Skiing In New Zealand- Your Ultimate Guide

June 2, 2021

New Zealand is a natural wonderland, though most tourists prefer to visit this country during the summer. You may be surprised to hear that New Zealand is a terrific destination for skiing and snowboarding, yet it still remains vastly underrated.

Here is your ultimate guide to skiing in New Zealand.

The Basics

Does it snow in New Zealand?

Typically, snow only falls around the mountainous parts of New Zealand’s South Island, as well as the central part of the North Island. Snow can rarely be seen outside of the mountains, though.

When is winter in New Zealand?

Winter begins around June in New Zealand and lasts until late September. Similarly, the ski season usually begins in June and lasts until the end of September.

Getting around

The best way to get around New Zealand, especially if you’re planning to visit multiple spots in different parts of the country, is via a rental car.

Book your rental car with Rentalmoose to ensure you get the best deals!

Skiing In New Zealand- The Best Resorts

Note that many of New Zealand’s best ski resorts are located on the South Island. Rentalmoose recommends flying in to either Queenstown or Christchurch. You can then pick your rental car up directly from the airport and drive up to the resorts! There are 34 of them in total, though these are the ones we consider to be must-visits.

These are the best ski resorts near Queenstown:

The best alpine resorts near Christchurch:

The North Island is home to just two ski resorts. Both of them are situated on different sides of the same mountain. Nonetheless, they are certainly worth paying a visit!

Ski resorts on the North Island:

Without further ado, let’s dive into the best ski resorts in this fascinating country!

The Best Ski Resorts in New Zealand’s South Island

Check out some of our favorite spots you need to visit when skiing in New Zealand! We’ve focused on the best alpine resorts located near Queenstown and Christchurch.

For maximum convenience, consider picking up your rental car directly after arriving in New Zealand. Don’t forget that airport pick-up usually means having to pay an extra premium location surcharge on top of your rental bill.

Coronet Peak

Coronet Peak is one of the most famous ski resorts in New Zealand, located around half an hour out of Queenstown in the South Island.
Chris Counsell/Flickr

Summary

Nearest airport- Queenstown Airport (NZQN)- 30-minute drive

Day-pass- around $150 per adult, 50% reduction for children

Coronet Peak is easily the most popular ski resort around Queenstown, and it’s easy to see why.

As it’s the most famous alpine resort in the region, prepare to see lots of fellow riders. Especially during the peak season. If you’re looking for a serene spot, this is definitely not it.

Nonetheless, Coronet Peak is an absolute must on the itinerary of any skiing aficionado. The resort is made up of 3 different chairlifts and a variety of exciting trails to ride down. In addition, Coronet Peak is home to 2 restaurants, 2 bars, and a cafe to wind down after a joy-filled day.

What makes this alpine resort special is definitely its signature night time skiing sessions. That way, riders can enjoy the slopes even after the sun sets.

Those who are not in the mood for skiing can take the scenic gondola ride up to the summit, and simply take in the jaw-dropping views. Coronet Peak overlooks one of the most breathtaking mountain ranges in this part of the planet.

Cardrona

Skigoers enjoy a sunny winter day at Cardrona Alpine Resort, one of the best places to go skiing in New Zealand.
by ZK-NZE on Flickr

Summary

Nearest airport- Queenstown Airport (NZQN)- 1 hour drive

Day-pass- around $150 per adult, 50% reduction for children

Cardrona Alpine Resort is one of the most popular ski resorts in New Zealand. Slopes are plentiful, for both beginners as well as experienced riders.

Cardrona features some of the best slopes in the country, paired with an unbeatable setting. Admire an impressive backdrop while riding down the tall mountain. After a day of skiing or snowboarding, you can unwind at one of 8 different cafes and restaurants within the resort.

Proximity to Queenstown is one of the main reasons why all ski lovers flock to Cardrona during the season. After all, the slopes are around an hour away from the heart of Queenstown. The nearest international airport is merely an hour away by car.

Rentalmoose insider tip: You can purchase a multi-day pass that can be used at both Cardrona and Treble Cone.

On the other hand, you should note that Cardrona can get rather crowded during peak tourist season. If you’re looking for a quiet ski slope with little to no tourists, this may not be the perfect pick for you.

A year-round destination

If you’re planning to visit New Zealand outside of the skiing season, you should still consider driving up to Cardrona. This action-packed resort is the ideal year-round destination.

These are just some of the things you can do in Cardrona outside of the ski season:

  • Mountain biking
  • Gondola ride up to the Cardrona Summit
  • Mountain carting
  • Visit the iconic Bra Fence
  • Stargazing

Treble Cone

Shellie/Flickr

Summary

Nearest airports- Queenstown Airport (NZQN)- 90-minute drive, Wanaka Airport (NZWF) is a 30-minute drive away

Day-pass- around $140 per adult, 50% reduction for children

Treble Cone is yet another famous ski resort near Queenstown. Unlike Cardrona, this alpine resort is not the best pick for beginners. If you’re an inexperienced skier or snowboarder, it’s probably best to skip Treble Cone.

Experienced ski and snowboard fanatics can enjoy the largest ski area on New Zealand’s South Island. In addition, the thrilling slopes get the highest amount of snow in the country!

Take a break from skiing and enjoy a meal with the view at the Allpress At Altitude bar. Alternatively, you could just grab a quick bite to eat from Grab & Go and directly head back on the slopes. The town of Wanaka is just a stone’s throw away from the ski resort.

Don’t forget that you can purchase a multi-day pass that can be used at both Treble Cone and Cardrona. Naturally, equipment rental is available directly at the resort.

The Remarkables

The Remarkables Mountain range in New Zealand is home to a wonderful ski resort.
Nick Bramhall/Flickr

Summary

Nearest airport- Queenstown Airport (NZQN)- 30-minute drive

Day-pass- around $140 per adult, 50% reduction for children

The Remarkables is the go-to alpine resort in New Zealand for beginners. This resort has earned its reputation as one of the best spots for travelers who are just starting out with winter sports. Oh, and it’s one of the top picks among snowboarders, as there are 7 parks filled with thrilling jumps and obstacles.

Riders can make the most out of the 7 different ski lifts and plenty of snowfall. It is recommended for first-timers to book guided lessons before hitting the slopes on their own.

The Remarkables- Ideal for Snowboarding

In addition to being a great spot for inexperienced skiers, the Remarkables is a top pick among hardcore snowboarders. Riders can choose from different parks, such as the Burton Stash which was designed by Jake Burton and Craig Kelly. It is one of just 6 parks designed by the legendary snowboarder, and the only one in the Southern Hemisphere!

This ski resort is easily accessible from the Queenstown Airport. In fact, it’s only a short 30-minute drive away. Remember to come prepared, as driving during the winter can turn out to be challenging.

Craigieburn Valley

Summary

Nearest airport- Christchurch Airport (CHC)- 90-minute drive

Tow price- $85 per adult, 50% reduction for children

Craigieburn Valley- Not Best For Beginners

Craigieburn may just be the most hardcore ski resort in all of New Zealand, not just the South Island. This alpine resort is infamous for having some of the craziest black runs in the country. If you’re looking for a beginner-friendly spot to ski, this is definitely not the right pick.

Certain about skiing in Craigieburn as a first-timer? Consider booking ski lessons before hitting the chutes on you own.

Skiers can make the best out of the three different ski lifts located within the resort. Then, make your way back down via the narrow chutes and steep slopes. Some of the trails are so crazy that even intermediate skiers may find them difficult.

As Craigieburn Valley is the opposite of beginner-friendly, you should not expect too many amenities. Unlike some of the other resorts on our list, Craigieburn only features one small cafe with panoramic views of the mountain range.

Broken River

A group of climbers hiking up to the summit of Broken River in New Zealand during the winter.
by Jason Blair

Summary

Nearest airport- Christchurch Airport (CHC)- 90-minute drive

Day-pass- around $85 per adult, 50% reduction for children, kids under 11 ski for free

Broken River is the polar opposite of the hardcore Craigieburn Valley. In fact, this ski resort is one of the top picks among beginners and intermediate skiers and snowboarders. What’s more, affordable prices and seasonal discounts for children all make Broken River one of the best family-friendly ski resorts in New Zealand.

Note that, much like Craigieburn Valley, Broken River does not have many amenities. You could grab a bite to eat at the local lodge, or book ski lessons directly at the resort. Don’t expect fancy cafes or crazy nightlife here, though.

Broken River is yet another ski resort in New Zealand’s South Island which is worth visiting year-round. During the summertime, travelers can hike around the wilderness or try out mountain biking. You can book one of the lodges and spend the night among breathtaking scenery, too.

Mount Hutt

Mount Hutt ski field seen on a sunny day. Mount Hutt is one of the top spots to go skiing in New Zealand.
by Geof Wilson

Summary

Nearest airport- Christchurch Airport (CHC)- 3 hour drive

Day-pass- around $80 per adult, 50% reduction for children

Mount Hutt is unarguably one of the best spots to go skiing in New Zealand. Don’t take our word for it, Mount Hutt even won the title as New Zealand’s best ski arena six years in a row!

Skiing down Mount Hutt is an absolute must-do experience. The views are out of this world, while the never-ending trails are nothing short of exciting.

Naturally, you would expect New Zealand’s best ski resort to have lots of amenities. You will find two restaurants to unwind after a day of skiing, two bars, a cafe, as well as equipment rental and extensive skiing and snowboarding lessons.

If you’re not in the mood to ski, you could always simply take the sightseeing trip up to the summit of Mount Hutt via the chair lift. The views from the top are unbeatable.

Mount Lyford

Mount Lyford is a fantastic ski resort near Christchurch, New Zealand.
by Justin McCormack

Summary

Nearest airport- Christchurch Airport (CHC)- 90-minute drive

Day-pass- around $85 per adult, $45 per child

Mount Lyford is one of the regions best-kept secrets. This alpine resort is one of the most fun spots to go skiing in New Zealand. Surprisingly, it does not draw too many crowds either, even during peak ski season!

As Christchurch is nearly two hours away, many tourists choose other resorts that are easier to access. That way, Mt Lyford remains an exceptional alpine resort that’s quite underrated.

The trails at Mount Lyford as suitable for both advanced skiers as well as first-timers. Lessons are available, along with equipment rental. If you want to spend the night at Lyford, consider booking one of the cozy mountain huts.

After a day of skiing, travelers can unwind at the cafe or spend some relaxing time at the Terako Day Lodge.

The Best Ski Resorts in New Zealand- North Island

While the North Island does not have as many alpine resorts as the South, there are still plenty of spots worth visiting in the central part of the island. That said, travelers who wish to go skiing in New Zealand will probably have a better time down on the South Island.

You’re not spoilt for choice in this part of the country-the North Island is only home to 2 ski resorts! Nonetheless, both of them are worth visiting.

Whakapapa

Snowboarding in empty Whakapapa, the largest ski resort in all of New Zealand.
by Kiwi Flickr

Summary

Nearest airport- Auckland Airport (AKL)- 3-hour drive

Day-pass- around $150 per adult, $100 per child

Whakapapa is undoubtedly the place to ski in the North Island. It’s the largest ski resort in New Zealand, and it sits atop the tallest mountain in this part of the country. What’s more, Whakapapa also features the largest beginner area in the country.

You may notice that Whakapapa looks strangely familiar. That’s because this resort was used as a filming location for one of the scenes in Lord Of The Rings! This in itself is already a great reason to pay Whakapapa a visit.

Don’t expect Whakapapa to be secluded. After all, New Zealand’s biggest ski resort does draw serious crowds, especially during peak season.

Skiers and snowboarders can make the most out of nearly 70 different trails at Whakapapa. Everyone will find a run suitable for their skill level here, no matter if you’re a first-timer or an expert.

Beginners

Rentalmoose insider tip: Consider visiting Whakapapa on a weekday if you want to avoid the crowds. A weekday pass costs nearly half the price of a regular day pass.

Looking to do some sightseeing rather than winter sport? Don’t miss the Sky Waka, a breathtaking gondola right that will take you up to the Knoll Bridge Chalet, over 2 kilometers above sea level. From there, you can take in the panoramic views. Note that Sky Waka is open all year long, not just during the winter time.

Turoa

photo courtesy of Flickr

Summary

Nearest airport- Auckland Airport (AKL)- 4.5 hour drive

Day-pass- around $150 per adult, $100 per child

Turoa is a stone’s throw away from the previously mentioned Whakapapa. In fact, this ski resort sits on the other side of the same mountain, Mt Ruapehu. Two of the best ski resorts in this part of New Zealand are both situated on the same active stratovolcano, shall we say more?

On top of all this, Turoa also features the tallest vertical drop out of any ski resort in all of Australasia. It’s a whopping 722 meters!

Every skier and snowboarder is bound to have a good time at Tuora, no matter what their skill level is. This alpine resort features a selection of challenging trails, along with a large beginner area for those who want to try out skiing in New Zealand.

If you’re not in the mood to ski, you could always simply take the country’s most technologically-advanced gondola ride up to the summit. Then, you can take in the panoramic views atop New Zealand’s highest lifted point.

As great as Tuora is, no ski resort is perfect. There are limited lodging options here, despite having both fantastic nightlife and tasty places to eat. Travelers who wish to spend the night here may want to head over to Whakapapa instead.

Don’t forget to use Rentalmoose to find the best rental car deals for your New Zealand ski trip!

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