The 8 Best Ski Resorts in Australia & New Zealand

19th April 2014 | OTS Staff

News Regions: Australia, New Zealand

Resorts in this article: Coronet Peak, Craigieburn Valley Ski Area, Mt. Buller, Mt. Hotham, Perisher, The Remarkables, Thredbo Alpine Resort, Treble Cone

Treble Cone, NZ Summit Slopes

A skier at Treble Cone, NZ.

It may be slim pickings for skiers in the Northern Hemisphere at the moment, but on the other side of the world, the ski season is just about to kick off. So snap out of your end-of-season slump, sit up and read OnTheSnow's guide to the best skiing in Australia and New Zealand.

Here are four of the best ski resorts in Australia followed by four of the best in New Zealand... 

1. MT. BULLER, Australia

A three-hour drive from Melbourne, Mt. Buller is close enough for a day’s escape. There are 25 runs in total divided into two areas of the mountain: the Northern Slopes and Southern Slopes. Intermediate runs are found on both sides of the mountain, favorites include the wide cruising slopes of Little Buller Spur and Wombat. Most advanced runs are on the south side, such as the popular Federation, Wood Run, Bull Run and Wombat bowls. First-timers can find their feet by buying a Discovery Pass which costs $108 (AUD) for one day which includes a two-hour lesson and access to seven beginner lifts. Buller also has five miles of cross-country trails, three terrain parks and two toboggan parks.

When to go: Early June to early October

Terrain: 740 acres

Lifts: Three high-speed chairs and 10 surface lifts

Après ski: After working up an appetite on the slopes, relax with a gluhwine next to the fire at the Moosehead bar or head to the lively Kooroora bar—a favorite locals' watering hole. Choose from a range of dining options, including gourmet burgers, Italian, Asian, tapas and more.

Resort facilities: Mt Buller is also home to the High Alpine Spa Retreat—Australia’s highest day spa. Buller has more than 30 bars and restaurants and around 7,000 beds, some of which are ski-in/ski-out properties. There’s also a ski school, a range of shops, a movie theater and ski rentals.

Ski pass prices: Daily lift tickets cost $110 (AUD)

Transportation: Located 154 miles from Melbourne, it’s a three-hour drive away via the Hume Highway or Maroondah Highway. Park about a mile from Buller and take the free shuttle service. A number of private coach companies also operate between Melbourne and Buller.

Mt. Buller, Australia

Copyright: Andrew Rail

2. MT. HOTHAM, Australia

Located high in the Victorian Alps, Mt. Hotham is known as ‘The powder capital of Australia’. It holds the record for the most annual snowfall in Victoria. Expert skiers can conquer steep valley runs and the many natural gullies, half-pipes and tree runs. Hotham is home to one of Australia’s steepest and most difficult runs: Mary Slide. However, all skiers and riders can find terrain to their liking here, not just experts. There are plenty of good cruising runs for beginners and intermediates as well as the Big D designated learning area. Hotham also offers night skiing twice a week and three terrain parks. Non-skiers have snowshoeing, dog sledding, snowmobiling and toboganning.

When to go: Early June through the end of September

Terrain: 605 acres: 20 percent beginner, 40 percent intermediate, 40 percent advanced

Longest run: 1.5 miles

Après ski: Hotham has more than 20 bars and restaurants. Favorite après-ski spots include Swinders Bar, The General and Zirkys Bar.

Resort facilities: Hotham Snowports Centre and kids’ club, day care, snow sports rental shop, retail outlets, two spas, medical centre, bars and restaurants, and more than 7,000 beds in hotels, lodges and apartments.

Ski pass prices: A one-day lift ticket is $110 (AUD)

Transportation: Hotham Airport is just 12 miles away. Direct flights arrive here from Melbourne and Sydney. If driving from Melbourne (4.5 hrs), it is a very scenic journey as Hotham is located at the highest point of the Great Alpine Road. A resort entry fee is applied and there is ample overnight parking.

Mt Hotham, Australia

Copyright: Aaron Witherow

3. THREDBO, Australia

Thredbo, midway between Sydney and Melbourne, is Australia’s best-known ski resort. Home to the five longest runs in Oz, Thredbo is a hit with beginners and intermediates for its long, wide cruisers such as Walkabout, Playground and Ballroom. But it's not just for groomers: Thredbo has the steepest overall terrain of any ski resort in Australia, with natural hits, wind lips and powder bowls to satisfy even the most advanced skiers. The most challenging of Thredbo’s 50 runs is Funnel Web—essentially an ungroomed trail notorious for its near-vertical middle section dotted with bumps and moguls. Despite the resort’s low altitude (4,478 feet), it actually has the country’s highest skiable point (6,683 feet). Skiers needn’t worry about lack of snow on lower runs either as Thredbo has invested $6 million on the largest snowmaking system in the Southern Hemisphere. Thredbo also has several terrain parks to suit varying levels.

When to go: Early June through early October

Terrain: 1,186 acres: 16 percent beginner, 67 percent intermediate, 17 percent   advanced/intermediate

Lifts: Four quads, three doubles, five t-bars and two snowrunners

Longest run: Karels T-bar to Friday Flat3.7 miles

Après ski: In addition to big events, each week there is a new schedule of entertainment, from Rekorderlig’s poolside parties to live performances at Lounge Bar, Keller and Schuss Bar, and parties at the Smirnoff Snow Dome.

Resort facilities: The streets are lined with a good selection of shops, restaurants, bars and cafes. The Thredbo Leisure Centre has an Olympic-sized heated pool and the sports hall features a climbing wall. All accommodations are within easy walking distance or a quick free shuttle bus ride to the slopes and village. Choose from catered lodges, hotels, luxurious apartments and self-contained units.

Ski pass prices: Daily lift tickets cost $110 (AUD)

Transportation: Fly direct from Sydney or catch a 2.5 hour shuttle from Canberra airport. Entry into the national park is free but if you're taking your own car you'll need to get a permit, which will set you back $27 (AUD) a day. Driving from Sydney or Melbourne will take around six hours.

Thredbo, Australia

Copyright: Brendio

4. PERISHER, Australia

Perisher, in New South Wales, is the largest resort in the Southern Hemisphere. Four areas—Perisher Valley, Smiggin Holes, Blue Cow and Guthega—provide a variety of terrain for all skiing levels. What really makes the resort stand out is the abundance of entertaining activities for the whole family, from night skiing to a free fireworks display every Thursday. New last season was the mini half-pipe at the Yabby Flat Terrain Park, which allows beginners to safely learn the basics of half-pipe riding before moving onto the Front Valley pipe. The Snowy Daycare also caters to groms as mini as six weeks old.

When to go: Early June through early October

Terrain: 3,076 acres: 22 percent beginner, 60 percent intermediate, 18 percent advanced

Lifts: One eight-seater chair, six quads, four doubles, two triples, 34 surface lifts

Longest run: 1.8 miles

Après ski: Choose from a number of lively bars. Try the locally-distilled Wild Brumy Schnapps at the Top Spot Bar with its spectacular views or enjoy the DJ and acoustic sessions at the Overflow Bar. The Snow Gums Restaurant at the Perisher Valley Hotel offers signature gourmet buffet dinners Tuesdays and Saturdays.

Resort facilities: Ski school, retail outlets, village bars, on-mountain restaurants, a restaurant/cafe at each of the four mountain bases, supermarket, ATM, police station, medical center, post office and pharmacy. There are 28 accommodation options in Perisher, including hotels, inns, bed and breakfasts, and chalets.

Ski pass prices: Daily lift tickets cost $112 (AUS).

Transportation: Perisher is a six-hour drive from Sydney via Canberra and Cooma or seven hours from Melbourne

Perisher Mountain, Australia

Copyright: Carmel/Flickr

5. CRAIGIEBURN VALLEY, New Zealand

Craigieburn Valley is not for the fainthearted, or even beginners for that matter. All of the terrain here is for experienced skiers and riders, split almost halfway between intermediate (55 percent) and experts (45 percent) trails. Highlights include easy access to advanced freeriding, steep narrow chutes, wide-open powder bowls and uncrowded runs. Terrain at Craigieburn Valley is varied, exciting and challenging with the infamous 600-meter (1,968-foot) vertical descent of Middle basin (which is often compared to a heliskiing experience) accessible by an easy traverse from the tow. The resort is a classic club field, meaning that it is not for profit; rather it is run by dedicated club members. "Craiggie" is an awesome place to ski and remains largely undiscovered which means more freshies for you. 

When to go: Mid July to late September

Terrain: 988 acres: 0 percent beginner, 55 percent intermediate, 45 percent advanced/expert

Lifts: Three rope tows

Après ski: Head to the bar at Koroheke Lodge

Resorts facilities: The day lodge, located near the top of the mountain, serves hot food and fresh coffee. Craigieburn has two overnight lodges—Koroheke and Matuhi nestled away just below treeline. They offer a warm and friendly retreat right off the snow after a hard day on the hill. Note: there are no ski rental facilities in Craigieburn.

Ski pass prices: Lift tickets cost $72 (NZD) per day

Transportation: Craigieburn is located 68 miles/1.5 hours from Christchurch on highway 73. Independent operators, Smylies and Black Diamond Safaris offer transfers between Christchurch and Craigieburn.

Craigieburn ski area, NZ

Copyright: Flickr/electro8

6. TREBLE CONE, New Zealand

Treble Cone, in Lake Wanaka, is the largest ski area on the South Island. The terrain covers two basins—the Saddle and Home basin. Both provide some of the best freeriding in New Zealand. Freeriding highlights include major steeps, long chutes and deep powder bowls. Fans of steep and challenging terrain claim Treble Cone has some of the best in the country. Advanced riders can take guided tours out to the Motatapu Chutes. However, beginners and intermediates are not left out—with plenty of long, uncrowded runs accessed from the Saddle Basin and Home Basin chairlift.

When to go: Late June to late September

Terrain: 1,359 acres: beginner 10 percent, intermediate 45 percnet, advanced 45 percent

Lifts: Six-seater express chair, one quad and two surface lifts

Longest run: 2.5 miles

Après ski: End the day with après-ski drinks at the Base Lodge Sun Deck and fill empty bellies with made-to-order burgers and pizzas.

Resorts facilities: Cafe, bar and sun deck, medical center, snow sports school, snow rentals shop, childcare center (3 to 6 years), retail shop. The nearby town, Wanaka, offers a range of lodging to suit all budgets: hotels, hostels and B&Bs.

Ski pass prices: Lift tickets cost $95 (NZD).

Transportation: Treble Cone is the closest ski resort to Wanaka, an 18-mile/35-minute drive. Daily shuttles run between the town and resort: $35 adult, $28 child.

Skiing powder atop Treble Cone, NZ.

Copyright: Treble Cone/Ben Skinner

7. THE REMARKABLES, New Zealand

The Remarkables nabs the top spot when it comes to family skiing in Oceania. Why? It’s not overly commercialized, has a relaxed homey vibe, is less crowded and gets better snow cover than its neighbors. There’s also a wide range of activities (snow tubing park) and learning programs to suit all abilities such as a network of progressive terrain parks with wide, gentle slopes for newbies and big mountain steeps for the more experienced in the group. Events are plentiful too, from mini park battles and eating contests to gigs on the slopes. Best of all it’s where the Lord of the Rings was filmed. Second best of all: children 10 years and under get to ski for free.

When to go: Mid June to late September

Terrain: 544 acres: beginners 30 percent, intermediates 40 percent, advanced 30 percent

Lifts: Three quad chairs, three surface lifts, one handle tow

Longest run: Homeward Run—1.5 miles

Après ski: Fully-licensed cafe and bar and Snack Shack on the snow. 

Resort facilities: Snowsports school, ski and snowboard rental shop, ski retail outlet, licensed day care center and children’s programs, first aid and emergency services.

Ski pass prices: Lift tickets cost $97 (NZD)

Transportation: Snowline Express costs $15 to return from Queenstown Snow Centre, departs every 20 minutes during peak times with pick-ups at designated stops when space is available. Snowline Hotel Pick is $30 (Adult), $20 (Youth 17 & under) per person for a return trip. Pick-ups from designated Queenstown accommodation providers.

At the summit of The Remarkables

Copyright: Jordan Sim

8. CORONET PEAK, New Zealand

Coronet Peak is the most popular ski resort on the South Island of New Zealand, in part due to its proximity to Queenstown—20 minutes away. From the summit, look left to see Gondor from the movie, The Lord of the Rings. The varied terrain offers something for everyone: beginners and intermediates have wide blue and red runs, while more advanced skiers can hit the terrain park or test their stamina on the longest run, the "M-1," stretching 2.4 kilometers (1.5 miles). The resort is known for its efficient high-speed chairlifts. The peak is one of the last ski fields to lose its snow, hence the season typically runs from early June to mid October.

When to go: Early June to mid October

Terrain: 690 acres: beginners 25 percent, intermediates 45 percent, advanced 30 percent (includes back bowls)

Lifts: One high-speed six seater, two express quads, one T-Bar and four surface conveyor lifts

Longest run: M1—1.5 miles

Après ski: Fully-licensed restaurant plus bar and cafe with sun deck at the sub-station.

Resort facilities: Snowsports school, ski and snowboard rental shop, ski retail outlet, licensed day care center and children’s programs, first aid and emergency services.

Ski pass prices: Daily lift tickets cost $97 (NZD)

Transportation: Snowline Express costs $15 and return from Queenstown Snow Centre, departs every 20 minutes during peak times with pick-ups at designated stops where space is available. Snowline Hotel Pick is $30 (Adult), $20 (Youth 17 & under) per person for a return trip. Prebook your seat by 9 p.m. the night before. Pick-ups from designated Queenstown accommodation providers.

Snowboarder taking in the views at Coronet Peak, New Zealand

Copyright: Adrian Pua

 

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