New Zealand ski season: Queenstown and Wanaka

Surrounded by breathtaking mountains and pristine glacier fed lakes, the vibrant alpine resort towns of Queenstown and Wanaka set the scene for winter ski holidays.

Surrounded by breathtaking mountains and glacier fed lakes, the vibrant alpine resort towns of Queenstown and Wanaka set the scene for lively winter ski holidays.

Queenstown and Wanaka - within an hour's drive of each other, and bridging four ski resorts and a specialist ski area - offer a New Zealand skiing holiday like no other.

Queenstown, known as the ‘Adventure Capital’ of New Zealand, is a popular year-round tourist destination, but there's an extra magic when the snow falls - attracting skiers, snowboarders and thrill-seekers to enjoy world-class ski areas, a buzzing après ski culture and a multitude of off-piste adventures and activities.

The region is increasingly popular with Australians, and this year's winter season influx will see 50 direct trans-Tasman flights arriving into Queenstown airport each week. Many of these visitors also come to experience Queenstown’s iconic winter festivals - the American Express Queenstown Winter Festival and DNA Gay Ski Week.

Queenstown & Wanaka

When the snow begins to fall, the alpine town of Queenstown transforms into a winter wonderland, reminiscent of a picturesque European ski resort town. A short drive from Queenstown brings visitors to the more relaxed, but equally beautiful, small resort town of Wanaka - gateway to magnificent Mt Aspiring National Park.

Queenstown and Wanaka both offer a base for young-snow-lovers, couples wanting to experience a slice of southern romance, and families looking to make long-lasting memories enjoying awe-inspiring scenery and Kiwi hospitality.

Watched over by snow-covered peaks and beside Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown is regularly named as one of the top destinations in the world to visit. It is well known for great food, award-winning wineries, luxurious accommodation and a long list of off-piste attractions.

Wanaka - on the shores of the ancient glacier-carved basin filled by Lake Wanaka - is a four season destination with a wide range of outdoor activities from walking to mountaineering, fishing, jet-boating and other summer water sports, to nature tours and exploring vineyards including one of the southern most vineyards in the world, picturesque Rippon Winery.

Queenstown and Wanaka share four major ski fields - all with naturally formed, diverse terrain to choose from. For those in search of more thrills, there is plenty of pristine backcountry snow away from the crowds.

Coronet Peak

The closest ski field to Queenstown is Coronet Peak. This much-loved local haunt is a 25-minute drive from downtown Queenstown, and has recently undergone a multi-million dollar transformation.

Easy road access, modern facilities, rolling off-piste terrain and an impressive 213 snow guns have helped Coronet Peak become a world-class ski area. The new Park after Dark area gives freestyle skiers/riders the chance to let loose on boxes, rails and airbags.

Visitors to Coronet Peak can experience Queenstown from a different perspective as it is the only mountain that offers night skiing (Friday and Saturday nights). At the other end of the day, Coronet Peak’s ‘First Tracks’ lets early rising ski-bunnies experience the mountain before official opening time.

The Remarkables

A 45-minute drive from Queenstown brings visitors to The Remarkables mountain range.

In name, and in nature, The Remarkables are just that. The alpine terrain, north-facing slopes, a dedicated learning area, lessons, kids club and free day lift passes for under 10s make this ski-field a great place for families and novices to get their first taste of a fun-packed snow adventure. And for advanced skiers there is plenty of backcountry terrain to explore.

The Remarkables also caters for freestylers with three dedicated terrain parks, including the Southern Hemisphere’s only Stash, a Burton signature terrain park. In 2014 skiers and riders will be introduced to the new Curvey Basin, a 1.2km lift that will open up new terrain and even grander views.

Treble Cone

For those wanting to experience something a little different, Treble Cone’s legendary long uncrowded slopes, off-piste terrain and views offer a Kiwi snow experience on the biggest ski area in the South Island. All this is just a 35-minute scenic lake front drive from Wanaka.

Named ‘Best New Zealand Ski Resort’ at the World Ski Awards in 2013, Mother Nature really pushed the boat out when creating this versatile ski area. Two large basins and the longest vertical rise in the Southern Lakes allow Treble Cone visitors to let loose and enjoy the ride.

Children are also well catered for on Treble Cone. The Jazz Kids Fun Trail Extension, with Mini-rollers and jumps is now completed.

Cardrona Valley

Cardona Valley, between Queenstown and Wanaka, has two ski areas - Cardrona Alpine Resort and Snow Farm - where on-snow winter activities extend to snow and ice driving on a dedicated race track, backcountry overnight snow mobile tours, dog sled rides, snow bikes and snow shoe adventures.

Cardrona Alpine Resort caters for everyone, from first-timers and families, to experienced skiers with abundant wide open trails that meander across three bowls as well as a world class terrain park, and comprehensive children’s facilities including four centres and slopes dedicated to under-fives.

Freestyle skiing and riding is a major drawcard for visitors to Cardona. Twenty-one of the freestyle athletes who trained at Cardrona went on to win Winter Olympic medals at Sochi in 2013, and New Zealand’s only Para-Olympic Silver Medallist, Corey Peters also trains at Cardrona.

A fourth terrain park for freestyler skiers and riders, that will include a triple jump line and additional rails and boxes for intermediate freestylers, is in the works. And when the day skiing is done on Cardrona, visitors can enjoy a cold drink by a warm-fire at the Cardrona Hotel, one of the most historic and well photographed pubs in New Zealand.

For those staying in the Wanaka area who can’t choose which field they prefer, the "OnePassNZ" offers the chance to experience both Treble Cone and the Cardrona Ski area with an interchangeable pass that can also be exchanged for off mountain activities.

Staying up-to-date

For up-to-the-minute snow reports for The Remarkables, Coronet Peak, Cardrona and Treble Cone, well-known information website Queenstown.com has become a one stop shop. 

The locally-based site is the first in the region to offer up-to-the-moment snow reports for all four local ski areas. The Snow Reports page features webcam shots updated every 15 minutes, temperatures, snow levels, road conditions and links to a full report for each mountain. 

To view the report page click here.