New Zealand is a show-stopping bucket list destination, and for good reason. Many people may think of New Zealand’s virtues in summer, during North America’s winter. However, skiers and snowboarders shouldn’t sleep on winter in New Zealand. Once the snow has melted and summer has kicked off in the Western Hemisphere, the winter ski season is kicking off in New Zealand.
If you want to chase winter, then Southern Hemisphere countries, like New Zealand, are where you’ll find snow during the Western Hemisphere’s summer. New Zealand’s ski season typically kicks off around mid- to late-June, and it continues on into the Western Hemisphere’s fall months. Some of the North Island’s ski areas even stay open late into October.
You’ll find some different ski jargon in New Zealand, like “ski fields,” which is a term often used to describe ski areas. Also, there are a number of club ski fields, which are ski areas open to the public, but operated by a local ski club. These smaller ski areas primarily use rope tows, too, rather than chairlifts.
While skiers and snowboarders shouldn’t expect the steep and deep of some of North America’s snowiest destinations, there’s still some fun stashes, challenging long runs, great terrain parks, and plenty of backcountry skiing in New Zealand. In fact, many skiers and snowboarders may be surprised to learn that there are more than 20 New Zealand ski areas, most of them on the South Island. Below, find our picks of the top ski resorts in New Zealand.
The Best New Zealand Ski Resorts
Coronet Peak, located on the South Island and the closest ski resort to Queenstown (a 20-minute drive), is one of the most popular ski areas in New Zealand. This is a crowd pleaser for travelers, yes, because of its convenience, but also because it offers something for everyone–a wide variety of groomed runs, 1,500 feet of vertical, several restaurants and bars, and on-resort accommodations. Coronet Peak even has night skiing. Its majestic views of Lake Wakatipu, Lake Hayes and The Remarkables are unparalleled. Coronet Peak is especially great for beginners and intermediates, while advanced skiers will likely prefer some of New Zealand’s other mountains. However, if you’re looking for a ski resort close to Queenstown, or, you simply want a taste of skiing in New Zealand, then Coronet Peak is a nice introduction.
Just a further drive from Queenstown (40 minutes), The Remarkables earns its name with its location in The Remarkables mountain range overlooking the shores of Lake Wakatipu. Like Coronet Peak, The Remarkables has terrain for everyone, including a few different terrain parks, sun-drenched bowls, and lots of off-piste terrain to keep advanced skiers happy. In fact The Remarkables has been hosting the New Zealand Freeride Tour in the Chutes for years. If you’re doing a day trip from Central Queenstown, take advantage of The Remarkables Ski Bus. Just make sure you reserve a departure time.
Located an hour from Queenstown, Cardrona historically receives more snow than some of the other Queenstown ski areas, thanks in part to its summit elevation at over 6,000 feet. This is a very family-friendly resort, with a dedicated ski area for beginners, plenty of beginner terrain, New Zealand’s only combined gondola chairlift, a licensed childcare center, and eight restaurants. Cardrona’s terrain park system, featuring four terrain parks, is considered one of the top terrain parks in the Southern Hemisphere. Captain’s Basin and Arcadia Chutes are among the headliners for advanced skiers.
For advanced skiers, look no further than Treble Cone, the largest New Zealand ski area on the South Island. It boasts more than 2,200 feet of vertical and 1,300 acres of skiable terrain, and has plenty of open powder faces, natural half pipes, and long runs for advanced skiers to play in. Treble Cone is also the resort with New Zealand’s highest annual snowfalls on average. However, skiers used to North America snow totals won’t be quite as impressed. A stellar season at Treble Cone may see 200 inches if it’s lucky. Beginners and intermediates will find a lot of great groomers, while the views of Lake Wanaka and the Southern Alps are stunning. It’s easy to see why Treble Cone is one of the best ski resorts in New Zealand.
Since 2015, Mt. Hutt, located two hours from Christchurch, has been voted New Zealand’s best ski resort. As one of the largest and highest ski areas on the South Island, Mt. Hutt is a great combination of high elevation, good ski conditions, and a variety of terrain spread over 900 skiable acres. Plus, it’s often one of the first ski areas to open, typically opening in early June. Mt. Hutt is great for families for a variety of reasons, including its wide-range of kids programs and lessons, and free lift passes for kids 5 and under. If you plan on skiing a few days on the South Island of New Zealand, then consider the Superpass, which offers access to Mt. Hutt, Coronet Peak, and The Remarkables. All three resorts are also part of the Ikon Pass.
Mt. Olympus is affectionately known as the “Playground of the Gods,” and an ungroomed playground it is. While there is beginner terrain at Mt. Olympus, it’s really for the more advanced and adventurous beginner. Mt. Olympus has no chairlifts or gondolas, but rather rope tows and hike-to terrain. You’ll be skiing on what Mother Nature gives you, and that’s what makes it so unique. Its high location and south-facing slopes at the southern end of the Craigieburn Range can make for glorious powder days. While just 200 acres of terrain, Mt. Olympus is a great introduction to off-piste skiing.
We round out this list of the best ski resorts in New Zealand on the North Island at Mt. Ruapehu, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Tūroa boasts both the highest lifted point in New Zealand, at 7,618 feet, and most vertical drop at more than 2,300 feet. Skiers and snowboarders of all abilities will find terrain to love here, spread over 1,200 skiable acres, and featuring everything from steep drops to terrain parks to wide groomers. As we mentioned in this article, Tūroa, and Mt. Ruapehu’s Whakapapa, have ski seasons that often go well into October. Bonus: A lift pass offers access to both ski areas. North America skiers can ski New Zealand’s North Island during October before returning back home as the ski season starts to get underway in the U.S. and Canada.
Whakapapa is considered the largest ski area in New Zealand, with 1,359 acres and nearly 2,200 feet of vertical. Tūroa and Whakapapa combine for an impressive 2,500 acres and 4,500 feet of drop, making it a playground for skiers of all abilities. Whakapapa is also home to Happy Valley, a completely self-contained area for beginners, with its own rental shop, cafe, and beginner terrain. Whether you’re skiing or not, experience the Sky Waka gondola, a 1.1-mile ride high up Mt Ruapehu. Take in the sights at the top at the Knoll Ridge Chalet, perched 6,627-feet high.
Go to our New Zealand snow report page to check out more NZ ski resorts and conditions.