Rainbow Ski Area

Rainbow Ski Area New Zealand
Fresh lines are easy to come by at Rainbow NZ
Rainbow Ski Area is popular with school groups
Rainbow Ski Area facilities are reasonably no frills
The base area of the Rainbow Ski Field
Rainbow New Zealand provides short & sweet lines
The top of the T-bar at Rainbow New Zealand
Fresh snow at Rainbow
The Rib Shack pumps out great aromas
Uncrowded slopes at Rainbow Ski Field
The basin walls have some interesting features
The initial part of the drive to Rainbow Ski Resort
The Rainbow road is somewhat typical of a lot of NZ ski fields

Rainbow Ski Area

Readers Ratings


Rainbow3 out of 5 based on 1 reviews
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit

Rainbow Ski Area

Rainbow Ski Area is a small club field at the top of the South Island of New Zealand that has a very friendly vibe. Rainbow is primarily frequented by the local folks from Nelson and Blenheim, and on weekdays you pretty much only have to share the slopes with school groups. For out of towners, the Rainbow Ski Area is worth visiting if you’ve been there and done that with respect to the mainstream New Zealand ski resorts, if you love road tripping, and especially if you love wine considering Rainbow’s proximity to the famous Marlborough wine region.

Pros and Cons of Rainbow Ski Area NZ

  • Rainbow is generally uncrowded and freshies are easy to come by on a powder day.
  • The staff at Rainbow Ski Area are really friendly and helpful.
  • Rainbow Ski Area is affordable relative to the big commercial New Zealand ski resorts.
  • The region has some very impressive wine tasting on offer.
  • It’s a small ski field with a limited number of runs.
  • Rainbow doesn’t usually receive an abundance of snow.
  • Like most NZ ski fields, the road has the potential to be harrowing.
Pro or Con Depending On Your Perspective
  • If you don’t enjoy nutcracker ropetows, you’ll be pleased that the main lift at Rainbow Ski Area is a T-bar.
  • Rainbow requires some commitment to travel to and there aren’t any other ski fields close by to easily link together on a road safari.
  • Like most NZ ski fields, there is no on-mountain accommodation. The closest settlement is a sleepy hamlet that’s a 50 minute drive away and it’s a long way from a decent sized town.
  • Advanced skiers are more likely to enjoy Rainbow than advanced snowboarders considering the amount of traversing required and some of the flat returns.
  • The Rainbow facilities are delightfully no frills.

Rainbow Ski and Snowboard Terrain

Rainbow is a reasonably small ski field with just over a dozen runs. With only 218 metres of vertical (1,542-1,760m) and only one main lift for non-beginners, there can be a lot of traversing involved before dropping fall line for reasonably short lines.

Officially the trail statistics are beginner 25%, intermediate 55% and advanced 20%, but the real strength of Rainbow is for novices, whilst there is very little intermediate terrain that’s groomed and doesn’t necessitate ingress via a black run. For advanced skiers and snowboarders, there is plenty of off-piste terrain. When it’s open, the West Bowl provides some steep sweet lines. Rainbow Ski Area also has a small introductory terrain park.

The slopes of Rainbow Ski Field are generally uncrowded, in part due to the limited lift capacity because the principal lift is a T-bar. On some weekends and holidays, long queues can develop for the T-bar.

Rainbow Snow

The average snowfall per season is not cited for Rainbow Ski Field, but it’s not renowned for getting a lot of snow and it’s pretty rare that you’ll find a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Pluses for the Rainbow snow include some artificial snowmaking capacity and south facing slopes that retain the snow well.

Where is Rainbow Ski Resort?

Rainbow Ski Field is located in the Nelson Lakes area in the Marlborough region, right on the border with Tasman, in the northern part of the South Island of New Zealand. Rainbow is 34km from the village of St Arnaud (population approx. 450), a drive that takes about 50 minutes if you don’t have to fit chains. You’ll need a car and it’s mandatory to carry chains for the last part of the drive.

Rainbow Accommodation

The little village of St Arnaud has a hotel, a couple of motels, a few BnBs, a general store, and that’s about it. This quiet little community is a far cry from New Zealand ski towns like Queenstown, Wanaka, Ohakune and even Methven.

Alpine Lodge has hotel rooms, studios and apartments (up to 2-4pp). The hotel has a bar and restaurant onsite which is open during winter Wednesday to Sunday (pre-ordered room service on Monday and Tuesday nights), with very limited restaurant hours during June.

St Arnaud Accommodation Listings

Or an alternative is to stay in Blenheim (119km away) which is particularly ideal if you want to combine Rainbow Ski Area with wine touring and tasting in the Marlborough Region. If you want fine accommodation with deluxe rooms, the Chateau Marlborough provides excellent value for money.

Ski Resort Facilities

Rainbow has adequate facilities and services for day trippers. The snowsports school offers group and private lessons (it’s wise to pre-book these), and there is a rental shop with ski and snowboard equipment and clothing for hire. A little retail section sells a few Rainbow souvenirs, along with basic ski and snowboard accessories such as gloves and goggles.

The day lodge serves up some nice food including cooked fare, although it’s hard to get a table considering the number of people that use the tables as their own personal storage locker. Outside is the Rib Shack that pumps out delicious aromas and fare such as ribs (obviously!), burgers and fries.

A small tobogganing area is available, along with toboggan rentals.

Rainbow doesn’t have any mobile phone coverage, except at the top of the ski field on a nice day.
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