From family-friendly runs to off-piste adventures, New Zealand’s ski fields offer a winter experience like no other for Australians seeking a holiday on the slopes.
A short flight across the ditch will land you in one of New Zealand’s top ski regions, from Mt Ruapehu in the north to Mt Hutt, Queenstown and Wanaka in the south, and with the ski season off to a bumper start already, we’re predicting this season is going to be a winner.
Mt Hutt - Canterbury
Mt Hutt is just 90 minutes' drive west of the South Island gateway city of Christchurch in the heart of the Canterbury region. The resort has been voted New Zealand’s best ski resort at the World Ski Awards in 2018 for the three consecutive years.
It’s renowned for its wide, groomed slopes, lift access for skiers of all abilities and a top altitude of 2086m, where you can see across to the Pacific Ocean in one direction and to the Southern Alps in the other.
The 365 hectare ski field also has one of the longest snow seasons in New Zealand, with an average annual snow fall of four metres – a snow-lovers dream.
Enhancements over the past year have included a renovation of its popular Sky High Café, improvements to on-mountain transport and significant investments in snowmaking.
There has been a lot of investment too at the small private and club-owned skifields the Canterbury region is known for. Ski areas like Mount Cheeseman, Temple Basin and Broken River have fewer bells and whistles than the large fields, but they are gaining a growing reputation among intermediate and advanced skiers for excellent terrain and high quality snow.
With rugged mountains as far as the eye can see and an unbeatable quality of life - the secret’s getting out about Wanaka. But despite a surge in popularity, Wanaka retains a laid-back, small-town atmosphere.
History has it that Maori went to Wanaka to hunt and fish during their stop-offs on the way to the West Coast to find pounamu, and the current locals all have one thing in common - a love and respect for the great outdoors.
From Wanaka you can access three diverse ski areas: Cardrona, Treble Cone and Snow Farm, all located within a 40-minute drive from the town centre, as well as New Zealand’s best-kept secret and private ski area, Soho Basin. And if you’re looking for a luxe ski experience, you can also access the largest heli-ski terrain in the Southern Hemisphere.
Wanaka is also the home of snow sports in New Zealand, with the world’s best boarders and skiers heading to the town every season - it’s not unusual for visitors to share a chairlift ride with an Olympian or two.
Days are active in Wanaka, filled with skiing, hiking or general mountain activities, but come night time (thanks to a bunch of entrepreneurs) there’s a wave of quirky new bars, craft breweries, and some seriously good eateries.
There’s never a shortage of things to do in Queenstown, especially over the spring ski season. With warmer and longer days from September, you can ski in the morning and play a round of golf, jump on the mountain bike trails, or try out an adventurous activity the same afternoon.
Visitors are spoilt for choice for ski fields - you can head up to Remarkables Ski Area, Treble Cone or Cardrona Alpine Resort for the early risers in the morning, before visiting Coronet Peak for the only night skiing in NZ when the sun sets.
Après ski is big in Queenstown, but the hardest part is deciding where to go, with more than 150 restaurants, bars and cafes making the most of local produce to fuel your snow adventures.
And when you tire from the snow, slow down the pace with a day spent relaxing at one of Queenstown’s boutique spas, your own private onsen hot pool, or indulge in one of the region’s renowned wineries.
Towering above the desert in the middle of the North Island in a UNESCO dual World Heritage National Park, breath-taking Mt Ruapehu is an active volcano with unimpeded, awe-inspiring views reaching all the way to the coast.
Located on the north-western slopes, Whakapapa is home to NZ’s premier beginner playground, Happy Valley. Whakapapa is a special place, famous for its expansive terrain (550ha), incredible views and New Zealand’s highest eatery, the Knoll Ridge Café voted the World’s Best Designed Café in 2015.
While on the south-western slopes of Mt Ruapehu, Tūroa is home to huge snow bases, unique volcanic terrain and epic terrain parks. It also boasts New Zealand’s highest lift – the High Noon Express – and a thigh-burning vertical descent of 722 metres.
When it’s time to give your legs a break from skiing and snowboarding, be sure to head out and explore - from adventure activities such as jet boating, white water rafting and skydiving to the more relaxed rail carts and geothermal hot pools, there is something for everyone in the centre of the North Island.