The ultimate New Zealand ski trip: Where to visit in the South Island?
Snow is already dusting the peaks of New Zealand’s Southern Alps. Dust your gear off, wax your skis and get ready to hit our awesome South Island ski fields. Here’s a quick guide on where to visit in the South Island if you’re planning to go skiing or snowboarding this winter in New Zealand.
Where should you land?
Whether you’re a beginner or a powder hound, South Island has something for you. Arriving in either Christchurch or Queenstown means you can easily drive to some of the best ski resorts in the Southern Hemisphere.
Depending on the ski resorts you choose, you’ll find yourself based in Queenstown, Wanaka, Lake Tekapo, Christchurch or Methven. Outside of these main ski centres, there are plenty of other smaller towns that offer fantastic accommodation to suit all tastes and budgets. Be advised to book in advance – the snow season can get quite busy.
Hire a car, equip yourself with snow chains from the rental car company, get familiar with the road maps and driving code and hit the road for your New Zealand ski trip. If you’re not too keen on driving all the way to the mountains, shuttle services are available from the main towns.
Key regions & ski fields
Queenstown & Wanaka– our backyard!
With four ski fields, a long season and plenty of fun beyond the mountains to keep everyone amused, Queenstown and Wanaka are top spots to ski in New Zealand. Where Queenstown is known for its cosmopolitan punch, Wanaka promises a laid-back vibe.
The closest mountain to Queenstown and a favourite of the locals, Coronet Peak has stunning high points and rolling trails for seasoned skiers and riders. Beginners have a dedicated learning area, so everyone has a good time. The best part about Coronet is night skiing. To ski under the fabulous Otago starlit sky is an experience you simply must have. Cardies, or Cardrona Ski Field is an all-rounder with something for everyone. Despite its popularity, slopes are generally not overcrowded – a key feature of skiing in New Zealand. South Island’s largest ski area, Treble Cone offers the longest vertical in the region. With legendary views and long groomed slopes, it’s a place that you have to see to believe. It’s perfect for advanced and intermediate skiers. Living up to its names, The Remarkables’ north-facing sunny slopes have varied trails to tickle the fancy of all levels of skiers and boarders.
Methven & Christchurch
Located near Christchurch, Methven is the base town for Mount Hutt – the big South Island mountain with plenty of charm and many awards under its belt. It has one of the longest vertical drops and a great variety of terrain to keep everyone happy. The closest ski area to Christchurch, Porters is a family-focused resort that is perfect for learners and intermediate skiers. For real powder hounds, Craigieburn is most challenging ski field in the region. It is privately owned, so gives you the authentic Kiwi ski experience.
A collection of boutique ski fields boasting really well done old-fashioned Kiwi hospitality make skiing here quite unique. These mountains offer limited shuttle service and facilities – the skiing though is as special as you’d expect it to be. Mt Olympus here is a mecca for New Zealand’s big mountain, back country and freeski enthusiasts. Famous for its all-day sunshine, the family-owned Mount Dobson has the largest learner and intermediate area, with trails for higher skill levels too. Another popular stop in the region is the Ohau Snow Fields. The highlight of the Mackenzie region of course is Aoraki/Mount Cook. The heli-skiing here is absolutely extraordinary and what better boasting rights than to say you’ve skied New Zealand’s tallest terrain. Needless to say you have to be a very skier if you want to ride Aoraki/Mount Cook.
Adventures off the slopes
Where to visit in the South Island when here on your New Zealand ski trip? Well, where do we start! Apart of hitting the best spots in the vibrant ski towns, here are some of the most memorable short breaks near the slopes.
- Milford Sound
Winter really brings out the best in Milford Sound. So when you’re ready for a break from the slopes in Queenstown and Wanaka, pack your car and head our way for a night.
The colder climate brings our native and endangered birds closer to human habitats, making viewing easier. With fewer people to share the spectacular views of snow-covered fiords and grabbing the attention of the marine mammals, cruising at this time of the year is magical. But if you truly want to enjoy the pristine nature of Milford Sound and enjoy glorious silence, spend the night at Milford Sound Lodge. Located deep within Fiordland National Park, it is a wilderness experience that you won’t forget for a long time to come.
- Stargazing in Lake Tekapo
Whether you’re skiing in Mackenzie Country or travelling between Queenstown and Christchurch, take time out to enjoy a stargazing tour. The world’s largest dark sky reserve, it is one of the best spots on earth to stargaze – the skies don’t get clearer than here!
- TranzAlpine Rail Journey
A stunning train journey between Christchurch and Grey Mouth (West Coast)! From the comfort of your warm coach, enjoy spectacular views of the Canterbury Plains and the mighty Southern Alps. Perfect day break from the mountains!
- Franz Josef & Fox Glaciers
Another remote and wild part of New Zealand that you must visit is Glacier Country on the West Coast. Franz Josef and Fox are two glaciers that are seen to be believed. Among the lowest and most accessible glaciers, you can discover them on an organised day trip from Queenstown. If you plan to drive yourself, allow at least two days for the trip.