Skiing in New Zealand
Although skiing in New Zealand does not compare to that of Europe, Canada or Japan due to smaller mountains and less snow, Queenstown offers an attraction of its own with countless bars and activities once the slopes close, as well as the most beautiful and scenic town I have ever set foot in. The most popular place to ski in New Zealand is Queenstown. From Queenstown there is easy access to both The Remarkables and Coronet Peak ski resort.
New Zealand is without doubt one of the most beautiful and stunning places on earth. As one of the best countries for outdoor activities and adventure, New Zealand offers everything from scuba-diving in Northland, beautiful beaches in Coromandel, world class surfing in Raglan, and of course skiing in the scenic Queenstown. New Zealand is remotely located for almost all countries except for Australia. For this reason, much of the tourism Queenstown sees in the winter months is from Australia. Given the accessibility of the European Alps for anyone in Europe, and the extensive mountain ranges across north America, it makes little sense to travel to New Zealand for the skiing, unless you are longing for a ski holiday in the middle of July, or find yourself in the correct part of the world during the months of June-September.
What is the skiing like in New Zealand?
To put it bluntly and frankly, the skiing in New Zealand does not compare to the quality of skiing on offer in the top countries around the world such as in Europe, North America or Japan. The snow is not as good, there is not as much of it, and the resorts themselves are significantly smaller. Having said that, this does not mean New Zealand, and specifically Queenstown is not worth a visit for a winter holiday - there is certainly enough ski terrain to occupy you for a week’s holiday. The Remarkables and Coronet Peak are the two ski resorts primarily served from Queenstown. This offers a total of 665 hectares of skiable terrain which is extensive enough skiing, especially for New Zealand.
There are a number of different options for renting ski/ snowboard equipment in Queenstown. One option is to rent equipment directly through the resort and use the rental shop at the top of the mountain, at the resort itself. This gives you the option of leaving your equipment at the base of the resort every day meaning you don’t have to carry your equipment up and down the mountain every day to and from your accommodation, but also limits your options for travelling to a different resort the next day, as you wont have your skis handy. The best option is to use one of the rental shops in the center of Queenstown itself, of which there are a large selection, some with more superior equipment to others. The best option for rental of skis is one of the most established rental shops Snowbiz. This shop offers the seasons newest skis and snowboards, and is ideally situated next to where the ski buses depart to take skiers up to both Coronet Peak and The Remarkables, meaning in the mornings, you can easily grab your skis and hop on the bus hassle free. Snowbiz and its neighboring shop Onestop (more affordable equipment), are the only rental shops in town where it is possible to buy a lift ticket and lessons at the same time as getting your ski/ snowboard equipment. This is due to the shops being partly owned by the resort.
For park lovers out there The Remarkables has a substantial area of the resort dedicated to jumps, rails and boxes of all sizes. The park is generally split up into 3 different difficulties of jumps, from beginner up to mega sized jumps – the size that means you only actually get to see people on the jumps a few times a day! The joy of The Remarkables and Coronet Peak is that, because there are so many unpisted areas of the mountain, on a powder day if you can get up the mountain nice and early, there are plenty of places you can get some fresh turns before the crowds arrive.
Within a 2 hour drive of Queenstown, you are also able to access Treble Cone and Cardrona ski resorts. Although these resorts are not included within the ski pass for Coronet Peak and Remarkables, it is still well worth a visit here, as they offer something slightly different, with treble Cone being notoriously challenging and Cardrona having a huge jumps park of its own.
One of the main disadvantages of skiing in Queenstown, is that the resorts are not ski in ski out. The resorts are a 20 minute drive and a 40 minute drive for Coronet Peak and Remarkables respectively. Thankfully NZski (the company that own the ski resorts) have very regular buses that go up to both mountains, however there is an extra cost for this.
Personally, one of the main reasons I enjoyed my two ski seasons in New Zealand so much is due to Queenstown itself. Situated in a breath-taking spot in the Southern Alps beside Lake Wakatipu, you will be hard pressed to find a more beautiful spot in the world. Queenstown is an attraction in itself during the summer, with plenty of activities and a huge social scene, you will never be short of things to keep yourself busy in Queenstown once the ski lifts close, or if you fancy a day off from skiing. With many beautiful hikes in the hills and mountains surrounding Queenstown, if you prefer a Spring ski trip, you may also be interested in exploring the surrounding landscape on your day off. The range of coffee shops, restaurants and bars in Queenstown is second to none for the size of the town, with a strong Asian cuisine influence, alongside the famous Fergburger whose reputation for the best burgers in the country precedes it, and the 1 hour queue well worth the final product!
If you fancy yourself as an avid skier or an adventurous one at the least, and you have always wanted to give heli-skiing a go, New Zealand is the most affordable place to fulfill your dreams. Find yourself an available day after a snowstorm, and you can go heli-skiing for as little as $1500 for 7 runs deep in the Southern Alps.