What to expect from a ski trip to New Zealand

Looking for the perfect winter escape? The colder months are one of the best times of year to visit New Zealand, offering world-class ski areas, buzzing ski resorts and natural beauty in spades. So what are you waiting for — find out how to do winter in New Zealand.

No matter what you’re looking for in a ski holiday, you’ll find it in New Zealand. From postcard views to top-quality snow, its varied, fit-for-all-levels terrain to its buzzing après-ski scene, here’s what to expect from a ski trip to our neighbouring nation.  
 

Spectacular scenery 

A family on a mountain with skis

Let’s just say there’s a reason one of New Zealand’s best-known ski fields is named The Remarkables. From the rolling mountain ranges surrounding Queenstown and Lake Wanaka on the South Island to the volcanic rock slopes and lava-carved valleys of Mt Ruapehu on the North Island, you will be skiing against a backdrop of some of the most incredible landscapes in the world. Just try to keep your eyes on the slopes. 
 

Plenty of ski runs for skiers and snowboarders of all abilities 

A group enjoying a drink in an outdoor ski bar

It’s a common misconception that a ski trip to New Zealand begins and ends with resort town Queenstown. While there are some incredible resorts concentrated around the South Island’s adventure capital, New Zealand is actually home to around 18 major commercial ski fields across the two islands. 

Coronet Peak, The Remarkables, Cardrona and Treble Cone are the four major ski fields around Queenstown, each of them offering a variety of terrain for all abilities, including plenty of learner slopes. 

A coupe standing with snowboards on a mountain

Christchurch serves as the gateway to several ski fields, including Mt Hutt, which often boasts shorter queues and longer snow seasons than its better-known counterparts, despite being crowned Best New Zealand Ski Resort at the World Ski Awards for the last five years running. 

The North Island’s two fields, Whakapapa and Turoa, are on Mt Ruapehu. Both resorts have dedicated areas for beginners near the base, as well as plenty of intermediate, black and diamond runs and, in Turoa’s case, the largest vertical drop of any resort in Australasia.
 

Buzzing après-ski atmosphere 

A group of friends chatting in a winter setting

Fact: a pint of Speight’s or a glass of pinot noir taste better after a day on the slopes. Fortunately, New Zealand’s après-ski offering is among the best in the world. Each of its ski regions are packed with great bars, pubs and restaurants both on and off the mountain, perfect for unwinding or for kicking off your post piste party. 
 

Plenty to see and do off the mountain 

People at a wine tasting

For those looking to fit more into their winter holiday, New Zealand offers much more than great snow. As well as being home to the country’s best ski fields, Central Otago, Canterbury and Hawke’s Bay are also home to some of its best wineries. The vines might be bare in winter but the cellar doors are just as cosy – book in for a tasting or stay for lunch. 

Another great off-mountain winter activity is a visit to the Hanmer Springs in Canterbury for a relaxing soak in its thermal pools. Kaikōura, also in Canterbury, is a popular whale-watching spot. In fact, it’s one of the best places in the world to see giant sperm whales. Or, for sports fans, winter in New Zealand is rugby season – catch a game or head to your local pub to watch it on the big screen.   

Words by Jo Davy and Anna Webster; published Wednesday 11 March 2020 

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