Ski New Zealand's South Island
No matter if you're an expert skier looking for steep lines or a first timer aiming to get your ski legs, there's a run for you in New Zealand.
Queenstown and Wanaka
Visitors flock to Queenstown all year round - it's one of New Zealand's top tourist towns and the country's outdoor lifestyle capital. In winter, jet boats, rafting, mountain biking, bungee jumping, golf, winery tours, bicycle touring and lake cruises all take a back seat to skiing and snowboarding.
There are two ski areas that overlook Queenstown: Coronet Peak and The Remarkables. Both are just a short drive and regular daily buses service the two areas from town.
Wanaka is 67km from Queenstown via the scenic Crown Range Road, the highest main road in New Zealand and the Cardrona Valley Road. The town isn't as fired up as Queenstown - few places are - but there are plenty of restaurants, bars and cafes. Wanaka is close to two ski resorts: Cardrona Alpine Resort is 34kmi away and Treble Cone 29kmii.
It is possible to ski all four areas whether you stay in Queenstown or Wanaka. From Queenstown, Cardrona and Treble Cone are a 58kmi and 100kmiidrive respectively. While, from Wanaka it is 78km to The Remarkablesiii and 75km to Coronet Peakiii.
All four resorts have ski schools and offer lessons for kids and adults.
There are direct flights into Queenstown from Australia as well as from other major New Zealand cities, or you can fly into Christchurch and enjoy the scenic 428km drive to Wanaka or 483km to Queenstown through Twizel, Tekapo and Geraldineiii.
Coronet Peak has a top elevation of 1649m and 481m of vertical. The 280 hectares of skiable terrain is predominantly for beginners (25%) and intermediates (45%), but when the snow is good advanced skiers can have a blast on some of the steeper sections and back bowls. To access the runs the resort provides one high-speed six seater chairlift, two express quad chairs and one T-bar. There are four surface conveyor lifts for beginners.
The Remarkables might be smaller (220 hectares) and have less vertical (357m) than Coronet, but it is made up for by a top elevation of 1943m, 300 metres above Coronet's peak. The three quad chairlifts and three surface conveyor lifts were joined in 2014 by a new high-speed six seater chair. The resort offers similar statistics to Coronet with 30% of terrain for beginners, 40% for intermediates and 30% advanced skiers and riders. Advanced and expert skiers will find challenging chutes (Elevator, Escalator and Alta) and steeps from the top of the Shadow Basin Chair.
Cardrona has a good selection of terrain for all skill levels (25% beginner, 50% intermediate and 25% advanced), is the second largest area of the four resorts (345 hectares), and has 600m of vertical from a highest lifted point of 1860m. New skier learning areas are serviced by two surface conveyor lifts and one platter tow lift. Learner progression is supported by a wide range of beginner runs across the resort. Three of the four quad chairlifts provide access to beginner runs. Intermediates are spoilt for choice and can ski the entire resort. Advanced and expert skiers have access to chutes, bowls: there are also many opportunities to drop-in on some great steep areas from intermediate and beginner runs. Cardrona also offers a limited amount of on-mountain accommodation.
Treble Cone is a great area for advanced and expert skiers. There are only two chairs - a six seater and a quad - but they open up a large amount of steep advanced terrain in several basins. Resort statistics indicate 10% beginner terrain: the area for those new to skiing is small and serviced by a surface conveyor lift from which first timers can graduate to a platter. From there beginners must step up to a single run from the top of the Home Basin Express six seat chair. Called Easy Rider it is effectively a trail that has been cut into the hill that snakes back and forth under the chair. The opportunities to progress from there are a range of intermediate runs (45% of the resort). The 550 hectare area is the largest of the four Queenstown / Wanaka resorts thanks in part to the large gated Motatapu Basin, but that area is only open when snow and weather allow. The Treble Cone Summit is at 2058m although the highest lifted point is the top of the Saddle Basin Quad chairlift at 1960m. From there it is 700m of vertical back to the bottom of the Home Basin Express six seater chair.
Christchurch on the east coast of New Zealand's South Island is the main city of the Canterbury region. As you travel east from Christchurch, Canterbury's plains give way to the spectacular Southern Alps with many opportunities for skiing.
Rising high above the Canterbury plains just 114kmiii out of Christchurch and 26kmiii from Methven is Mount Hutt. The 365 hectare area features 683m of vertical from a top elevation of 2086m, with terrain for all levels (beginners 25%, intermediate 50% and advanced 25%). The resort has a high-speed six seat chairlift, a quad chairlift, a triple chairlift and a surface conveyor lift.
Porters is 89kmiv from Christchurch and has a quad chairlift, three T-bars, a platter lift and a surface conveyor lift. There's 600m of vertical, very little beginner skiing, lots of big faces for advanced powder turns, and chutes for the adventurous.
In southern Canterbury the Aoraki / Mount Cook Mackenzie Region has three ski areas: the Mt Dobson Ski Area 185kmiii from Christchurch, Roundhill Ski Area 259kmiii,v, from Christchurch and Ohau Snow Fields 320kmvi from Christchurch.
Mt Dobson's highest lifted point is at 2030m and there is 415m of vertical. The ski field is serviced by a triple chairlift, a T-bar, a platter lift and a rope tow. Roundhill's highest lifted point is 2133m and there is 783m of vertical. Beginner and intermediate runs are accessed using a T-bar, advanced runs using a rope tow. Oahu Snow Fields has a double chair, snow mat and platter. All three areas offer a good selection of runs for all levels.
Mt Lyford is located in North Canterbury 146km from Christchurchvii. 450m of vertical is serviced by a T-bar, two platter lifts, one fixed grip and a lower and upper advanced rope tow. The highest lifted point is at 1750m and there is a range of beginner, intermediate and advanced terrain.
Canterbury also has many club ski areas. Three club fields - Craigieburn Valley, Mt Cheeseman and Broken River - are clustered together in the Craigieburn Range on State Highway 73, about 110km northwest of Christchurchiii on the way to Arthurs Pass and the west coast. Twenty kilometresiii further on - near Arthurs Pass - is Temple Basin Ski Area. To the south is of these areas is Mount Olympus - 123kmviii from Christchurch. The Fox Peak Ski Field is near the Aoraki / Mount Cook Mackenzie Region, 208km southwest of Christchurch. The Hanmer Springs Ski Area club field is 155kmix almost directly north of Christchurch.
The Rainbow Ski Area is in the north of the South Island in the Marlborough region on the border of the Tasman region. One T-Bar, a platter and three tows - including one for beginners - provide access to 218m of vertical terrain for all abilities. The area is 375km from Christchurch and 100km from Nelson.iii
Club fields are generally open to the public, rarely have groomed runs but frequently offer great terrain. Many have on-site lodge accommodation. They provide a one-of-a-kind NZ skiing experience that is enjoyed by locals and international visitors. Generally they eschew chairlifts and even T-bars in favour of the high-speed rope tow. To use a rope tow a belt or harness must be worn with an attached 'nutcracker': a metal lever device that can be used to clamp onto the rope. The rope is held off the ground by running over pulleys and the nutcracker rides over these - with a clunk - as the user travels up the hill. Using a rope tow with a nutcracker is an acquired skill, particularly when the tow is fast, steep, or both. It's also more difficult if the start of rope tow is not level or close to level. You'll want to wear a glove protector so you don't wreck your ski gloves while you let the rope slip through your hands when you are taking off and attaching the nutcracker. If you are having difficulty, the locals will likely give you a hand - and a big cheer when you do get going. As a general rule, NZ club field rope tows are for intermediate and above skiers - they are also a bit of a full body workout.