Queenstown skiing: Plan your winter ski holiday
Whether you’re a professional powder hound or have always wanted to give skiing a go, Queenstown is hard to beat as a ski holiday destination. Offering four great ski fields close by and plenty of off-mountain activities, it would be hard to find a better winter holiday choice. Here’s what to expect if you’ve got a Queenstown skiing holiday on the radar.
Getting to Queenstown for skiing
Getting into Queenstown for skiing is simple, thanks to Queenstown International Airport located just 15 minutes from the centre of town. Domestic flights arrive from all major New Zealand towns, and international flights arrive daily from Australia’s main ports. The flight time from Queenstown to Sydney is around three hours and a flight from Auckland will take under two hours. Queenstown airport is also where you’ll find a selection of scenic flight tour operators, where you can book that bucket-list scenic flight to Milford Sound.
If you’re planning to drive to Queenstown, there are major routes linking the town to Christchurch, Invercargill and the West Coast. Whether you’re coming by air or by road, get ready for scenery to take your breath away.
Sightseeing in winter
Winter is one of the most spectacular times of year to visit the South Island. The weather is mostly settled, and the days are crisp and clear. Yes, it will be cold, but it is also an exceptional time to flex your photography skills with the surrounding mountains dusted in a fresh layer of snow.
Queenstown ski fields
Coronet Peak and The Remarkables are the closest ski fields to Queenstown. Cardona is located halfway between Cardrona and Wanaka, and Treble Cone ski field is closest to Wanaka. It will take around two hours to get onto the chair lift if you’re coming from Queenstown.
Each of these ski fields offers similar experiences, and whether you are here for a family ski holiday or you are chasing fresh lines, you won’t be disappointed. Expect good options for on-mountain ski hire, lessons, shops, and eateries and options to catch the ski bus if you don’t want to drive yourself.
While it’s impossible to pick a favourite (as each ski field offers something for everyone), here’s a quick summary of Queenstown’s ski fields.
Coronet Peak - Queenstown’s most popular ski field as it is the easiest to get to. Plenty of trails for beginner and intermediate skiers and snowboarders and a great place to get a lesson or drop the kids at “Skiwiland”.
The Remarkables - Spectacular views and plenty of wide open spaces for beginners in the bottom sections. There is an impressive jump park for those in search of some air-time.
Treble Cone - Wanaka’s closest ski field and often boasting the best powder in the district. There is not a lot of terrain for beginners here, but everyone who skis “TC” has an epic day with epic views over Lake Wanaka.
Cardona - An impressive offering of terrain for skiers and boarders of all levels. Cardrona offers everything from wide open trails to secret powder stashes and chutes. There is New Zealand’s only gondola-chairlift (the “chondola”) and the most extensive terrain park facilities in the Southern Hemisphere.
The best part of ski is après-ski
Who doesn’t love a good après-ski session? Queenstown and Wanaka offer plenty of options if you’re looking for somewhere to pull in for a mulled wine, hot chocolate or something stronger after a day on the hill. One of the most famous apres-ski spots in the district is the Cardrona Hotel. Located at the bottom of the Cardrona ski access road, it’s an iconic place to refuel.
What’s the weather like in Queenstown in winter?
Winter runs from June to August and is the time of year when Queenstown is buzzing with skiers, snowboarders in search of fresh snowfall.
The first snowfall (on-mountain) can start as early as May, but most ski fields will open around mid-June and, depending on the conditions, should stay open until mid-October.
Expect day time temperatures around Wanaka and Queenstown to range from 0°C - 8°C (32°F – 47°F).
What to do when you’re not skiing in Queenstown
With some of the driest and clearest days of the year, winter in Queenstown is an incredible time to get out for sightseeing. If you’ve done your research on the South Island, you’ll know that Milford Sound is a New Zealand must-do and is just as spectacular in winter as it is in summer.
Why not take a break from the snow and do an overnight trip to Milford Sound from Queenstown. Slow things down and soak up a tranquil and rejuvenating destination that feels a million miles from the buzz of Queenstown.
Getting to Milford Sound is a journey in itself. So, we recommend leaving lots of time to do walks along the Milford road, a Milford Sound cruise followed by a stunning overnight stay at Milford Sound Lodge.
Find out more about a Queenstown to Milford Sound package here.
A word about winter driving
A good tip for anyone setting out on a self-drive ski holiday in the South Island is to check the road conditions before you set off. Main routes like the Milford road or the Devil’s Staircase (between Queenstown and Kingston) are subject to snow or ice and are sometimes closed for short periods.
Throughout winter, grit is dropped onto the roads, so always drive carefully and to the conditions. Stay updated on the road condition by checking the NZTA website. For information on the ski field access roads, you can check the specific ski field sites.
Queenstown is a stunning destination throughout the winter months as nature puts on an unforgettable show. And if you end up with sore legs from skiing, give yourself a change of pace with a visit to Milford Sound.