New Zealand Outdoors

Skiing New Zealand
Gorp.com
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Realizing that New Zealand's ski season takes place during the height of the North American summer is a bit like experiencing Christmas in July. However, reverse seasons are not the best thing about skiing in New Zealand— the skiing itself is. With 12 different ski fields, the variety is staggering, the terrain is spectacular and the lines are short. In recent years, New Zealand has increasingly become an international ski destination, not only for families wishing to add an extra dimension to a vacation, but for top-notch skiers from countries all over the world, who come here to train and compete in the "off months."

The New Zealand ski season is June through October.

A New Zealand ski holiday is more than just a ski experience, for down in the valleys there are a host of enticing activities, such as jet boating, rafting, golfing, fishing, gold panning and hiking, as well as shopping and sightseeing.

Most commercial fields have highly qualified ski schools, equipment rentals, cafe/restaurant facilities and a great ambiance. Lift passes range from NZ$30 to NZ$50 per day, equipment rentals from NZ$15 to NZ$30 (skis, boots and poles), and lessons from around NZ$25 for half-day group classes, to NZ$45 to NZ$60 for one-hour private lessons. Ski packages available in North America often offer exceptional value and include accommodations, rentals, lift passes, transportation and international airfare. Snowboarding can be done at all commercial ski fields.

The two North Island commercial ski fields, Whakapapa and Turoa, are located on the slopes of Mount Ruapehu, an active volcano of 9,177 feet that dominates the Tongariro National Park in the center of the island. Both offer excellent facilities and superb terrain that is geared to a wide range of tastes and talents.

On the South Island, the Southern Lakes' ski region, around Wanaka and Queenstown, has four ski fields. Together they offer the finest range of skiable terrain in the world. All have fantastic, panoramic views featuring the wild grandeur of the South Island: sparkling lakes, green valleys and breathtaking mountains.

Coronet Peak and the remarkable ski areas are closest to Queenstown, a resort town with everything a skier could desire: a wide range of accommodations, restaurants and an amazing—and potentially exhausting—array of non-skiing activities.

The Wanaka fields consist of Treble Cone, renowned for its superb, extensive, expert ski and snowboard terrain (and some of the greatest black diamond runs in the Southern Hemisphere), and Cardrona, an easygoing, family-oriented field.

This area, inland from Christchurch, is dominated by Mount Hutt, one of New Zealand's finest ski fields. Home of World Cup alpine racing and host to many international teams, the season at Mount Hutt is the longest in the country (late May to early November), aided by a snowmaking system. Nearby, Porter Heights is awe-inspiring, even for the experienced skier; while further south, Ohau and Dobson are good, interesting, intermediate/advanced ski fields. Rainbow, tucked away by itself in Marlborough, offers trails for beginners through advanced skiers.

Nordic Skiing

New Zealand's first Nordic area is the Waiorau field on the Pisa Range near Wanaka. A fantastically scenic area, it has over 15 miles of groomed, cross-country trails with terrain suitable for everyone, from first-time Nordic skiers to advanced telemark skiers. Rental facilities, instructors, guides and overnight ski touring opportunities are available.

Heliskiing offers skiers a way to experience skiing at its most stunning and exhilarating. With deep powder, unsurpassed anywhere in the world, comparatively low altitudes, temperatures that are relatively warm and staggering backdrops of glaciers and peaks, this is the epitome of perfection in the world of skiing.

From Wanaka and Queenstown, several operators offer more than 400 individual runs in a 770-square-mile area of peak terrain. Runs trace the towering forms of the Tyndall Glacier, with its steep peaks, long chutes and wide-open, treeless bowls.

At Mount Cook, you can take a ski plane to the magnificent Tasman Glacier, a stunning eight-mile run amid the towering peaks and tumbling ice falls of New Zealand's highest alpine terrain. Yet it is suitable for intermediate and confident beginner skiers.

Thanks to the New Zealand Tourism Board for providing us with this information.



Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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