Find the perfect New Zealand ski run for you

Want to experience New Zealand’s world-class ski runs but don’t know where to start? We round up the best places for all kinds of skiers.

Hit the slopes this winter at the greatest ski runs in New Zealand.
  • Glenn Cullen
  • May 2019

Whether you’re a first-timer, mountain warrior or someone who loves après-ski as much as alpine, there’s a slope to suit your style in New Zealand’s South Island (and one on the North Island too). We round up some of the best to help you find your perfect match.

Coronet Peak/The Remarkables, Queenstown, South Island

Queenstown is often picked as the entrée to the Kiwi ski experience and once most people have had a taste, they tend to stick around for the main course, dessert and 3am kebab, too.

Get the party started with a leisurely lunchtime lager at Smiths Craft Beer House opens in new window, then head to The Bunker opens in new window for dinner and a dirty Martini before getting rambunctious until all hours at Rhino’s Ski Shack opens in new window. Oh, did I mention Queenstown has a couple of terrific ski areas as well? This is the adventure capital, after all. Coronet Peak opens in new window is a 20-minute drive from downtown and perfectly located for those who require a sleep-in before hitting the slopes. This year, the Peak has a new six-seater chairlift with gondola cabins that will enhance the experience for both skiers and sightseers. The Remarkables are 45 minutes from town and the higher altitude offers more reliable conditions and intriguing hiking opportunities. Plus, there’s a new 160-metre-long conveyor lift that provides access to a whole new learner’s area.

Where to stay

Recently renovated Sherwood opens in new window is a relaxed, eco-friendly option within striking distance of town, while the luxurious Eichardt’s Private Hotel opens in new window offers all the trimmings.

Sherwood lodge is peaceful yet close to all the Queenstown action.
Sherwood lodge is peaceful yet close to all the Queenstown action.

Mount Cheeseman, Canterbury, South Island

Part of the charm of skiing in New Zealand is its club fields. What they lack in facilities, they make up for in cost savings and a community feel. While many club fields tip their terrain balance towards strong riders, Mount Cheeseman opens in new window has a good selection of skiable areas for the less-adventurous. It also hosts some basic on-mountain accommodation and you’ll find there’s a little less of that feeling of having to open up your wallet every time you breathe. Day passes will set you back less than AUD $80 and there’s a range of accommodation and lesson packages that offer discounts for members. If you decide club life is for you, there are five other ski fields opens in new window scattered around the Canterbury region. The Craigieburn-Broken River combination is pretty hard to beat once you’ve found your feet.

Where to stay

The resort-run Snowline Lodge opens in new window is your on-hill place to base, while The Doug opens in new window is a spacious log cabin located in Castle Hill, 14 kilometres from Mount Cheeseman.

The Doug offers a cosy retreat during those cold winter nights.
The Doug offers a cosy retreat during those cold winter nights.

Mount Hutt, Canterbury, South Island

Mount Hutt’s opens in new window strength lies in its almost textbook-like split of terrain, with 25 per cent beginner, 50 per cent intermediate and 25 per cent advanced – ensuring there’s always something for everyone. Its location at the north end of the Southern Alps might see the slopes closed more frequently than others but the upside is the snow is often more plentiful than at the Queenstown-Wanaka resorts. Two-metre bases here are typical by late winter. Just 30 minutes from the laid-back feeder town of Methven, the drive up can initially intimidate but the switchbacks (zig-zag trail on steep terrain) are wide and there’s always a shuttle service up the hill if you’d prefer. Once you’ve had your fill, Porters opens in new window, a 90-minute drive from Methven, is worth a visit. Small in stature but bigger than the Tardis once you’re inside, it shines in good snow years.

Where to stay

Ski Time opens in new window in Methven has comfortable digs and great meals, while Terrace Downs opens in new window in Windwhistle, offers luxury lodgings, a golf course and a range of other activities.

The Ski Time lodge is great for meeting like-minded skiers in Methven.
The Ski Time lodge is great for meeting like-minded skiers in Methven.

Mount Ruapehu, Central, North Island

While the masses head south, there’s a massif that stands tall and underrated with the international set smack-bang in the middle of the North Island. Jutting out like a shark’s tooth from the plains, Mount Ruapehu opens in new window is arguably the best riding mountain in the country across its two resorts – Turoa and Whakapapa. Its 21 ski lifts covering the two unconnected areas service a stunning vertical drop of 722 metres as well as natural gullies, gnarly chutes and a grab bag of gentle terrain. Among a slew of recent developments is a AUD $25 million gondola on the Whakapapa side, slated to open in June. And while the weather can be fairly inconsistent, you can stack the odds in your favour with a spring trip, where the snow base is invariably generous and the sun shines just that bit more.

Where to stay

The historic Chateau Tongariro opens in new window is located at the foot of the mountain and is perfect for the Whakapapa side, while the Powderhorn opens in new window in Ohakune (Turoa access) is good enough for Kiwi film director Peter Jackson and should be for you, too.

Mount Ruapehu is a standout skiing option on the North Island
Mount Ruapehu is a standout skiing option on the North Island

Cardrona, Wanaka, South Island

The Cardrona resort opens in new window ticks more boxes than a lifetime public servant – it’s also the resort of choice for families or beginners. There are four terrain parks to cover all levels and abilities but with two half-pipes (including New Zealand’s only Olympic-standard half-pipe), it’s the place to snowboard. There are some extra little touches that will appeal to newcomers, such as a terrific ski and snowboard school, chondola (chairlift interspersed with gondola cabins) and on-snow accommodation. Tip: end your day on the slopes with a mulled wine from Cardrona Hotel at the bottom of the hill – it’s a local institution.

Where to stay

Most of the accommodation is located in Wanaka, about 34 kilometres away but for something quaint in the valley, Cardrona Hotel opens in new window provides all the modern comforts you need close to the action. If you want to stay where you play, it’s hard to go past Cardrona’s on-mountain Alpine Apartments opens in new window – just make sure you book early as these units tend to fill up fast.

The picturesque Cardrona Alpine Resort is ideal for beginners and families.​
The picturesque Cardrona Alpine Resort is ideal for beginners and families.​

Treble Cone, Wanaka, South Island

Treble Cone opens in new window, or “TC”, is kind of like Cardrona’s fierce older brother, who’s itching to show you who’s boss. Big mountain faces, powder-filled chutes and pitch-perfect terrain are the hallmarks of this resort and for those who are confident on their planks. There are some cut runs for beginners and intermediates in the Home Basin but the Saddle Basin and Motatapu Chutes are where serious riders go on a powder day. Get in early, though – the locals know the score when the white stuff arrives.

Where to stay

Whare Kea opens in new window offers well-appointed villas with views of Lake Wanaka, while Edgewater opens in new window has location as its calling card with reasonable pricing to boot.