New Zealand is a popular destination for skiers and snowboarders, offering a huge range of experiences to suit every type of skier – from nervous first-timers to families and expert skiers and snowboarders.
Remember that in New Zealand, the ski season is the reverse of the Northern Hemisphere season – generally running from June to October.
Visitors don’t have to be a club member to ski on a club field. Facilities may not be as sophisticated as on commercial fields, but they can nonetheless be fun.
Winter is the busy season in popular ski resorts. Make sure you book your clients’ accommodation and transport well in advance.
Ski and snowboard gear may be hired on the mountain, or in ski shops at ski resorts and in larger towns and cities.
Spring skiing is popular in New Zealand – temperatures are a little warmer and the mountains have a good snow base.
New Zealand is heaven for skiers and snowboarders! The seasons occur in reverse of the Northern Hemisphere, with the ski season generally running from June to October; and a good snow base and warmer temperatures make spring skiing particularly appealing for many skiers. You will find a range of commercial and club fields offering downhill skiing and snowboarding, cross-country skiing and terrain parks. Larger fields offer dedicated areas (and lessons!) for learners, while extreme skiers and snowboarders will enjoy heli skiing in remote locations. The majority of New Zealand’s ski areas are located in the South Island, but there are a couple in North Island’s Ruapehu region and one in Taranaki. Renting or purchasing quality equipment is easy in cities and ski resorts, although most ski areas also rent gear on the mountain.
What’s on Offer
New Zealand mountains are simply unique, where else can you ski on an active volcano or a glacier, or go heli skiing in the remotest backcountry?
During winter, skiers and snowboarders flock to New Zealand to experience the many thrills on offer. The main ski areas are on Mount Ruapehu in the North Island and in Canterbury, Mackenzie, Wanaka and Queenstown in the South Island – all of which become busy ski resorts during the winter months. A myriad of options are available to suit clients of every ability, from ski schools and well-groomed runs at major commercial ski areas to terrain parks and cross-country skiing. Some ski areas even offer the excitement of night skiing under floodlights.
What makes skiing and snowboarding in New Zealand extra special is the fact that a temperate climate allows visitors to enjoy a range of other activities in between days on the slopes. Off the mountains, wintertime temperatures still allow visitors to go hiking through native forests, surfing (yes, even during the winter months – although you should recommend that your clients wear wetsuits!) or try an adrenaline rush such as bungy jumping or black-water rafting. More relaxed après-ski options include unwinding with a glass of mulled wine in a cosy pub, soaking in a hot pool or exploring New Zealand’s vibrant urban centres.
Heli Skiing If your clients have mastered the groomed runs of commercial ski areas and are seeking something more challenging, their visit to New Zealand may be the perfect opportunity to try a heli skiing adventure. Heli skiing is the ultimate way to ski or board New Zealand – and it’s not just for expert skiers and boarders. Your clients simply need to be of intermediate skiing or boarding ability and have a reasonable level of fitness. They will be flown by helicopter to untracked slopes that are deep in the mountains and inaccessible by any other means, and an expert guide will be on hand to lead them through the experience.
Heli skiing operations extend across huge areas of backcountry and can include anything from wide open basins to steep descents and glaciers. Riding on untracked natural snow is very different to the groomed slopes of ski areas. If your clients are renting gear, they may prefer to use fat powder skis – although many heli ski operators will arrange the required equipment. Different options are available for different levels of ability, and heli ski adventures can be custom-designed to ensure that your clients are utterly thrilled by their experience.
New Zealand Ski Regions
1. Central North Island Ski a volcano – Mount Ruapehu.
Whakapapa Ski Area – New Zealand’s largest ski area boasts excellent facilities.
Turoa Ski Area – Varied terrain and an off-trail area on a high-altitude field.
Tukino Skifield – Gentle runs for beginners and powder for snowboarders.
2. Taranaki Great boarding on iconic Mount Taranaki.
Manganui Ski Area – Outstanding snowboarding with natural half-pipes.
3. Nelson Uncrowded slopes.
Rainbow Ski Area – Varied terrain for beginners and intermediates.
4. Canterbury New Zealand’s largest variety of ski areas.
Hanmer Springs Ski Area – Varied intermediate skiing on and off piste.
Mount Lyford – Snowboarding terrain park for all levels of ability.
Broken River – Exhilarating space and isolation.
Craigieburn Valley – Cult status as being ‘steep, deep and cheap’.
Temple Basin – Hike in for uncrowded slopes and night skiing.
Cheeseman – Family-friendly ski area that’s suitable for all levels.
Mount Olympus – Varied terrain for all levels of skiing ability.
Porters – An impressive vertical drop – especially on the famous ‘Big Mama’ run.
Mount Hutt – Consistently good powder and a long season.
HeliPark New Zealand – Heli-accessed free riding in backcountry terrain.
5. Mackenzie Awesome lake and mountain scenery.
Fox Peak – Fantastic trails and great scenery.
Mount Dobson Ski Area – Large learners’ area and a terrain park.
Roundhill Ski Area – Family-friendly, with safe, gentle slopes.
Ohau Snow Fields – Great snow for all levels of ability.
6. Southern Lakes Adventure capital, on and off the mountains.
Coronet Peak – Terrain for all levels – and night skiing.
The Remarkables – Variety of terrain, from easy to extreme.
Cardrona Alpine Resort – Trails for all levels and a terrain park.
Treble Cone – Extreme off-piste terrain and half-pipes.
Snow Park NZ – Dedicated cross-country ski area.
Snow Farm New Zealand – Dedicated terrain park.
New Zealand Ski and Snowboard Essentials
Club Ski Areas New Zealand club ski areas aren’t just for members – all skiers and boarders are welcome. They are ski areas run by members rather than a company, which means prices are often lower than commercial areas and they are usually less crowded. Note that facilities may be slightly less sophisticated.
Prices Compared to the Northern Hemisphere, New Zealand is a good value destination for skiing and snowboarding. For a one-day adult lift pass, expect to pay NZ$35 to NZ$65 at a club ski area and NZ$80 to NZ$100 at a commercial ski area. Ski or snowboard hire generally costs between NZ$30 to NZ$60 per day.
Season The ski and snowboard season in New Zealand generally runs from June to October each year. A Southern Hemisphere setting means that the seasons occur in reverse of Northern Hemisphere seasons. Spring skiing is popular, offering a good snow base combined with warmer air temperatures.
Weather Info Go to www.metservice.co.nz and click on the ‘Mountains & National Parks – Ski Fields’ link for tailored reports on New Zealand ski areas, entered daily by ski areas during the winter season. The MetService offers a mobile service for daily or one-off alerts and mountain condition reports sent directly to your clients’ mobile phones. Click the TXT4SNOW link in ‘SMS Texting’ on the About page of the MetService website for more details. If your clients don’t have access to the internet, they can phone MetPhone Mountain & Ski Info for the latest MetService mountain forecasts (from 7am) and AA highway reports. Note that calls to this service incur a per-minute charge.
MetPhone Mountain & Ski Info phone numbers: Central North Island 0900 999 15; Nelson Lakes 0900 999 02; Canterbury Region 0900 999 26; Southern Lakes 0900 999 81.
Ski Tourism Marketing Network
With members including some of New Zealand’s top winter resorts and ski areas in both the North and South Islands, the Ski Tourism Marketing Network promotes New Zealand as a skiing and snowboarding destination. www.newzealandski.co.nz
Canterbury Snowsports Association www.skisouth.org.nz Information and links for skiing at club-operated ski areas.
FreeSki Association of NZ Governing body of free-ride and freestyle skiing in New Zealand.
Backcountry Avalanche Advisory www.avalanche.net.nz News on avalanches and backcountry safety.
NZ Mountain Guides Association www.nzmga.org.nz Training to International Federation of Mountain Guides (IFMGA) standards.
NZ Mountain Safety Council www.mountainsafety.org.nz Enhancing safety in outdoor adventure activities.
NZ Snow Safety Institute www.templebasin.co.nz Courses on mountain safety.
NZ Snowsports Council www.snow.co.nz/snowsports Promotes snowsports for leisure.
Speed Ski NZ www.speedski.co.nz Supporting the development of speed skiing in New Zealand.