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!
- Lots of snowfall
- Great place for learners
- Superb restaurants with incredible views at the base
- Great nightlife
- Limited lodging choices
- Narrow, twisting access road
- Weekend crowding
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! It also holds the title of Australasia’s largest vertical drop and has two dedicated backcountry areas as well as more challenging terrain than neighbouring Whakapapa. If that's not enough to impress you then might we mention this was also a shooting location for the Lord of the Rings saga!
Snow much snow
Turoa’s elevation and location allow for plentiful snow. Even though the lack of trees leaves it exposed to wind, the powder often sticks around well into October. The terrain offers a little something for everyone. Experienced skiers will like the chutes, bowls, and unique features carved by the mountain’s volcanic past. There are long, sweeping runs for intermediates, and a beginner’s area with its own magic carpet. Weekends can bring crowds from Wellington and Auckland but there are powder stashes where freshies can still be found.
Modern Lifts and Services
Two of Turoa’s eight lifts are quads, and there’s also a high-speed six-seater, making for some of the best lift infrastructure in this part of the world. There’s dining at the base of the mountain, an eatery about halfway up, and another one near the top – all 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. Just note, the road between the two is narrow, twisting, and prone to the occasional pothole, but there’s a shuttle service available if you're not up for the drive.
Getting there: 4.5-hour drive from Auckland, 4 hours from Wellington.
- Family friendly
- Large, dedicated beginner area
- Plenty of terrain for intermediates
- Crowded on weekends
- Lack of nightlife
- Inconsistent weather
We’re pretty sure the line from the movie should go “One does not simply walk in Mordor, one skis!” Whakapapa was a filming location for Mordor in The Lord of the Rings saga – and if that’s not enough to get your attention, like neighbouring Turoa, it sits on an active volcano! It’s bigger than Turoa and slightly easier to get to, though its location on the mountain’s northwest face tends to leave it more exposed to the whims of the weather.
Wide Variety of Runs
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. The terrain also includes plenty of off-piste adventures such as bowls, chutes, and steep drops along with a terrain park and halfpipe. In between those two extremes, over half the runs are rated for intermediates, so there are plenty of groomers perfect for cruising.
Great Choice for Families
That variety of terrain helps make Whakapapa an excellent choice for families with both youngsters just starting out as well as more advanced skiers looking for a challenge. Accommodations are more convenient than at Turoa, with a handful of lodges at the base and a broader selection at Ohakune, only about ten minutes away. Of course, as the more accessible of North Island’s two resorts, it’s more likely to get crowded on weekends and holidays.
Getting there: 4.5-hour drive from Wellington or Auckland.
- Great backcountry
- Powder paradise
- No crowds
- Friendly locals
- Rope tows can be difficult for beginners
- Limited groomed runs
- Very basic services
Located in the Craigieburn Range of the Southern Alps on the South Island, Broken River is one of New Zealand’s “club ski fields” – a unique and charming facet of Kiwi ski culture you should really check out. These spots are owned and operated by clubs, but open to the public. They tend to be small, with bare-bones infrastructure, but it’s a wonderful back-to-basics experience.
Great Terrain, Great Snow
Broken River offers a broader selection of terrain than some of the other club fields including a few more gentle options for the less ambitious. That, plus the fact that kids under 13 ski free, make it a good choice for families – as long as everyone can get themselves comfortable with the rope tow lifts. Sorry no magic carpets here! The snow is some of the best in the country, and since the club doesn’t draw that many visitors, powder stashes last for days in the sheltered bowls. It’s a great place for strong intermediate skiers looking for their first off-piste experiences! Of course, there’s also plenty of the real deal backcountry too.
No Frills, All Adventure
The day lodge has basic food service and there are relatively inexpensive lessons available, but that’s about it as far as amenities. This isn’t a place for the designer ski-gear crowd, and there’s no spa waiting for you at the end of the day. Rather, it’s a place for the adventurous souls who are all about the fantastic terrain, quality snow, and friendly, laid-back vibe.
Getting there: 1.5-hour drive from Christchurch.
- Steep pitches and south-facing powder stashes
- No crowds
- Excellent gateway to backcountry and ski touring
- Tricky road to get there
- Traversing required to reach some of the backcountry areas
- Rope tow to access small beginner area located mid-mountain
When you see the peaks – and the terrain – at Mount Olympus, you’ll understand why they call it “playground of the gods.” Another of New Zealand’s club ski fields, you’ll not only find a relaxed and enjoyable experience away from the crowds – but you’ll also find the country’s highest accommodations (and highest hot tub) at Top Hut lodge!
True, Mount Olympus boasts just under 61 ha of patrolled terrain and four rope tows, but it packs in plenty of big mountain skiing. It sits in a south-facing basin, so it catches big powder dumps. Ridges to the north, east, and west shelter the slopes from the wind, and relatively few visitors hit the slope. That means Mt. Olympus holds its snow nicely, and there are some great pitches to enjoy it – even more if you’re willing to hike a bit from the lift to the incredible backcountry!
Quiet and Friendly
The access road isn’t the easiest to navigate and not everyone enjoys rope tows – especially beginners and snowboarders. This keeps the crowds down – 100 people is a big day here – which means plenty of fresh lines on the slopes and no lift lines! You might even find some new friends to show you the way in the backcountry: if you’re properly trained and equipped, Mount Olympus makes a great starting point for ski touring.
Getting there: 1 hour and 45 minutes drive from Christchurch.
- Particularly great for intermediate skiers and riders
- Efficient lift system
- On-site accommodations
- Easy to get to from Queenstown
- Limited challenging runs
- Inconsistent natural snowfall
- Occasionally crowded
Only 20 minutes from the adventure haven of Queenstown, Coronet Peak is a favourite place for skiers to get their turns. With only 27 runs, it occasionally gets crowded, especially compared to some of the club ski fields. But the lift system is modern and efficient, helping keep all the visitors moving.
Excellent for Intermediates
Coronet Peak offers a variety of terrain, but intermediates will have a blast with all the blue groomers to choose from. Compared to other places to ski in New Zealand, there’s not as much challenging terrain, but there are some off-piste lines around the fringe of the resort, including a few chutes. Natural snowfall here is somewhat inconsistent, but it’s augmented by the most extensive snowmaking system in the country. And as a nice bonus, on Friday and Saturday, there’s night skiing under the lights!
Spectacular Views and Good Facilities
The views from Coronet Peak across Lake Wakatipu are incredible, and not just from the slopes: the day lodge features large windows looking out towards The Remarkables range. The base area might seem sparse compared to those in North America but Coronet Peak offers a handful of delightful dining options plus childcare, ski school, and rental – all smartly laid out to handle the flow of customers. Best of all, unlike many ski resorts in NZ, there’s on-mountain accommodation. Of course, Queenstown is a prime leisure destination itself, and offers plenty of other choices for sleeping, eating, and shopping!
Getting there: 20-minute drive from Queenstown
- Great place to learn to ski
- Some of the best terrain parks in the country
- Amazing scenery
- Exceptional backcountry
- Expensive lift tickets
- No lodging at the resort
- Small size
- Inconsistent snow
In the mountain range of the same name, The Remarkables is also near Queenstown. It’s smaller than Coronet Peak which limits the selection of terrain unless you’re willing to hike. The views, on the other hand, are certainly big, including some of the most famous vistas on the planet.
Good Choice for Families
With three magic carpets within view of the base lodge, The Remarkables is an excellent choice for families with beginners who need to get their skis under them. The runs are nice and wide making it perfect for kids to practice their turns and the trails here are ideal for progressing. There are even all-day kids lessons.
Hit or Miss Inbounds Snow, but a Gateway to the Backcountry
Like nearby Coronet Peak, the natural snow conditions aren’t always great, and you can sometimes end up with wet and clumpy stuff, or ice. There’s a fair amount of snowmaking to make up for that, and the runs are generally sheltered from the wind. If you’re qualified to hit the backcountry, there are some great lines just past the boundary, and you’ll be able to find some sheltered and shaded stashes. Some of the inbounds chutes face southeast, so they can catch and keep powder – at least until everyone comes up from Queenstown!
Getting there: 40-minute drive from Queenstown
- Incredible powder
- No crowds
- Only three rope tows
- Very limited beginner terrain
- No grooming
Although it’s a club ski field, Craigieburn Valley is bigger than some of the country’s commercial resorts but it’s probably not the acreage that has earned it the nickname “The Big One,” it’s the zesty lines! With the highest proportion of ‘black’ runs in the country, it’s truly a mecca for advanced and expert skiers and riders.
Bring Your Best Game
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. It’s almost like heliskiing – but without the hefty price! The terrain is so marvellous that famous American freestyler Glen Plake (the guy with the giant Mohawk) joined the club!
The Fresh Stuff Lasts for Days
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. For powderhounds, that’s good news because the powder-filled bowls don’t get skied off, and you shouldn’t have any trouble finding fresh lines, even days after a storm! And of course, there’s all the backcountry you can access with a little bit of hiking. In fact, you can hop over to Broken River in about 15 minutes! The lack of crowds doesn’t mean complete isolation – the day lodge deck is a great place to make friends while you grab lunch, and there’s après available at one of the guest lodges, even if you’re not staying there.
Getting there: 90 minutes from Christchurch.
- Variety of runs
- Reliable snow
- Great views of the Southern Alps and the Pacific Ocean
- Limited dining options
- Limited accommodations
- Access road is relatively daunting and occasionally closed
Mt Hutt, near the town of Methven, is South Island’s highest mountain. Its elevation translates to reliably good snow conditions and coverage that lasts well into the Southern Hemisphere spring, making for one of the longest ski seasons in the country.
Good Size, Good Variety
With 364 ha and over 610 m of vertical, Mt. Hutt is decently sized, especially compared to other New Zealand resorts. 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 black and double blacks for the more adventurous. The mountain gets close to 4 m of snow a year, though it can tend to come in large bunches that can close the road. In fact, it averages just over a dozen closed days a year – but its season is so long that it still has more open days than almost any other resort in New Zeland.
Affordable Family Choice
While ticket prices are comparable to New Zealand’s other commercial resorts, kids below ten ski free so a family with young ones can get some great value for their money. Most visitors stay in Methven, about 30 minutes away, where accommodations are reasonably priced, making Mt Hutt an even more affordable option. And if your family has skiers with differing abilities, the range of terrain here makes Mt Hutt a no-brainer.
Getting there: 2 hours drive from Christchurch.
- Largest ski area on the South Island
- New Zealand’s highest annual snowfall
- Fantastic terrain for intermediates and experts
- Easy to get to and close to other popular resorts
- Very limited beginner terrain
- Small lodge with only basic amenities
- Relatively expensive lift tickets
Boasting jaw-dropping views of Lake Wanaka and Mt. Aspiring, Treble Cone offers the most in-bounds terrain on South Island and the biggest vertical in the Wanaka/Queenstown region. It’s convenient to get to from both towns so it would make a great addition to any South Island ski itinerary – although there’s enough here to keep you busy for a few days.
Great Intermediate and Advanced Terrain
With 45% of the trails rated for intermediates and another 45% for advanced skiers, there are plenty of choices for everyone from folks with just a bit of seasoning to hardcore veterans. While the man-made terrain park is a bit on the small side, the natural free-ride terrain is some of the best around. There’s also a wealth of steeps, bowls, and chutes – especially in Motatapu Basin on the resort’s southwest side. 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.
Loads of Snow, Easy Location
With a yearly average of approximately 5 m, Treble Cone generally sees the most snow of any resort in New Zealand. And while it’s certainly not Utah, it does have a reputation for relatively dry powder, complementing all those bowls, chutes, and long runs. 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.
Getting there: 30-minute drive from Wanaka; 90-minute drive from Queenstown.
- Good variety of terrain
- Modern infrastructure
- Easy access
- One of the biggest terrain parks in New Zealand
- Less snowfall than other area resorts but good snowmaking
- Sometimes crowded
- Potentially tricky drive
Cardrona is a local favourite, so it’s no surprise that our insiders chose it as the number one resort 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.
Wide Variety of Trails, World Class Terrain Parks
While it’s not the country’s largest resort, Cardrona holds its own with a respectable vertical drop and a decent amount of acreage. It’s spread across three bowls, with wide open beginner trails and New Zealand’s only green runs along the top of a mountain. The panoramic views aren’t just for the experts here! There’s a significant amount of area set aside for terrain parks, and half the runs are rated for intermediates. The genuinely hardcore might not find the advanced and expert terrain quite as aggressive as they would at other mountains, but there’s still excitement to be had in the Arcadia Chutes and the Tulips area.
Cardrona is quite accessible, less than an hour from Queenstown and Wanaka, with shuttles available if you don’t feel up to tackling the access road yourself! Of course, that ease of access can sometimes contribute to crowds on the weekends. You can avoid some of that by planning your trip over the week, but even if you’re there on a busy day you’ll find the atmosphere is generally friendly and relaxed – something “skiwi” culture has definitely perfected!
Getting there: 40-minute drive from Wanaka, 50 minutes from Queenstown.
If you’ve skied New Zealand, what are your thoughts? Are any of your favourites missing, or would you rank them differently?