When naming the world’s top ski resorts, New Zealand is often overlooked, with the masses heading for Europe, Japan and Canada. However, there are many reasons why NZ might surprise you.
First of all, the country is situated in the Southern Hemisphere, allowing winter to be a totally different time of year. Real ski enthusiasts can indulge in a double-dose of snow in the one year. The snow season runs from end of June to early October, but for peak conditions aim for August, with consistent conditions and falling after the school holidays.
Because of the seasonal difference, New Zealand is often ahead of the Northern Hemisphere ski scene, and you can find next year’s gear and fashion trends already on the slopes. You’ll find the ratio of skiers to snowboarders relatively even.
More significantly, one of my favourite things about skiing or snowboarding in New Zealand is how quiet the fields are compared to anywhere else in the world. With a country of only 4 million people, we escape the mad rush of the crowds. Less time queuing, more time skiing.
As well as fewer people, there are fewer trees. In fact, practically no trees are found on New Zealand ski fields. This is good for two reasons: it is easy to choose your lines, and it also allows for an uninterrupted view – and you don’t have to go far in New Zealand for a beautiful panaroma. The photographs speak for themselves.
Of course when you are not distracted by the view below, the terrain here is world class – steep chutes, natural valley half pipes, big wide powder fields, rock drops… as well as perfectly groomed runs.
Ski resorts in New Zealand don’t exist in the same sense as in other parts of the world. The fields are instead situated close to towns like Wanaka and Queenstown – which provide all the accommodation and après-ski options you would ever need. This is great as you are not restricted to the same field every day.
If you are going to come to New Zealand to ski or snowboard, head for the South Island. Queenstown is by far the busiest ski hub, with two fields within 20 km – Coronet Peak and The Remarkables – and many more within 100 km. The picture-perfect town apparently has more bars per square metre than any other similarly sized town in the world. But perhaps the biggest attraction of Queenstown is its adventure-focus – it doesn’t get the term “adventure capital of the world” for no reason. Therefore you can include any number of adventure activities in your ski holiday, from bungy jumping to white-water rafting and everything in between.
You could focus your entire ski holiday on Queenstown, but you would be cutting off your toe to spite your face. There are many other ski fields in the South Island that are more than worth the extra travel. This is why Haka Tours has tailored their famous South Island Snow Tour to include the likes of Mt Hutt (Christchurch’s biggest ski field), Ohau (a laidback kiwi club field), Treble Cone (any mountain rider’s dream) and Cardrona (a manicured park lover’s paradise with Olympic-sized half pipes and big booters everywhere). The biggest drive time between any of these is three hours.
Another consideration is that Queenstown is also a relatively expensive airport to fly into. (Haka’s NZ Snow Tour begins in Christchurch so you can save money on the airfare.)
And talking of saving money, you will probably find that the price of everything over here is cheaper than other parts of the globe. Finally, there are some wicked Heliski and Heliboard options available in New Zealand, which take you into NZ’s back country’s virgin snow and limitless terrain. A day’s heliskiing with 8 runs is $1,049 NZD.