From June to October, New Zealand experiences a bounty of shreddable snow across the island nation’s 39 ski resorts. Ski clubs have been in New Zealand for over 100 years with locals and travellers alike enjoying a day whizzing across the snow before settling in for an evening of Tui beer and banter.
With 389km of slopes, you could visit Aotearoa every winter and still not see them all before old age finally claims your knees. Most of New Zealand’s ski slopes can be found on the chillier South Island (Te Waipounamu) with many being a stones throw from the adrenalin Mecca of Queenstown. But North Island (Te Ika a Māui) does a lot to keep up with her action packed sister in the south.
Planning your first ski trip abroad can be a bit daunting so allow us to take the guesswork out and share with you the AWOL staff picks of the 10 most shredtastic ski fields Aotearoa has to offer.
(Note: Always be sure to check the snow forecast before leaving and fit your car tires with snow chains if driving.)
Four hours north of the capital of Wellington within the Tongariro National Park, Mt Ruapehu rises from the central plateau to a neck-craning 2,797 metres. Together with Turoa and Happy Valley, they form the New Zealand’s largest ski area.
It was here in 1913 that New Zealand’s first ski club was founded, back when ski lifts were a mad dream and a slog to the top was rewarded with a speedy pursuit back down again. These days, a shuttle bus makes the half hour trip between the town and the ski fields which are some of the countries best due to Raupehu’s big secret – it’s an active stratovolcano.
Don’t be alarmed though, it simply means that eons worth of layered volcanic ash have created steep slopes, natural bowls, wind lips, and half pipes, with a vast number of cliffs and drop offs making skiing Mt Ruapehu some of the most exhilarating in the Southern Hemisphere. In total there are 30 runs that cater to a variety of skill levels and New Zealand’s highest cafe for those who’d rather hear about the skiing than get all snowy.
Voted New Zealand’s best ski resort for seven consecutive years (2015-2021) a list of Aetearoa’s best ski spots is incomplete without mentioning Mount Hutt. Sitting in Canterbury, less than a two hour drive from Christchurch (snow chains are a must), Mount Hutt offers a true alpine experience with 365 hectares of monster snowfall, spectacular views, and 40 kilometres of slopes.
If you’re looking for a place to start your skiing adventure Mount Hutt is a great place to learn with one day and three day instruction courses available. Hardened ski veterans won’t be left wanting as they explore Mount Hutt’s terrain parks that feature a variety of jumps, rails, and snow features designed to get you grabbing at that crisp Kiwi air.
Mount Hutt is also a brilliant spot for families, with yooner and toboggan hire, plus children aged seven and under ski for free. Couples and friend groups will also love the alpine spas which boast the oddly alluring title of highest spas in NZ.
Claiming the title of “the original” Coronet Peak was New Zealand’s first commercial ski field, first opened to the public in 1947. It was here that travellers of Aotearoa developed a love for the island nation’s mountainous terrain with it’s epic views over the Wakatipu basin.
A mere 25 minutes from Queenstown, take one of the highspeed chairlifts to the top of Coronet Peak (a handsome 1,649 metres) and wave to your mates down below before making your speedy descent along the snowy mountain that often receives 2m of snowfall a year.
Uniquely, Coronet Peak hosts a much-loved Night Ski Program on Wednesday and Friday nights from late June to early September. If you’ve never tried night skiing this is a great place to start and experience an almost meditative ski run in the calm of the night beneath the glow of Matariki.
Few locations live up to their name like The Remarkables. This mountain range in Otago in the South Island features sharp, dramatic mountains that reach up to 2,319 metres on the south eastern shore of Lake Wakatipu.
With a standard season lasting from June to October, The Remarkables offer day passes from $99 NZD ($89 AUD) which provide access to all four ski lifts across the fields 220 hectares. With an average annual snowfall of 3.7 metres, The Remarkables seven parks are rated 30% for beginners, 40% intermediate, and 30% advanced.
This year, The Remarkables snowsports academy programs are joining the prestigious Freeride World Tour Academy, a worldwide circuit of the world’s best snowboarders and skiers competing on the most challenging alpine faces in the world.
Cardrona Alpine Resort
Just an hour’s drive from action-packedd Queenstown, Cardona Alpine resort sits at 1760 metres high and offers guests 320 hectares of skiable terrain. Since opening in 1980, Cardona has become a favourite for families offering lessons for kids of all skill levels and onsite childcare services.
There’s plenty for adrenaline junkies too! On their Olympic-sized superpipe Cardona hosts some of New Zealand’s biggest winter events such as Winter Games NZ, Queenstown Winter Festival, the Jossi Wells Invitational, and FIS World Cup Freestyle competitions.
Keep an eye out for the dual mountain pass which will grant you access to Cardrona and…
Stepping up a notch, Treble Cone Ski Area is a speed demon’s paradise. Holding the coveted title of the South Island’s largest ski and snowboard resort, runs are as a result relatively crowd free and provide jaw dropping views of Lake Wānaka and Mount Aspiring/Tititea.
Treble cone is much loved by intermediate and advanced skiers with the longest runs in the Queenstown Southern Lakes District which include a 700 metre vertical rise, a favourite of the Austrian National Ski Team who use the ski field as their off-season training ground.
Access via Queenstown on a cruisy two and a half hour drive or stay in nearby Wānaka and learn about how the Māori people visited the area to hunt and fish in the summer. Very fitting in a town whose name means ‘sacred knowledge or a place of learning.’
Reach this gorgeous ski valley via a scenic 90-minute drive from Christchurch and you’ll see why crowds of social ski lovers have been flocking to Craigieburn Valley since 1954. With some of the best snowfall in New Zealand, Craigieburn Valley offers a thrill-seeking alpine experience with steeps, chutes, and powder bowls that rival any found in New Zealand.
What really sets Craigieburn Valley apart is their dedication to ‘off-piste freedom‘ meaning many runs are unprepared and trackless evoking a primal satisfaction and connection to the stunning Southern Alps.
Lodges put you right in the heart of the action, nestled in the alpine bush the accommodation toasts to the art of the social ski lodge experience making it ideal for solo travellers looking to make friends for life.
Two and a half hours north of Christchurch, Mount Lyford is an under-the-radar ski spot that is perfect for a quieter option. As a result, prices are competitive with adult morning and afternoon passes starting at $69 NZD ($62.20 AUD).
Run elevation ranges from 1249m to 1740m with a halfpipe and funbox for snowboarders looking to flex their skills. Mount Lyrford is also a great spot for kids with an ice skating rink and discounts for families.
Owned and operated by the Simpson family since 1986, Mt Lyrford Alpine Resort log chalets were built under strict codes to keep the log chalets cosy, adorable, and begging for an Instagram story. Luxury mountain cabins can sleep up to 16 making it a perfect spot for a snowy weekend away withs hens, bucks, or mates.
Another family owned ski spot that doesn’t get the attention it deserves is Roundhill Ski Area in the heart of the South Island. When the local Rieder family created the resort at Roundhill they did so with family in mind and nurtured a relaxed social atmosphere in which to enjoy the spectacular environment.
Roundhill has a huge beginners area with a gentle gradient and plenty of space with three surface lifts and two rope tows, the latter which helps would-be skiers learn on the way up as well as down. Australasia’s biggest vertical drop (783m) and natural halfpipes also make the ski area a low-key bucket list items for seasoned skiers.
Our top tip: stay in nearby Lake Tekapo (32 minute drive) and treat yourself to a day spa to help unwind those legs and shoulders.
This post was originally published on August 1st, 2022 and has since been updated.
Benny is a travel, food, and comedy writer from an up and coming seaside town called Sydney.