A Complete Guide To NZ Ski Fields

Home to some of the best ski resorts in the oceania region. New Zealand is a winter wonderland for all kinds, but for those die-hard snowboarders and skiers choosing from one or more resorts to visit while planning your trip can be difficult. Do you travel to the north island or the south? To stay in Queenstown, Christchurch, or Whakapapa Village? Many questions are left unanswered, Which why I have put together this full guide on New Zealand ski resorts.

Before I get into what each individual resort is comprised of it is important to consider which island and which of the main locations you’ll be heading to. Queenstown, Christchurch, Methven, or Whakapapa.

North Island

Whakapapa

If your set on going to the north island you’ll most likely be staying at Whakapapa Village. Positioned on the western side of Mt. Ruapehu the village accommodates everyone, depending on your individual preference you can stay in the heritage Chateau Tongariro Hotel or if you’re looking for less expensive accommodation there are also campsites, lodges, and motels. be sure to book these in advance as they fill up quickly.

Daily Shuttle buses run to and from Whakapapa Resort during the wintertime.

Ohakune

if your wishing for a more relaxed vibe Ohakune is the place for you. only an hour’s drive to Whakapapa and a short 20 minutes to Turoa the town boast a range of activities to enjoy while having rest days in between hitting the slopes. As far as accommodation goes the town has multiple hotels motels and parks.

Daily Shuttles buses run to both Whakapapa and Turoa.

South Island

Christchurch

Being one of the major city’s in New Zealand you won’t fall short of things to do while staying here. know for its English heritage the city offers an amazing hospitality scene. The only downside to this location is the long shuttle to reach the ski resort.

Daily shuttles Run to Mt. Hutt from Christchurch

Methven

During winter Methven is a snow sports enthusiast dream. With nine of New Zealand’s ski fields close by you’ll have trouble choosing where to go for the day. Accommodation ranges from lodges to hostels for the budget-minded. similar to Queenstown, Methven has activities such as jet boating and hot air ballooning for your days off.

Daily Shuttles Run to Mt. Hutt

Queenstown

The ever so popular Queenstown is probably on your travel bucket list. If you haven’t been here already then you have defiantly heard of it. Famous for its outdoor activities makes it the ultimate resort town. If you Don’t mind a drink or two this is where you’ll want to go. I spent two weeks here awhile back and struggled to meet a local, the complete town is run off Tourists and backpackers alike. Accommodation ranges from Hostels to top of the range hotels.

Daily shuttle buses run to and from The Remarkables, Coronet Peak, Cardrona, and Treble Cone.

The Ski Fields

So now the part everyone is really here for, below ill go over New Zealand’s Ski Fields. Starting with the north island then moving onto the south in no particular order.

North Island

Whakapapa

Ever Wanted to ski on an active Volcano? Well, you can at Whakapapa! The north islands most well-known resort with over 70 Runs ranging from Novice to Expert there is defiantly something for everyone not to mention it has New Zealand’s largest beginner area. Unfortunately, the ski field is situated on the northwest face of Mt. Ruapehu which leaves it exposed to sudden changes in weather conditions.

The field also includes a terrain park for all your freestyle bandits out there! half pipe included! Not forgetting the back-country crew there is also plenty of off-piste adventures to be had!

Due to Whakapapa being the most accessible of the two fields on the north island it is prone to being busy especially on weekends. putting all that aside the sheer diversity of Whakapapa makes it great for family’s looking to start Snowboarding/skiing.

Accommodation

Pros

  • 70 runs
  • Family-friendly
  • Easy accommodation

Cons

  • Crowded on weekends
  • Lack of night life
  • Prone to weather changes

Turoa

Turoa ski field, known because it holds the title of Australasia’s biggest vertical drop as well as being the highest lift-served terrain in New Zealand. Just like Whakapapa, Turoa is positioned on Mt. Ruapehu but with slightly more challenging terrain. Due to its elevation, Turoa gets plenty of snow, and generally powder sticks around until late October even with the lack of trees around to block the wind. Turoa has 34 runs ranging from intermediate to advanced, they also have a beginner area with a magic carpet!

Accommodation

Pros

  • Great Snowfall
  • Magic Carpet for Learners
  • Good nightlife

Cons

  • limited accommodation
  • Crowded on weekends
  • Hard to access

South Island

Rainbow

The most northerly ski field on the South Island, Rainbow offers excellent views and sunshine! One of the smaller ski fields on this list with only 15 on-piste trails makes Rainbow more suited for beginner-intermediate riders. unfortunately, the longest descent at Rainbow is 2km which makes for lots on time spent on ski lifts. For the snowboarders, only a few terrain features are constructed here in the park.

Accommodation

Pros

  • Snow making on site
  • usually uncrowded
  • Family Friendly

Cons

  • Only 15 piste trails

Hanmer Springs

Previously called Amuri, Hammer Springs is a perfect adventure not only getting there is fun but there’s no crowds and is generally cheap as far as skiing/snowboarding goes. Although there are only 5 main trails, Hammer springs is more known for its touring outside those. Unfortunately, the ski fields do not receive an abundance of snow which means it usually opens very late in the season if at all.

Accommodation

Pros

  • Cheap
  • No crowds
  • Great views

Cons

  • Small ski area
  • Minimal snow
  • Opens late if at all
  • Volunteer Run

Mt. Lyford

One of the first lifted ski fields in New Zealand and still family-run Mt. Lyford is left undiscovered to most riders. like Hanmer springs crowds do not exist here and are relative always quiet. The location of the ski resort is prone to storms which means a dump of powder can be found here when all other resorts receive nothing. unfortunately like a lot of New Zealand’s smaller resorts/fields the simple infrastructure of narrow roads causes the resort to close when bad weather hits.

Accommodation

Pros

  • Generally deserted besides a few school kids
  • laid back vibe
  • Amazing views

Cons

  • Not a lot of on Piste terrain
  • Simple infrastructure
  • Tow Ropes

Temple Basin

A New Zealand ski club field not for the unadventurous. Due to the hiking involved before you even get to the first ski lift, I would not recommend this one for the unfit. With no groomed runs Temple basin is truly more for the diehard ski enthusiasts who enjoy a challenge. The terrain is spread across four basins where freestylers can take pride in the natural terrain features such as 1/4 and 1/2 pipes.

Accommodation

Pros

  • Natural Terrain
  • Decent Snowfall
  • On mountain Accommodation

Cons

  • hiking involved (40mins)
  • Rope tows

Craigieburn

The closest thing you’ll get to helicopter skiing without an actual helicopter, Craigieburn has some of the most challenging terrains in New Zealand with no grooming and everything being off piste the field is subject to whatever mother nature throws at it. Three T bar lifts cover the mountain taking riders upward of 500m vertical this keeps away most of the crowd, the benefit though is untouched tracks for those who put in the effort.

The sheer nature of this field is not one for beginners or family’s and typically even some of the intermediate riders would struggle.

Accommodation

Pros

  • On mountain accommodation
  • Relatively untouched terrain

Cons

  • Accommodation available is limited

Broken River

Just like its neighbor Craigieburn, Broken river usually receives decent snowfall and has a similar backcountry feel but with less deadly runs, The milder terrain makes it more suitable for less experienced riders and even has a beginner area. Broken River is also quieter which also means fresh powder tends to stick around longer. Accommodation on the mountain ranges from Hostels to basic hotels and is usually ski-out with only a short walk to the bottom tow rope.

One thing to note is that Broken River is the ski field most likely to stay open in the Canterbury region.

Accommodation

Pros

  • Back Country feel
  • On mountain accommodation
  • kids under 13 ski free

Cons

  • Rope Tows

Mt Cheeseman

Yes, it really is called Mount Cheeseman, known as the most family-friendly mountain in the Canterbury region and for being reasonably affordable. The mountain has only 2 T bar Tow lifts one beginner outside the lodge and one that services the rest of the runs. Being the tamest mountain of the Canterbury region, advanced riders usually head to Craigieburn or broken river leaving the untouched powder for you to go find!

Accommodation

Pros

  • Family Friendly
  • On mountain accommodation
  • Nearby skating ring

Cons

  • Simple accommodation
  • Snow chains needed to access

Porters

formally known as Porters Heights the field has been transformed from a club field to commercial field. compared to its neighbors’ porters has some grooming and snowmaking and is even serviced by a chair lift the runs consist of a more intermediate to advanced level and even includes a small terrain park.

On the mountain, accommodation is available as well as off, a good thing to note is Methven is only an hour’s drive away so if you were looking to ski multiple mountains this might be the best option.

Accommodation

Pros

  • Cheap beginner packages
  • less crowded than other commercial resorts
  • usually remains open when other mountains close

Mt. Olympus

Big mountain skiing with lots of powder! Mt Olympus is probably not one for snowboarders due to the amount of hiking involved as much of the sort after terrain lies above the lifts. the mountain includes a beginner area but beginners will need to be adventurous.

No Grooming means this is mother nature’s playground with plenty of off-piste obstacles.

Accommodation

Pros

  • Little to no crowds
  • Powder!
  • Amazing views

Cons

  • Not a lot of on Piste terrain
  • Tow Ropes

Mt. Hutt

One of the larger ski fields in the south island Mt. Hutt has something to cater to everyone. The treeless terrain spans over 365 hectares and allows for plenty of piste runs. Usually not to crowded on weekdays but if your chasing the powder after a fresh dump be sure to get in early.

Accomodation

Pros

  • Extradionary views
  • kids 10 and under ski free
  • resonably priced accomodation in Methevn

Cons

  • Known as Mt. Shut due to incresed number of closes beacuse of weather factors
  • No On-mountain accomodation

Mt. Dobson

If you want the laid back vibe of a ski club field but at the same time want the facilities that come with a commercial field then Mt. dobson is the one for you. Not so much one for all the powder nuts out there but is well suited for beginner to intermediate riders.

Accommodation

Pros

  • Club field Feel With Comerical Faciltys
  • Realitivly Inexpensive compared to other major resorts

Cons

  • Little to no night life

Fox Peak

500 hectares of deserted terrain, Fox peak is an old club field serviced by 3 nut cracker tow ropes and even includes a beginners area. While fox peak is generally not blessed with an abundance of snow and has no official record, It can still occasionally receive a powder day.

Accommodation

Pros

  • deserted terrain
  • laid back vibe

Cons

  • simple infrastructure
  • Tow Ropes
  • Not a great deal of snow fall

Roundhill

Roundhill was once a small field perfect for beginners but in 2010 it saw a major transformation making it one of the largest ski fields in New Zealand with over 500 hectares. Still holding its reputation as a great family and beginner field makes this commercial field welcome to everyone.

Accommodation

Pros

  • Perfect for Beginners
  • Club field feel
  • Amazing views

Cons

  • Unpaved access roads
  • Tow Ropes

Ohau

A Privately owned and run ski field with 125 hectares of Chair lift-accessed terrain and over 600 hectares beyond the lift. The terrain had a little bit of everything for everyone but is mainly suited for intermediate riders.

This will definitely be one to go to if you love great views and adventuring of piste!

Accomodation

Pros

  • Back Country opportunities are beyond the lift
  • Amazing views

Cons

  • Can get Busy

Treble Cone

The largest ski resort in the south island, Treble Cone is only 20 minutes drive from the popular town of Wanaka. If your a fan of smaller crowds in a big resort this is the place you want to be! Its close proximity to Queenstown makes for great nightlife on days off the mountain. Recommended for more experienced riders but for the adventurous, intermediate and beginner riders will love this mountain!

Accommodation

Pros

  • Largest ski field in the south island
  • Some backcountry past the top lift
  • Great night life
  • Cheaper beginner lift tickets

Cons

  • No on-mountain accomodation
  • No trees makes visibilty hard in bad weather
  • Minimal beginnner terrain

Cardrona

If your staying in the Queenstown/Wanaka area and are into hitting the terrain park then Cadronas the one for you that is if you don’t mind waiting in line for lifts. Cardrona receives the most skier/snowboarder visits out of all New Zealand ski fields.

Accommodation

Pros

  • Although its limited on-mountain accomodation is avalible
  • Amazing terrain parks
  • Family- Friendly
  • Great beginner terrain

Cons

  • Very crowded
  • Inconsistant snow conditions
  • Not alot of expert terrain

Coronet Peak

In close proximity to Queenstown, Coronet peak is one of the most popular resorts on the south island although it is known as “concrete peak” to the locals because of its tendency to become icy. The resort is family-friendly and is a well-rounded mountain for beginner-intermediate riders.

The low altitude of the mountain means it receives little snowfall, so the resort relies on a lot of snowmaking machines.

Accommodation

Pros

  • Closest ski field to Queenstown
  • Sealed Access Road
  • Well rounded groomed mountain

Cons

  • Doesn’t receive a lot of natural snowfall
  • Very busy due to Queenstown tourists 

The Remarkables

Named “The Remarkables” because of its incredible surrounding mountain range this resort is family-friendly but like the other Queenstown, resorts it becomes very busy.  If you’re into hitting the park this is a great one to consider! From large kickers to small rails The Remarkables has just about everything you want.

Equipped with great facilities and reasonable terrain,  I would definitely recommend heading there at least once if your in Queenstown 

Accommodation

Pros

  • Great terrain Park
  • Great place for beginners
  • Paved Access Road

Cons

  • No-on mountain accommodation
  • Inconsistent snowfall

Piste maps in this blog are from

Snowfall history charts are from

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