That’s Right, New Zealand Has a Ski Season!
New Zealand is a land of mountains and adventure so it comes as no surprise that there is a ski season in New Zealand. The ski fields in New Zealand tend to be open from July to the end of September when the mountains are high and powdery enough to offer excellent ski terrain. With some of the best ski fields and authentic ski experiences in the Southern Hemisphere, no wonder people flock here for some snow-filled fun in the middle of August.
For backpackers, living and working near ski fields is a fun way to spend the winter season of a working holiday in New Zealand, while those looking for a quick winter escape will find just the right dose of adventure and fun. Otherwise, going on an all-inclusive ski tour with tour companies like Haka Tours is well worth it.
Be sure to check out The 24 Ski Fields in New Zealand and Ski Season in New Zealand: North Island or South Island?
Ski Fields in New Zealand
The first thing you need to know about the ski season in New Zealand is that there are two types of ski areas: commercial ski fields and club fields.
Commercial Ski Fields
The commercial ski fields tend to have a caf, bar, retail, equipment hire, first aid and ski school. They have groomed runs, chairlifts andsome have snow cannons. The commercial ski fields in New Zealand include:
- Whakapapa (North Island)
- Turoa (North Island)
- Mt Hutt
- Coronet Peak
- The Remarkables
- Treble Cone
- Mt Dobson
- Mt Lyford
- Ohau Snow Fields
- Snowfarm [Closed down]
Usually independently or family-owned, club fields are smaller ranging from 60ha to 500ha. Expect basic facilities but less crowded trails. The club fields in New Zealand include:
- Fox Peak
- Hanmer Springs
- Temple Basin
- Broken River
- Mt Cheesman
- Mt Olympus
- Tukino (North Island)
- Manganui (North Island)
For a more detailed list of New Zealand ski areas, check out The 24 Ski Fields in New Zealand.
Why Ski or Snowboard in New Zealand?
Ideal for Learning to Ski or Snowboard
New Zealand would be the perfect place to learn to ski or snowboard, as the ski fields are extremely beginner-friendly. The beginner areas in the commercial ski fields have either a cheaper lift pass or are free. Once you think you have mastered turning without being a danger to everyone around you, ski fields such as The Remarkables (Queenstown, South Island) and Whakapapa (Ruapehu, North Island) have wide runs with a steady gradient to build on the vertical metres, while improving on your newfound skills.
Something for the Advanced
For advanced skiers and boarders, there are plenty of technical trails to be found with enough snow in all ski fields. Try Treble Cone (Wanaka, South Island) or Porters (Christchurch, South Island) for especially technical runs to get your thighs burning.
Awesome Terrain Parks
Almost all fields offer some sort of terrain park, whether it is The Stash at The Remarkables, which makes features from natural materials, Park After Dark at Coronet Peak (Queenstown, South Island), or the staff at a club field pushing some picnic tables together.
Unique Ski Experiences
Experts, well, there are many items to tick off the powderhound’s bucket list in New Zealand, such as heli-skiing down glaciers in Aoraki Mt Cook National Park, steep chutes and open bowls. Ever fancied skiing down an active volcano? Whakapapa and Turoa are built on the volcano Mt Ruapehu. Learn how to hike to its crater lake in our guide on How to get to the Mt Ruapehu Crater Lake in Winter.
Kiwi Club Ski Fields
The authentic Kiwi ski experience is always fun. Take Hanmer Springs for example, which offers cheap hostel-price accommodation on the mountain and allows BYO! You’d be sure to have a blast if you brought a couple of mates along for an authentic and uncrowded ski and apres-ski session.
Craigieburn in the Southern Alps of the South Island is world-renowned for its challenging terrain for advanced riders, while Temple Basin is even a mission to get to in itself. Just pop your gear on a lift and enjoy an hour hike up the mountain to get to the first lifts!
Where to Get Ski Gear in New Zealand
Commercial ski fields in New Zealand offer gear rental at their mountain base. Expect to be able to rent snowboards/skis of different performances, boots, helmets, snowpants, jackets and gloves.
Although rental departments on the commercial ski fields offer convenience for their rentals, you can often find better prices in rental stores of the closest towns. However, this does come with the disadvantage of not having the rental store in proximity should there be anything wrong with your rental equipment.
Buying Your Own Gear
Say you are spending a season at a ski field in New Zealand, you will want to purchase your own affordable gear. We have put a whole guide together on where to find the best deals in Where to Buy Cheap Ski and Snowboard Gear in New Zealand.
Working on a New Zealand Ski Field
A popular way to spend a winter on a working holiday in New Zealand is to work on a New Zealand ski field. There are many types of jobs going on ski fields across New Zealand each year, from entry-level jobs to skilled jobs. Find out more in What’s the Right New Zealand Ski Field Job for You.
Because of the popularity of ski field work during the New Zealand winter season, you will need to prepare months before the winter arrives to get a ski field job in New Zealand. Check out What it is Like to Work on a New Zealand Ski Field.
Things to Note About the NZ Ski Season
A ski season in New Zealand is a pretty unique experience. If you have skied in Europe, Canada or North America, then you’ll find it a lot different in New Zealand. With that in mind, it’s best to not come to New Zealand with assumptions but do a bit of research beforehand.
Here are a few things to note about the ski season in New Zealand:
- Recent years have shown that despite the ski fields opening as early as June this does not necessarily mean many of the trails are open. Check trail statuses online before making the decision to buy that lift pass.
- No snow in the town? The mountains often feel like a whole different season. Check a few different snow reports to get a more accurate idea of how the conditions are on the mountain.
- As a budgeting backpacker, take your own lunch to the mountain to avoid buying pricey meals.
- A day lift pass is expensive. Consider season passes if you plan to ski a lot. Early bird season passes are available at half price, so prepare for the season early.
- Slopes will be crowded and lifts will have queues in the school holidays on commercial ski fields. Otherwise, on a normal busy day, only expect to queue for five minutes at the most!
- Ski fields are often around 30 minutes to an hour from the nearest town. Give yourself plenty of time to travel by bus or car to the ski field.
More on Skiing in New Zealand
Where are the best ski fields in New Zealand? We’re glad you asked. Check out our: