With long winters in the mountains, awe-inspiring destinations, and a unique ski culture, New Zealand definitely deserves a spot on your winter sports bucket list. With the help of local insiders, we’ve put together a list of the best ski resorts!
Due to COVID-19, safety measures were put in place by New Zealand which impacted the 20/21 ski season. These included mandatory 14-day quarantine for international travelers, physical distancing on and off the mountain during Level 2 restrictions and contact tracing. Resorts including Cardrona operated with increased cleaning and sanitization procedures. Such restrictions are not anticipated to continue into the 21/22 winter season.
Cardrona is a local favorite, so it’s no surprise that our insiders chose this as one of the best in New Zealand. It’s as close as you can get to the best of all worlds: wide variety of terrain, great views, and robust infrastructure – all conveniently located roughly halfway between Queenstown and Wanaka. Cardrona is also quite accessible, less than an hour from Queenstown and Wanaka, with shuttles available if you don’t feel like tackling the road yourself! Of course, that ease of access can sometimes contribute to crowds on the weekends.
Boasting jaw-dropping views of Lake Wanaka and Mt. Aspiring, Treble Cone is convenient to get to from both Wanaka and Queenstown. With 45% of the trails rated for intermediates and another 45% for advanced skiers, there are plenty of choices for everyone. The beginner terrain is limited but it’s not too bad for true novices considering Treble Cone provides free access to the Magic Carpet and discounted passes to the Platter Lift. The base area may be relatively basic, but the chic, relaxed town of Wanaka is conveniently close by with a good selection of lodging, restaurants, shopping, and services.
Although The Remarkables is a small ski area, the views are certainly big, including some of the most famous vistas on the planet. With three magic carpets within view of the base lodge, The Remarkables is an excellent choice for families with beginners. The runs are nice and wide making it perfect for kids to practice their turns and the trails here are ideal for progressing. However, the natural snow conditions aren’t always great here, and you can sometimes end up with wet and clumpy stuff, or ice. But in saying that, there’s a fair amount of snowmaking to make up for it.
Only 20 minutes from the adventure haven of Queenstown, Coronet Peak is a favorite place for skiers to get their turns. Coronet Peak offers a variety of terrain, but intermediates will have a blast with all the blue groomers to choose from. With only 27 runs, it occasionally gets crowded, especially compared to some of the club ski fields. The base area might seem sparse but Coronet Peak offers a handful of delightful dining options plus childcare, ski school, rentals and shopping! Best of all, unlike many ski resorts in NZ, there’s on-mountain accommodation.
Mt Hutt’s high elevation means there is always reliable good snow conditions and coverage that lasts well into the Southern Hemisphere spring. Here you’ll find a good selection of terrain, with plenty of space for beginners, loads of wide groomers for the intermediates, and a nice collection of off-piste blacks for the more adventurous. Kids below 10 can ski free so families with young ones can get some great value for money. Most visitors stay in Methven, about 30 minutes away, where accommodations are reasonably priced. And if your family has skiers with differing abilities, the range of terrain here makes Mt Hutt a no-brainer.
Although it’s a club ski field, Craigieburn Valley has the highest proportion of ‘black’ runs in the country. There’s hardly any beginner terrain here and no grooming. In fact, some intermediates might even have a hard time here. It’s all open bowls, narrow chutes, and long runs of untouched snow. With just two beginner runs, no rental facilities, a basic lodge, limited accommodations, and only three rope tows, it’s understandable that Craigieburn doesn’t draw huge crowds. And of course, there’s all the backcountry you can access with a little bit of hiking.
When you see the peaks and the terrain at Mount Olympus, you’ll understand why they call it “playground of the gods”. Not only will you find a relaxed and enjoyable experience here – but if you’re willing to hike a bit from the lift, you’ll get access to the incredible backcountry! And although the access road isn’t the easiest to navigate and not everyone enjoys rope tows – especially beginners and snowboarders – this is what keeps the crowds down. 100 people is a big day here – which means plenty of fresh lines on the slopes and no lift lines!
Broken River offers a broader selection of terrain than some of the other club ski fields. That, plus the fact that kids under 11 ski free, makes it a good choice for families – as long as everyone can get themselves comfortable with the rope tow lifts. And since the club doesn’t draw that many visitors, powder stashes last for days in the sheltered bowls. The day lodge has basic food service and relatively inexpensive lessons, but that’s about it as far as amenities. It’s a place for the adventurous souls who are all about the fantastic terrain, quality snow, and friendly, laid-back vibe.
Whakapapa was the filming location for Mordor in The Lord of the Rings saga – and if that’s not enough to get your attention, it sits on an active volcano! With almost 70 runs, Whakapapa is excellent for everyone from novices to experts. It has New Zealand’s largest dedicated beginner area, safely away from more advanced runs and faster skiers which makes the resort great for families. Accommodations are also more convenient than its neighbor Turoa, with a handful of lodges at the base and a broader selection at National Park. Of course, its accessibility means it is likely to get crowded.
One of only two ski resorts on New Zealand’s North Island, Turoa gives you a chance to ski on the country’s largest active volcano, Mt Ruapheu! Turoa’s elevation and location allows for plentiful snow and more challenging terrain than neighboring Whakapapa. The terrain offers a little something for everyone so you might see a flock of crowds incoming on weekends from Wellington and Auckland. There’s dining all throughout the mountain, serving up incredible Middle Earth views along with the food! If Turoa lacks anything, it’s lodging. Luckily, the town of Ohakune has many more options just 30 minutes from the lifts.