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The Remarkables  Credit_ NZSki_edited.jp

SKI NEW ZEALAND

By Debbie Elliot

One key benefit of heading to New Zealand for a ski or snowboarding vacation is that their winter is our summer, meaning that travel-savvy winter sports enthusiasts can ski year-round!
 

Winter Olympians often take advantage of the Southern Hemisphere’s excellent slopes to stay in competition shape 365 days a year, with New Zealand’s ski season usually spanning from mid-June to late October (the country’s North Island’s climate allows for a slightly later season than the South Island). While you might not find the sheer height of Breckenridge or the scope of Whistler, New Zealand ski resorts are renowned for their challenging runs, breathtaking views, and pure fun.

Getting There

Air New Zealand flies direct from Chicago to Auckland International Airport (AKL), with connections to Christchurch and Queenstown.

Best Resorts for Beginners

Mt. Ruapehu in the North Island is New Zealand’s largest active volcano and an excellent spot for beginners to learn how to ski or snowboard. Whakapapa, on the northeastern side, is known as “Happy Valley” due to its variety of trails and a beginner-friendly area near the base. Down in the South Island, Coronet Peak near Queenstown has long, wide trails that are suitable for all ages. Rookies can purchase a First Timers Package that includes a full-day group lesson, ski/snowboard equipment rental, and a beginner lift pass. Coronet Peak’s Little Easy and Big Easy runs are serviced by the Meadows Express Chairlift, while beginner skiers at the nearby Remarkables take magic carpets to navigate the smooth slopes.

Best Resort for Families

An hour south of Queenstown on the South Island, Cardrona is one of New Zealand’s most popular resorts for all ages. At an elevation of 6,000 feet, it has a beginner terrain that caters to first-timers, while Captain’s Basin and Arcadia Chutes are more suitable for 

advanced skiers. Cardrona boasts 38 runs across nearly 1,000 acres of skiable terrain accessible from six lifts, plus New Zealand’s only combined gondola chairlift. Children aged two to five can enjoy snow play at Ski Kindy, while those aged five to 14 can take ski and snowboarding lessons at the Kids’ Snow Sports Club. There is also a licensed childcare center so parents can hit the slopes without worrying about their little ones. 

Ski Lessons at Mt Hutt Credit_ NZSki_edi

Best Resorts for Winter Daredevils

Mt. Hutt is considered the mecca for adventurous and advanced skiers in Southern Hemisphere resorts. It is situated west of the Canterbury Plains in the South Island, about 50 miles from Christchurch. Around 25% of the slopes are black runs, and they are distributed all over the resort, which is New Zealand’s most prominent and highest ski area. The steepness of the runs adds to their difficulty, as do geographical features such as “The Towers” rock formations. 

Best Resorts for Après Ski 

The best ski resorts worldwide are those famed for their party scene, and New Zealand is no different. The après ski options down under are vast and varied, with Queenstown leading the way when celebrating after you leave the slopes. Rhino’s Ski Shack is a basement bar famed for its hot rum, cold beer, steamy atmosphere, and vintage ski memorabilia adorning the walls. The Queenstown Ice Bar goes the opposite by bringing a chill vibe to the city’s party scene. The Scandinavian-style cocktail lounge was created out of 25 tons of hand-carved ice, with eye-catching ice sculptures changing every few months. Even the glasses are made from ice, with espresso martinis served in a cup-shaped sculpture and shots being downed from an “ice luge.” 

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