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 level, 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 to 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.
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
New Zealand is home to an array of ski areas, offering a good range of very different skiing and snowboarding experiences from the North Island to the South Island.
Central North Island
Ski a volcano in the central North Island! Whakapapa and Turoa are the best-known ski areas.
Whakapapa Ski Area New Zealand’s largest developed ski area offers all the amenities of an international ski resort. Thirty groomed trails, off-piste areas for intermediates and advanced, plus tobogganing and tubing. Board Great variety of natural terrain Ski Some of NZ’s best off-piste Location 90 km from Taupo Season Jun – Oct Ratings Beginner 30%, Intermediate 45%, Advanced 25%
Turoa Ski Area New Zealand’s highest ski area has three main off-piste areas and Australasia’s longest vertical descent. Snowboarders have an awesome freestyler terrain park while skiers love Turoa’s snow-filled bowls and steep chutes. Board 3 terrain parks Ski Snow-filled bowls and steep chutes Location 17 km from Ohakune Season Jun – Oct Ratings Beginner 25%, Intermediate 50%, Advanced 25%
New Zealand’s largest variety of ski areas and home to Mount Hutt, Porters and Broken River.
Mount Cheeseman Family-friendly, Mt Cheeseman is known for its groomed runs and off-piste terrain catering for all abilities. Two T-bar lifts provide access to the whole mountain with untracked trails and off-piste experiences available at Mt Cockayne. Board Boarder cross, awesome riding Ski Uncrowded groomed and off-piste Location 99 km from Christchurch Ratings Beginner 15%, Intermediate 50%, Advanced 35%
Mount Hutt Long runs in a mix of terrain, a well-developed trail network, 10,000 m² terrain park (including the Tararua Iced Coffee and Dirty Dog Mini Terrain Parks), triple black diamond runs, steep chutes and excellent facilities. Board Awesome parks Ski Some of Australasia’s best powder Location 118 km from Christchurch Season Jun – Oct Ratings Beginner 25%, Intermediate 50%, Advanced 25%
Porters Excellent snow sports school. Advanced skiers and boarders love the legendary Bluff Face and Big Mama runs. Snowboarders can practise their tricks in the terrain park. Heli skiing by arrangement. Board Terrain park and freeriding Ski Legendary Big Mama run Location 96 km from Christchurch Season Jun – Oct Ratings Beginner 15%, Intermediate 40%, Advanced 45%
Broken River A day at Broken River starts with a four-minute ride up through native forest on New Zealand’s only alpine funicular railway – the Tyndall Tramway. Explore the rolling bowls and chutes of Broken River and Allan’s Basin. Board Powder, chutes, bowls, off-piste Ski Powder, off-piste, groomed, friendly Location 110 km from Christchurch Season Late Jun – late Oct Ratings Beginner 5%, Intermediate 45%, Advanced 50%
Great lake and mountain scenery form an exquisite backdrop for fun on the snow.
Ohau Snow Fields Home to the famous Ohau Snowball event, this ski area features a snow mat for learners and exciting terrain in superb powder areas for intermediates/advanced. Find interesting trails and awesome off-piste. Gear hire and tuition available. Board Powder day carving rules Ski Interesting trails & awesome off-piste Location 320 km from Christchurch Season Jun – Sep Ratings Beginner 20%, Intermediate 50%, Advanced 30%
Known for activities on and off the slopes, Wanaka and Queenstown are hotspots for snowsports.
Cardrona Alpine Resort Cardrona Alpine Resort is an incredible playground for freestylers. Slope facilities include three terrain parks, an 800-metre gravity cross-course, two half-pipes and wide open groomed trails. They also have childcare centres for the young ’uns. Board & Ski Wide open groomed trails. Terrain parks, half-pipes, gravity-X. Location Close to Wanaka and Queenstown Season Jun – Oct Ratings Beginner 25%, Intermediate 50%, Advanced 25%
Coronet Peak Night-skiing and First Tracks at Coronet Peak ensure the ski area has long daily operating hours. Snowboarders relish the natural features to hit, while skiers love the rolling terrain and hidden gullies. Sarah Sue off Greengates chair offers great off-piste skiing. Board Lots of natural features Ski Rolling terrain and gullies Location 18 km from Queenstown Season Jun – Oct Ratings Beginner 25%, Intermediate 45%, Advanced 30% (includes back bowls)
Snow Farm Ski Area First-class cross-country skiing (day and night!) on more than 50 kilometres of groomed trails. Also tubing, sledding, snowshoeing and two backcountry huts for overnight trips. Ski Cross-country skiing day and night Location 35 km from Wanaka, 55 km from Queenstown Season Mid June – mid Sep Ratings Beginner 30%, Intermediate 50%, Advanced 20%
The Remarkables Fun, families and freestyle. Catering for learners and intermediates, they offer awesome backcountry trails and three terrain parks including The Stash, the Southern Hemisphere’s first Burton Park. Board Half-pipe and three terrain parks Ski Awesome trails Location 28 km from Queenstown Season Jun – Oct Ratings Beginner 30%, Intermediate 40%, Advanced 30%
Treble Cone Ski Area The South Island’s largest ski area offers congestion-free slopes for all abilities; from beginners’ slopes and wide groomed trails through to free-riding terrain. Board Unrivalled terrain Ski Legendary powder days Location 29 km from Wanaka Season Jun – Sep Ratings Beginner 10%, Intermediate 45%, Advanced 45%
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 & Parks – Ski Fields’ link for tailored reports on New Zealand ski areas, entered daily by ski areas during the winter season. The MetService also offers a mobile app for alerts and mountain condition reports sent directly to your clients’ mobile phones. Click the “Weather on your mobile” under “About” on the 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
Backcountry Avalanche Advisory News on avalanches and backcountry safety. www.avalanche.net.nz
NZ Mountain Guides Association Training to International Federation of Mountain Guides (IFMGA) standards. www.nzmga.org.nz
NZ Mountain Safety Council Enhancing safety in outdoor adventure activities.www.mountainsafety.org.nz
NZ Snow Safety Institute Courses on mountain safety. www.nzssi.com
Snowsports NZ New Zealand’s national snowsports management and promotion organisation. www.snowsports.co.nz