New Zealand offers a different style of ski experience, you are accommodated in a town, typically Queenstown or Wanaka and travel by snow worthy vehicle to the surrounding ski fields. There’s plenty of other activities, quality restaurants and a lively nightlife in the towns, the views are spectacular and a cool Kiwi attitude make the experience unforgettable.
A unique style and attitude awaits visitors to the magestical southern lakes region of New Zealand. The communities in this region are what make the experience so enticing. Outspoken, cool, motivated and energetic persons are found in most cafés and bars, telling tales of previous excursions be they of climbing, skiing, rafting, skydiving or any one of the huge variety of extreme sports available in this region.
The towns of Wanaka and Queenstown are nestled within the Crown Mountain Range in the Central Otago region. Queenstown is set beside Lake Wakatipu and Wanaka is beside Lake Wanaka. This entire region boasts spectacular mountain scenics and New Zealands only true continental climate.
The winter ski season starts from the end of June and finishes in early October. Because the season is only three and a half months long skiers should be prepared to make the most of every chance to ski, especially after fresh snow as the conditions can become ‘tracked out’ within one or two days. One of the main differences from European Winter seasons is the snow line is often halfway up each mountain and the towns are more often than not clear of snow. The climate varies a great deal between the towns and the ski fields, so whilst it can be clear on the hill the towns could be under clouds or vise versa.
Both Queenstown, Wanaka and smaller towns like Arrowtown and Hawea have a good selection of accommodation to suit differing budgets. Essentially if your on a shoestring check out the various backpacker hostels for the best price per night. There are lots of mid-range lodges, motels and serviced apartments to choose; self-catering is a fairly popular option. At the top end there are some quality hotels and fully catered, chalet-style lodges.
Choosing a resort for your New Zealand Ski holiday should come down to which ski field you feel will offer what your looking for. It is only a one hour drive between Wanaka and Queenstown so a visit to each ski field is possible on a weeks holiday but if you favour one particular ski field you will want to stay nearby.
Queenstown has the fields of Coronet Peak and The Remarkables both within a 30 minute drive. Wanaka is the nearest town for Treble Cone, Cardrona and SnowPark/Snowfarm all within a 35 minute drive from the town.
To summarize the ski fields;
Coronet Peak is set up more for families and skiers, there is no terrain park for freestyle junkies but a lot of long and interesting runs for all level of skiers. Access is very good with the only fully tarmac road surface to the ski field base and it’s a short 25 minute drive from Queenstown.
The Remarkables is a 30 minute drive from Queenstown. The Ski field is in a sheltered basin, which unlike a lot of the other fields offers some protection when it becomes windy. There are three chair lifts, none of which go to the top of the mountain, which means Remarks is usually loaded with possible fresh tracks for those keen enough to hike. There is a lot for freestyle enthusiasts with beginner and advanced terrain parks and a log park with wooden rails and a cattle shed to jump. It’s a little limiting for beginners but there is a magic carpet learner area and also a fun inflatable tubing course for all the family.
Treble Cone is a favorite amongst free riders looking for some advanced off piste action. After fresh snow there is usually a race to The Saddle Basin which often opens last and holds a lot of fresh snow, perfect for some great chute runs and rock drops. There is a small terrain park however the mountain is more about freeriding than performing trickery. With a fresh dump of snow TC should be at the top of your list of destinations.
Cardrona Alpine resort has well maintained terrain parks with three half pipes including a world class superpipe. The ski field is host to a lot of events and some of the worlds best riders compete here. Mixed in with a lot of advanced level freestyle riders are some fantastic beginner runs serviced by a Poma, three magic carpets and the McDougal Quad chair lift. Venture over to Captains basin and the mountain opens up for freeriders and those who enjoy a relaxing ski can head to Captains Café for some hot wine and pizza.
Snow Park NZ / Snow Farm is located opposite Cardrona about a 35 minute drive from Wanaka. Snow Park is a dedicated terrain park set up to offer obstacles for every level of rider. Snow Farm offers cross country skiing, tubing as well as overnight accommodation.
Once you have chosen accommodation, working out how you will travel to the ski fields is necessary. On a budget check out the dedicated hitching spots where your thumb will get you a ride to the snow. Hiring a car or having your own vehicle is the best option, preferably a 4x4 and remember to carry snow chains!
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