New Zealand’s southern hemisphere ski fields - renowned for spectacular mountain terrain, postcard scenery, varied snow trails, and popular resorts - are open for the winter 2012 season.
The ski season kicked off at Coronet Peak, Queenstown, and at Mt Hutt, Canterbury, in early June and runs until late October.
Off-piste, the resort towns are planning a full schedule of events and activities for families, serious sports and the après-ski set including the 10-day Queenstown Winter Festival (22.06 - 1.07 2012) and DNA Gay Ski Week (25.08 - 1.09 2012).
New Zealand is the top southern hemisphere destination for northern hemisphere pro skiers training during their off-season so ski crazy holidaymakers will have the opportunity to rub shoulders or at least watch Olympic-class sports stars on the slopes.
Winter holiday resorts
Queenstown is New Zealand''s best known winter holiday destination. This year-round tourist town - magnificently sited on Lake Wakatipu at the foot of The Remarkables mountains - is full of shops, cafés and nightclubs that vibrate adventure, activity and enthusiasm. The local ski areas are Coronet Peak and The Remarkables, and the busiest week of the year is during Winter Festival.
Wanaka - on the shores of Lake Wanaka - is close to the four ski areas of Cardrona, Treble Cone, Snow Farm and Snow Park with terrain for skiers and snowboarders of all levels.
Mount Hutt ski area - in Canterbury - enjoys the longest snow season. It''s a popular destination for locals and visitors who gather at the town of Methven when not on the slopes or enjoying off-piste heli-ski adventures on private high country farms.
In the North Island, the active volcano of Mt Ruapehu is home to the Whakapapa and Turoa ski areas, and small ski resort towns of National Park Village and Ohakune.
For winter holidaymakers wanting a day off from the slopes, New Zealand’s alpine regions offer other fun-filled winter activities.
Queenstown Winter Festival
Queenstown hosts the southern hemisphere’s biggest winter party, the annual American Express Queenstown Winter Festival at the end of June.
The popular festival celebrates winter with a packed 10-day programme of hilarious, outrageous and unique Queenstown events, including comedy, drag racing, street parades, a charity boxing match and glamorous ball.
The event started in 1975 and has grown into New Zealand’s premier winter celebration, attracting 60,000 people and injecting NZ$45 million into the local economy.
July is now Queenstown’s busiest month and winter has surpassed summer in terms of the number of tourists visiting the resort town.
South Island ski fields
The Southern Alps, in New Zealand’s South Island, offer New Zealand’s most extensive and varied ski areas in a pristine landscape of deep alpine lakes and soaring mountains.
While skiers and snowboarders flock to the major ski resorts of the Canterbury, Queenstown and Wanaka regions, there are a whole series of other lesser known boutique ski areas offering great mountain runs and skiing without crowds.
Airlines have bosted domestic and trans-Tasman flight schedules to cater for winter holidaymakers. From late June, there will be 32 direct trans-Tasman flights into Queenstown, and 59 flights into Christchurch International Airport - the main tourism gateway to the South Island.
With 18 ski areas, the Canterbury region provides premium winter holiday destinations for skiers and snowboarders of all abilities, from world class Mt Hutt, to club fields for beginners and family adventures at Roundhill.
Mt Hutt ski area - two hours from Christchurch - is known as the ‘Capital of Speed’ and hosts many ski racing events. The resort has a mini park offering a skill progression path into the vast UP&GO terrain park, while the award-winning snow sports school caters to beginners.
The ski town of Methven nestled beneath towering Mt Hutt is the closest place to stay for early starts on the slopes.
Mount Cook is a New Zealand icon and a place of spectacular beauty and thrilling adventure where tourists can ski the country’s longest glacier, the Tasman Glacier.
Further afield, the vast open wilderness of Canterbury’s Mackenzie district has the boutique ski areas of Mt Dobson, Roundhill and Ohau.
Mt Dobson offers a fun skiing and snowboarding experience for everyone from well groomed slopes for beginners and intermediate skiers, through to soft smooth powder that tests the best.
Roundhill is an ideal family ski area with a gentle beginner slope where it’s easy to get up and going. For the more adventurous, the Heritage Express rope tow has a top elevation of 2133m.
Ohau in the Ohau Range - part of Canterbury’s main divide - offers reliable snowfall and usually fine weather. The field is serviced by a double chairlift, and a learners’ snow mat.
During the colder months Queenstown transforms into a winter wonderland where visitors and locals make the most of the spectacular environment.
Popular Coronet Peak - just 20 minutes from central Queenstown and the South Island’s most popular ski area - is usually the first skifield to kick off the New Zealand winter ski season.
Overlooking Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu, Coronet Peak offers diverse terrain, fantastic views and world-class facilities that include modern lifts and a state-of-the-art snowmaker, with premium skiing and riding for all levels including a dedicated kids fun zone.
The Remarkables ski area - 45-minutes from Queenstown - is all about the fun of skiing and snowboarding, and caters for families, freestylers and those who love the big mountain environment. The Remarkables base has learners’ slopes and sunny decks, and a snow sports school for all abilities, with group or private lessons.
An hour’s drive from Queenstown - across the Crown Range and New Zealand’s highest public road - Wanaka is a magnet for outdoors fans.
Wanaka town sits in a glacier-carved basin on the shores of the lake and is the gateway to Mt Aspiring National Park. The area provides great skiing and riding, heli-skiing, ice-climbing and Nordic skiing.
Cardrona ski resort is renowned as a friendly resort with some of the most reliable snow conditions in the region - thanks to its high elevation and south-facing location. Facilities include four chairlifts, including a new quad lift.
Treble Cone - the South Island’s largest ski field - offers a unique New Zealand snow experience, with long uncrowded slopes, gullies, wide faces and unrivalled views. The expansive mountain has the longest vertical rise in the Queenstown - Lake Wanaka region.
Snow Park, in the Pisa Range - between Wanaka and Queenstown - is renowned internationally for the challenging terrain that makes it popular with young free-riders. The resort has 55km of ski trails and 310ha of back country skiing terrain.
North Island ski fields
Mt Ruapehu - on the central North Island volcanic plateau - offers some of New Zealand’s most natural skiing and snowboarding terrain, along with fantastic learners'' facilities. The two main ski fields are Whakapapa and Turoa.
Whakapapa’s volcanic landscape offers a huge variety of trails, with bumps, chutes, drops, bowls or wide runs. It’s also home to Happy Valley - New Zealand''s premier beginners'' area - in a dedicated valley away from other skiers / boarders, and complete with café, rentals and ski school.
Turoa’s terrain is mostly wide and smooth, though skiers / boarders can easily find chutes and bowls to keep it interesting. Hamilton''s Face provides the more experienced big mountain skier with an ever-changing range of natural terrain features.
2012 NZ ski season opening dates:
- Coronet Peak: 9 June - 7 October
- Mount Hutt: 9 June - 7 October
- The Remarkables: 16 June - 7 October
- Turoa: 16 June
- Whakapapa: 23 June
- Cardrona: 22 June - 7 October
- Ohau: 23 June - 7 October
- Roundhill: 23 June - 30 September
- Treble Cone: 28 June - 30 September
- Mt Dobson: 29 June - 7 October
Winter in New Zealand
Off-piste New Zealand snow adventures
New Zealand skiing / snowboarding destinations