New Zealand Skiing And Snowboarding

Friday, February 1st, 2019

Read about 'New Zealand Skiing And Snowboarding' on USAVE, the place for all things car rental.

New Zealand is a popular skiing destination, offering world-class ski fields and attracting skiers and snowboarders from all over the world. New Zealand’s terrain produces ideal snow conditions and our reverse seasons extend the ski season for travellers from the Northern Hemisphere, offering snow covered slopes for 4 months of the year.

The compact geography of New Zealand and a relatively large number of ski fields makes it easy to explore several ski areas in one trip and visitors can enjoy additional activities such as heliskiing, and glacier tours.

New Zealand Ski Field Five Fast Facts

  1. The Southern Alps form the longest mountain range in New Zealand, running 450 kilometres down the length of the South Island.
  2. Aoraki Mount Cook, located in the Southern Alps, is the highest mountain in Australasia, reaching 3,754 metres in height.
  3. Mount Ruapehu in the North Island is New Zealand’s biggest ski area, with the highest lift access in the country, and the longest vertical drop in Australasia.
  4. The Remarkables mountain range, located in Queenstown, is so named as it is one of only two mountain ranges in the Southern Hemisphere that runs directly north to south.
  5. Cardrona ski area, located in Wanaka, has the highest base elevation of the South Island’s commercial ski fields at 1,670 metres.

North Vs South?

The cooler nights and changing seasons in New Zealand means barbeques are out and winter pursuits are back. The NZ ski season starts in late June/early July (depending on the weather) but it’s never too early to start planning your winter getaway or skiing trip. Skiing in the North or South Island? Let’s take a closer look.

*Indicates Ski Club Areas (membership not mandatory but non-member prices may be higher)

North Island Ski Fields

The North Island has two commercial ski fields and two club fields offering both skiers and snowboarders some great skiing and snowboarding opportunities. Located roughly half way between Auckland and Wellington, all four ski areas are accessible within a 3 hour drive from Palmerston North, and 4.5 hours from both Auckland and Wellington.

Whakapapa Ski Field

Mt Ruapehu, Tongariro National Park, Waikato
The best known and most popular North Island ski area, Whakapapa offers over 30 runs and 23 lifts on the north-west slopes of Mt Ruapehu. Whakapapa Ski Field is just 20 minutes from National Park Village, where there are plenty of accommodation options.

Turoa Ski Field

Mt Ruapehu, Tongariro National Park, Waikato
Turoa is located on the southern slopes of Mt Ruapehu, offering exhilarating runs on the largest vertical drop in Australasia. Turoa Ski Field is just 17km from Ohakune, which offers excellent après ski facilities and a range of accommodation.

Tukino Ski Field*

Mt Ruapehu, Tongariro National Park, Waikato
Nestled on the eastern slopes of Mt Ruapehu, Tukino Ski Field offers skiing away from the crowds with a friendly club-operated ski field. Accessible by a gravel access road, you need a 4-wheel drive vehicle (SUV) to get there.

Manganui Ski Field*

Mt Taranaki, Egmont National Park, New Plymouth
Located on the slopes of Mount Taranaki and run by the Statford Mountain Club, Manganui Ski Field is a small club field with approximately 20 runs, catering for all abilities. Access is via a sealed road and a 20 minute walk (a Flying Fox is available for transporting equipment). Manganui Ski Field is just 15 minutes from Stratford and 45 minutes from New Plymouth.


Auckland City
If the weather threatens to ruin your skiing plans, head to Snowplanet, New Zealand’s only indoor snow resort, offering-exhilarating snow sports all year round. Snowplanet’s giant snowhall features 50 centimetres of real powder snow, three lifts, a terrain park for snowboarders and a separate learner area. Snowplanet is just 20 minutes north of Auckland.

South Island Ski Fields

The South Island offers some of New Zealand’s best skiing and snowboarding, with world-renowned slopes and facilities for skiers and snowboarders. There are plenty of ski areas located throughout the South Island, from North Canterbury, through Mackenzie country, down to Queenstown and Wanaka in Otago. Access to Canterbury’s ski areas is easy from Christchurch, Queenstown and Dunedin.

Hanmer Springs Ski Area*

North Canterbury
Just 17 km from the alpine village of Hanmer Springs, the Hanmer Ski Fields are suited to all levels with terrain is divided into 10% Beginner, 60% Intermediate and 30% Advanced. Lessons, board and ski hire are available onsite. Backpacker style accommodations are available up on the ski field.

Mt Lyford Ski Field

North Canterbury
Mt Lyford is located 146km north of Christchurch, close to the beautiful town of Hanmer Springs. It has excellent trails for intermediate and expert skiers and snowboarders as well as a gentle-sloping area for beginners. Mt Lyford features the Wild Ride terrain park, a half and quarter pipe as well as the famous International Truck Jump for those keen to try a few tricks. Gear is available for hire on the mountain.

Temple Basin*

Arthur’s Pass National Park, Canterbury
With fantastic terrain with a relaxed vibe, the Temple Basin Ski Area is one of the best for experienced boarders and skiers. Be aware there is no road up to the ski area, it’s a 400m vertical hike up although there is a goods lift to take your gear up.

Broken River*

Craigieburn Range, Canterbury
Boasting some of New Zealand’s best off-piste soft snow skiing and boarding, Broken River is definitely one for the snow enthusiasts out there. Night skiing is also available as well as accommodation just 10 minutes from the slopes. Access is via car then the ‘Tyndall Tramway’ which carries you and your gear up to the top.

Craigieburn Valley*

Craigieburn Range, Canterbury
Craigieburn Valley is the perfect place for lovers of uncrowded runs through steep narrow chutes and wide open powder bowls. Backcountry mountain skiing at its best just 1.5 hours from Christchurch, the Crigieburn Valley is also a non-profit, charitable organisation run by volunteers. Note; there is no gear hire available on the mountain.

Mount Cheeseman*

Craigieburn Range, Canterbury
A friendly club orientated ski field that is fun for the whole family. Mount Cheeseman has a good learners area and two T-Bar lifts that give access to the main ski area as well as ample off-piste terrain. At just 90 minutes’ drive Mount Cheeseman is the closest club ski area to Christchurch.

Mount Olympus*

Craigieburn Range, Canterbury
Popular with big mountain, back country and freeski enthusiasts, the Mount Olympus ski fields are set high up in a south facing basin so the area holds its snow levels well even when other ski fields are melting away. The terrain is categorised as 10% Beginner, 55% Intermediate and 35% Advanced so it’s definitely more suited to the experienced skier and boarder.

Porters Ski Area

Porters Pass, Canterbury
At just 89km from the city centre, Porters is the closest ski field to Christchurch. The Porters ski field has a wide range of slopes to suit every ability, but has fantastic learner facilities, including a Ski Mat carpet lift. Porters invest a lot in snowmaking, snow-fencing and grooming so that you can enjoy the best ski experience possible. Full day lift passes range from around $40 – $80 and rental equipment is available up the mountain. Visit the Porters Ski Area website for more information.

Mt Hutt Ski Field

Mt Hutt, Canterbury
Mt Hutt is a fantastic area for skiers and boarders of varying levels. Standing at 2086m, it has the greatest range of terrain in the country, ranging from long, super wide groomed runs to double black diamond chutes. There are also two terrain parks for both experts and novices. Mt Hutt is located just over an hour’s drive from Christchurch and boasts the longest ski season in the Southern Hemisphere. For information on lift and season passes, weather conditions, directions and more, see here.

Mount Dobson

Tekapo, Canterbury
Fantastic views of Lake Tekapo and Lake Pukaki are just the icing on the cake at the Mount Dobson ski field. The terrain sits at a perfect 25% for beginners, 50% intermediate and 25%  advanced and there is ski and snowboard hire available on mountain.


Tekapo, Canterbury
Just minutes from the Tekapo township, Roundhill as its name suggests sits atop a rather large and rounded hill! Beautiful views, a good selection of runs to suit all ages and abilities and an onsite café are just a few of the highlights of the Roundhill Ski field. Find qualified instructors at hand to give you some helpful advice and on mountain gear hire.

Ohau Ski Field

Mackenzie Region, Canterbury
Catering for all levels of skiers and snowboarders, the Ohau ski area is a great ski field for families that is a little less commercial than some of the other ski resorts. Prices are competitive and there are great packages for people who have never skied before. The Ohau ski area is 3.5 hours drive from Christchurch.

Fox Peak* Skiing

Mackenzie Region, Canterbury
One for the experts out there Fox Peak offers up some epic off-piste trails with the ultimate in powder skiing. Head on over to the South Basin and try out the “Chute” if you are an expert or enjoy the large number of intermediate and advanced slopes.

Coronet Peak

Try your hand at night skiing or enjoy being first one down the mountain at Coronet Peak, one of Queenstown’s major ski resorts. Onsite facilities include several cafes, a heated deck, an experienced Snowsports School, gear rental and repair and a licensed childcare facility. Lift passes at Coronet Peak are $129 for adults and $69 for children.

The Remarkables

Terrain Parks anyone? At the Remarkables ski fields there are four different terrain parks each with their own set of awesome challenges. The Remarkables is one of Queenstown’s biggest ski resorts and comes equipped with all the usual onsite facilities including gear hire, cafes and childcare. Lift passes are identical to Coronet Peak and set at $129 for adults and $69 for children.

Cardrona Alpine Resort

Wanaka, Otago
One of New Zealand’s most popular ski areas, Cardrona attracts all kinds of skiers and boarders – from beginners and families, to professional athletes. The terrain is divided into 25% Beginner, 25% Intermediate, 30% Advanced and 20% Expert meaning there is certainly something for everyone out there on the slopes. On mountain apartments are available along with eight different cafes and bars.

Treble Cone

Wanaka, Otago
Nearest to Wanaka, Treble Cone is the South island’s largest ski area boasting 550 hectares of ski-able terrain. The “legendary off-piste tracks are a drawcard for expert skiers and boarders while the Treble Cone learners area is well set up for those just starting out. Early bird and season passes are a great way to save along with multi-day passes.

Snow Farm

Wanaka, Otago
With an emphasis on fun the Snow Farm is perfect for families and tourists wanting to spend time in the snow. Enjoy sliding down the hill on a tubes or toboggans, throw snowballs, build a snowman, go snow shoeing, cross skiing or even dog sledding and just have a really great time. Gear rental is available onsite along with café, restaurant and bar.

Canterbury Ski Fields – Drive Times

Canterbury ski fields are arguably New Zealand’s best skiing areas and are easily accessible from Christchurch, with over 10 ski areas within 3 hours drive. To give you a helping hand we’ve gathered a list of the best Canterbury ski fields with details of driving times and distances from Christchurch.

Canterbury Ski Fields Distances And Drive Times From Christchurch

  • Craigieburn Valley* (Springfield): approx 1.5 hours (110 km)
  • Mt Hutt approx 1 hour (90 km)
  • Porter Heights approx 1 hour (89 km)
  • Broken River* approx 1.5 hours (105 km)
  • Mt Cheeseman* approx 1.5 hours (112 km)
  • Temple Basin* (Arthur’s Pass): approx 2 hours (148 km) plus a 40-60 minute walk
  • Mt Lyford approx 2 hours (146 km)
  • Hanmer Springs* approx 2 hours (155 km)
  • Mt Dobson (Fairlie) approx 3 hours (184 km)
  • Fox Peak* (Fairlie) approx 3 hours (185 km)
  • Roundhill (Lake Tekapo) approx 3.5 hours (227 km)
  • Ohau approx 3.5 hours (320 km)

The New Zealand ski season runs approximately from late June to early October, depending on the location, weather and snow conditions. Before you decide which area you would like to ski or snowboard, check out the latest snow reports to make sure the slopes are open.

Travelling To New Zealand Ski Fields

New Zealand’s rural and mountain roads can be notoriously difficult to negotiate during winter, and access to some ski areas is via unsealed roads, requiring snow chains.

USAVE has a great range of 4WD hire cars to get you to the slopes safely with optional extras such as snow chains and ski racks available. If your upcoming travel plans include a winter road trip then choosing a 4×4 rental car is a smart choice, letting you enjoy the most of our winter wonderland even when roads are slippery and the weather unpredictable.

If your winter travel is with a bigger family or group we can also set you up in a people mover or a 10-12 seat minibus – we have a range of minibus rental vehicles available from all our car rental locations in Auckland City, Auckland Airport, Palmerston North, Christchurch and Dunedin.

Get in contact with our team to discuss your requirements or book your hire car online today. Happy winter travel planning!

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