The best New Zealand ski resorts for beginners
Was learning to ski on your bucketlist this year? With some of the best ski slopes in the Southern Hemisphere, New Zealand is a top spot to strap on the skis or snowboard for the first time. With spectacular scenery and pumping ski resorts to boot, find out how New Zealand does winter.
With spectacular scenery, world-class ski resorts, and a buzzy après-ski atmosphere, it should come as no surprise that New Zealand tops the list of travel destinations for snow-loving Australians in the winter months.
But if the black diamond runs and half pipes have got you thinking ski fields across the Tasman are only for seasoned powder hounds, think again. The three major ski regions – the Southern Lakes (Queenstown and Wanaka), Mt Hutt and Mt Ruapehu – all have areas with wide open bowls, gentle pistes and treeless terrain, creating the perfect conditions for beginners to find their feet. Check out this guide to New Zealand’s best ski resorts for beginners.
Southern Lakes (Queenstown and Wanaka)
The Southern Lakes region on the South Island has some of New Zealand’s most popular ski fields, with hundreds of thousands of international tourists descending on the four major resorts around Queenstown and Lake Wanaka from June to early October.
Coronet Peak is a 20-minute drive from Queenstown, and has long, wide trails perfectly suited to those still on their L-plates. Across the valley, The Remarkables’ beginners ski area is clear of trees, and has gentle but varied terrain for when you’re ready to progress.
Families flock to Cardrona, about 40 minutes from Wanaka, for renowned ski schools, a great network of green and blue ski runs, and New Zealand’s first ‘chondola’, a cabin-style lift that will ferry first timers to the top of the mountain on day one. And while Treble Cone is better known as a resort for advanced skiers – with only 10 per cent of terrain rated as green – its purpose-built beginners area boasts a gentle slope, cheap lift tickets for learners and views of the Southern Alps to rival those of the big mountain runs.
Just over an hour’s drive from Christchurch, Mt Hutt has a lower profile than the ski resorts around Queenstown, although locals are very familiar with its varied terrain, laid-back vibes and spectacular views across the Canterbury plains.
The resort sits inside an inactive volcano with a central bowl full of zig-zagging green and blue runs for beginners to explore. There is a magic carpet-serviced run for beginners to get their bearings, and the gentle Highway 72 slope is as wide as a highway, offering ample room for large turns.
If you want to learn to ski on an active volcano, the North Island is home to two ski fields on Mt Ruapehu – New Zealand’s largest active volcano rising from the Tongariro National Park dual World Heritage site.
Whakapapa covers the north-eastern side of Mt Ruapehu and is well suited to first timers with a variety of trails and a beginners area near the base of the ski area, which is aptly named ‘Happy Valley’.
Adrenaline junkies head to the terrain parks of Turoa for its challenging black runs, natural half pipes, as well as the largest vertical drop of any resort in Australasia (722m), but there are still plenty of green runs for beginner skiers, and the well-protected Alpine Meadow near the carpark.
Words by Jo Davy; published Wednesday 11 March 2020