Your Guide to Snowboarding and Skiing in Queenstown
If you have heard anything about the ski season in New Zealand, no doubt you will have heard about Queenstown. The adventure town in New Zealand’s South Island is close to four ski fields, offering a winter escape with variety. Nevertheless, a ski holiday takes a bit of organising, so we’ve put together this ultimate guide to the Queenstown ski season to make your ski holiday planning all the easier.
Let’s start by saying that all of the Queenstown ski fields have high-quality on-mountain facilities, including gear rentals, cafes, ski lessons, lockers, retail shops, toilets, freestyle parks and more.
How Long is the Ski Season in Queenstown?
The ski season in Queenstown typically runs from mid-June to the end of September but always take the ski field opening dates with a pinch of salt, as the dates heavily rely on the weather. Even when the ski field initially opens, note that only a small portion of the trails will be open.
The Best Time to Ski in Queenstown
We recommend skiing in Queenstown during August and September for the best snow coverage. Check out the typical climate in winter in our guide, Queenstown Weather & Climate: What is the Weather Like in Queenstown?
The Worst Time to Ski in Queenstown
Unless you have kids, the school holidays are the worst time to ski in Queenstown when you’ll see the ski fields at full capacity. That means waiting in queues for the chairlifts! See the Ministry of Education website for the latest school holiday dates. There are a set of school holidays in July.
Transport to the Queenstown Ski Fields
Unlike the ski fields in Europe or North America, there is no accommodation on the ski fields in Queenstown. In other words, you won’t find any ski-in ski-out accommodation.
Coronet Peak and The Remarkables Buses
Most people will stay in the nearby towns of Queenstown, Arrowtown or Wanaka (see The 50 Best Accommodations in Queenstown), then either drive or take one of the many shuttles and buses available to get to their selected ski field. For instance, Info&Snow (available on Viator and Tripadvisor) offer round-trip bus transfers between Queenstown and The Remarkables, while NZSki (who own the Queenstown ski fields) offer their own bus transport from town to The Remarkables and Coronet Peak.
All-Inclusive Tours with Transport
Alternatively, Haka Tours offers all-inclusive snowsports tours to the Queenstown ski fields, including lift passes, transport, breakfast and trips to other South Island ski fields.
Self-Driving to the Ski Fields
If you’re driving yourself, be sure to have snow chains available, especially between June and August. You are more likely to be able to get away without snow chains in September (but if there’s a freak snowstorm – don’t blame us!) Take a look atThe Best Car Rental Companies in Queenstown to see which rental companies have snow chains available – hint, they all will!
Find out more about getting around Queenstown in our guide, Public Transport in Queenstown. Plus, for tips on picking up gear, see Where to Buy Cheap Ski and Snowboard Gear in New Zealand.
The Closest Ski Field to Queenstown
Coronet Peak is Queenstown’s first ski field which has been operating for around 70 years. Thanks to the snowmaking facilities, it’s usually the first to open in the Queenstown area. The terrain is mostly rolling hills making it a good option for beginners and intermediate skiers and snowboarders. However, the back bowls are sure to challenge the experienced. Coronet Peak also offers night skiing on Wednesday and Friday nights. See more nighttime excitement in the 15 Things to Do in Queenstown at Night.
Coronet Peak Stats
Skiable Area: 280ha (692 acres)
Vertical Drop: 462m (1516ft)
Terrain: Beginner 32%, Intermediate 41%, Advanced 27%
Longest Run: M1 2.4km (1.5 miles)
Typical Season: Mid-June to Early October
Hours: 9am-4pm (8am-9am First Tracks), 4pm-9pm, Friday and Saturday Nights
Drive Times: 20-25 minutes from Queenstown, 23 minutes from Arrowtown, and 1h20mins from Wanaka
The Best Ski Field in Queenstown
Offering rocky mountainous terrain, The Remarkables offers a stark contrast of scenery compared to Coronet Peak. There’s really something for every ability on this ski field, with three bowls of skiable area, facing north to capture the sun for some beautiful sunny days. The Remarkables also has a couple of interesting freestyle parks. All in all, The Remarkables is our favourite ski field in the Queenstown area thanks to its scenery.
The Remarkables Stats
Skiable Area: 265.5ha (656 acres)
Vertical Drop: 357m (1171ft)
Terrain: Beginner 30%, Intermediate 40%, Advanced 30%
Longest Run: Outward Bound 2.5km (1.6 miles)
Typical Season: Mid-June (usually a week later than Coronet Peak) to Late September
Drive Times: 35 minutes from Queenstown, 45 minutes from Arrowtown, and 1h15mins from Wanaka
The Best Ski Field for Families and Freestylers
Boasting wide open trails across three different basins, Cardrona is an excellent ski field to explore. It’s family-friendly while giving something exciting for those who have been chasing winter for years, with some Expert runs and one of the best and biggest freestyle parks in the country. It’s also the only ski field in the Queenstown area with a gondola. Cardrona is also open in summer for mountain biking, carting, walking and sightseeing.
Skiable Area: 345ha (852.5 acres)
Vertical Drop: 600m (1968.5ft)
Terrain: Beginner 25%, Intermediate 25%, Advanced 30%, Expert 20%
Longest Run: A Real Journey & Valley View 4.5km (2.8 miles)
Typical Season: Mid-June to Mid-October
Drive Times: 60 minutes from Queenstown, 45 minutes from Arrowtown, and 35mins from Wanaka
The Best Ski Field in Wanaka
The largest ski field in the South Island, Treble Cone offers the ultimate New Zealand skiing experience for confident skiers and snowboarders. There’s a myriad of off-piste areas to discover and those in the know should definitely climb to The Summit for epic panoramic views. That’s not to say that there is no lack of beginner to intermediate areas to hone your skills. Plus, Treble Cone often feels less crowded than other ski fields in the area.
Treble Cone Stats
Skiable Area: 550ha (1359 acres)
Vertical Drop: 700m (2297ft)
Terrain: Beginner 10%, Intermediate 45%, Advanced 45%
Longest Run: Top of the Quad Chair 4km (2.5 miles)
Typical Season: Late-June to Early-October
Drive Times: 1h30mins from Queenstown, 1h15mins from Arrowtown, and 30mins from Wanaka
For more ski fields, see The 24 Ski Fields in New Zealand.
Heli-Skiing in Queenstown
For uncrowded slopes, first tracks and untouched snow, treat yourself to a heli-ski experience in Queenstown.
The experience, available to intermediate to advanced skiers and boarders, opens up thousands of hectares of skiable terrain just moments away from the Queenstown Airport by helicopter. So join one of the heli-ski operators like Alpine Heliski, who provides skiers with a guide to keep you safe on the mountain and show you the best areas to explore. Hotel transfers and a hot gourmet lunch are also included.
Queenstown’s Private Ski Area
Soho Basin is Queenstown’s private ski area where you’ll get free rein of 264 hectares (652 acres) and 500+ vertical metres of terrain to enjoy. Chairlifts are swapped for snowcat rides, while dining involves a three-course lunch with local wines at the Alpine Hut.
The luxury ski area is located on the other side of the mountain from Cardrona. Access is via the Cardrona Valley Road, approximately 43.5km (27 miles) from Queenstown town centre.
More About Skiing in Queenstown and New Zealand
That’s it for our advice about skiing in Queenstown but by no means the end of our advice about the New Zealand ski season and staying in Queenstown. These articles should help complete your plan for skiing in Queenstown:
- Ski Season in New Zealand: North Island or South Island?
- The Guide to the Ski Season in New Zealand
- What it is Like to Work on a New Zealand Ski Field
- What’s the Right New Zealand Ski Field Job for You