ski resorts. There are broadly three types of NZ ski areas:
Beyond the type of ski field, everyone has different factors that are important when deciding on the best New Zealand ski resorts to visit. To aid in your decision making:
New Zealand Skiing and Snowboarding - First Timers
- Check out our New Zealand ski resorts ratings which are broken down into many aspects such as: terrain quality for different abilities; the powder; lift infrastructure; family-friendliness; cost; nightlife; and the likelihood of finding “freshies”.
- See our “best skiing in New Zealand” awards
- See our New Zealand ski resort statistics that include the proportion of beginner, intermediate and advanced runs, resort size and snowfall.
- See the NZ ski resort accommodation page because if you’re looking for luxury accommodation or ski-in ski-out accommodation, not all ski resorts or ski towns will be ideal (and if you’re looking for both luxury and ski-in ski-out accommodation, you’re looking in the wrong country!).
- See the information below regarding first timers, family ski holidays, New Zealand ski resorts statistics, snow quantity, climate, facilities and infrastructure, and lift tickets.
If you’ve never been skiing or snowboarding before, the best place to stay is Queenstown
so you can ski at The Remarkables
and Coronet Peak
. Both of these ski resorts cater really well to beginners, and there are shuttle bus options to get between Queenstown and the ski resorts so you don’t have to drive up mountain roads. Queenstown has the advantage of providing a massive range of non-skiing activities for rest days (and unless you’re super fit you’ll probably need rest days!).
Families – Where to Ski in New Zealand?
Aside from the lack of ski-in ski-out accommodation, many of the big commercial NZ ski resorts cater very well to families and kids. Once again Queenstown
is best if you have beginners in the group, but for intermediate skiers and boarders you could stay in Wanaka
(and ski at Cardrona
(ski at Mt Hutt), or Whakapapa
(on the north island).
The decision may therefore come down to which ski town you want to stay in.
- Queenstown if you want nightlife, lots of activities, and a huge choice of accommodation styles and budgets.
- Wanaka if you want moderate nightlife and a moderate number of activities, and apartment style accommodation for a range of budgets.
- Methven if you don’t need lots of activities or nightlife, and want inexpensive lodge or apartment style accommodation.
- Whakapapa if you're on the north island and want hotel, holiday park cabins, or economical motel accommodation.
Or if you’re happy to drive yourself and get a little bit off the beaten track and have an inexpensive holiday, check out Mt Dobson, Ohau and Roundhill.
New Zealand Ski Resorts Statistics
The table below provides a summary of the statistics for some of the ski resorts in New Zealand. For a detailed comparison of mountain statistics see our NZ resort statistics comparison
page. This comparison includes the proportion of beginner, intermediate and advanced runs, and lift ticket prices.
* Not available or information unreliable
| Treble Cone
| Coronet Peak
| Mt Hutt
| Broken River
| Mt Olympus
| Temple Basin
| Mt Cheeseman
| Hanmer Springs
| Mt Lyford
| Round Hill
| Mt Dobson
As a general rule, the size of the NZ ski resorts are much smaller than many of the North American ski resorts and are more akin to many of the Japan ski resorts
. And as a general rule, the amount of New Zealand ski resort snowfall is less than the ski resorts in Japan and most of the western ski resorts in North America.
Facilities and Infrastructure
Generally the resorts in New Zealand do not have a wide variety of facilities such as ski hire, ski school, shops or on-mountain dining. Most of the resorts only have the choice of one equipment rental shop, one retail shop selling the basics, and one to two cafes or restaurants.
The lift infrastructure varies between resorts. At the most primitive end the club fields have nutcracker ropetows
. Some of the ski resorts still have surface tows, but the high profile resorts have commenced infrastructure upgrades over the past several years. As an example, Treble Cone
has installed a 6-person high-speed detachable lift that whisks you up the mountain in only a few minutes. Coronet Peak
also has a very efficient lift system.
New Zealand Snow Quality & Climate
Generally New Zealand powder has a high moisture content considering the proximity of the resorts to the coast. The snow quality can vary substantially. The ski areas don't have any trees for protection and are exposed to windy conditions. Consequently there can be a lot of wind affected and packed snow. Add a little bit of southern hemisphere sun and you can get some horrifically icy (and dangerous) conditions at times. At other times the snow in the South Island can remain in good condition due to the low angle of the sun and short days, and the melt-freeze cycles might not occur until after mid-August.
To give you a rough idea regarding climate and how it compares to Australia, Mount Ruapehu
is the same latitude as Bass Strait. Christchurch is further south than Hobart, whilst the rest of the South Island is a similar latitude to Patagonia. These southern latitudes equate to strong westerly winds and frequent cold fronts. Occasionally the freezing level drops to sea level on the east coast of the South Island, but generally the winter snowline is around 1,200-1,400 metres. There is a lot of rainfall particularly on the west coast of the south island, which falls as snow on the central mountains. Ski areas tend to be on the eastern side of the mountains, sheltered from some of the precipitation but still exposed to the westerly winds.
In the south of the South Island (e.g. around Queenstown), it is somewhat drier than other parts, so there is generally less snowfall but because it’s colder it tends to stay in good condition.
The resorts are incredibly varied in their climate and the wind direction from which most of the snow comes, so one ski field may have a bad season whilst another may get reasonable snowfall.
The cost of lift tickets varies significantly from about $NZ45 to $95 for a one day adult ticket. The mainstream large resorts are generally around the high 80s or 90s, whilst the club resorts are much cheaper.
There are multi-mountain season passes available. Nzski.com
have combined season passes and multi-day lift tickets for The Remarkables, Mount Hutt, and Coronet Peak. The NZ Superpass
provides coupons that can either be redeemed for lift passes or for non-skiing activities. Whakapapa
are owned by the same company and their combined season passes are quite cheap.
sells season passes to 11 mountains, many of which are NZ club fields
. They have lots of different combinations of multi-day passes that don’t have to be consecutive, so it’s a very economical way to explore lots of different mountains. The passes are supposed to be picked up at the Chill office in Springfield (8-2pm weekdays; 4-7pm Fridays; 7:30am-2pm on weekends) on your way to the mountain. Alternatively organise for them to post it to your accommodation.