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Where to ski and go in New Zealand..

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
I'm thinking about doing some travelling starting this spring. One of my possible destinations may be New Zealand. I'd like to know as much as I can, so for anyone who's been there, what's it like?

What kind of weather would I expect say may-september? Where should I visit? If I was to live somewhere where would be a best choice? Can you ski, and go to the beach at the same time of year anywhere in New Zealand?


post #2 of 11
Thread Starter 
Sorry about posting a topic that was already posted! I just read the report on NZ skiing, it sounds awesome.. I'd still like to know about the weather, beach, tourist stuff etc! Thanks again,
post #3 of 11
On the South Island, I don't think you'd want to go in the water during ski season without a wet suit. You can get nice warm and sunny spring days but it's hardly mid-summer beach weather.

The climate on the northern end of the North Island is much warmer.
post #4 of 11
You can pretty much forget swimming in NZ in those months, unless you are pretty hardy. Even up north the water will still be pretty cool.

If you want to live somewhere and do a bit of skiing go to Wanaka. That will give you access to TC and Cardrona and Queenstown. Also not too far to drive to some great club ski areas (see the other post). Wanaka has a good social life, you are bound to meet some nice Kiwi lasses (they are the best), and there will be an active foreign contingent of skiers/boarders there.

In May/June when snow is a bit light on the ground, fly in to Auckland (buy a cheap car with your Can$$ (about 2 to 1 I think), check out the Bay of Islands, Coromandel and Bay of Plenty, then head down the east coast through the Hawkes Bay, then over to Taupo and down to Wellington. Wgtn has a great night life and is a good cruisy city. If you have a mtn bike there are some great trails all round the city (Wgtn is very much like Vancouver - but a bit windier). Play a bit of golf round there then head to the Marlborough Sounds, go to Nelson and the west coast, then check Christchurch and Mt Hutt if there is snow by then. Then hit Wanaka.

And all the above within about 1500km of each other. Unbeatable.

Make me want to go home!
post #5 of 11

Check out a great deal on seasons passes for NZ this winter. They were still advertising them yesterday so they still have some available.

If you come in May, the skiing can be marginal until July. Maybe stay up in the North Island until then and hit the beach. They surf all year around in New Zealand, including the South Island, but they wear thick wet suits during winter.

Here is some text I post for anyone who asks for info on new Zealand.

"Some further on advice on skiing in New Zealand. This is a bit of a novel but I know how important some local advice can be. The South Island is the place to come, don't bother about the North Island unless you want to say you have skiied an active volcano. Chances are you might miss out due to the weather or eruptions. I think the reviews on the www.0800snow.co.nz web site are quite accurate. Skiing in NZ is quite different to North America, the major things we noticed are :-

We don't have slope side accommodation. Need to stay in a nearby town, and always have to get in a car and travel up a mountain road. Suggest you rent pick up a 4WD rental in Christchurch and start your trip from there. Make sure they give you a set of chains, most ski areas won't let you up the access road without carrying them. 4WD don't have to fit them often but 2WD do. All commercial ski areas have public transport, but you would be more flexible with your own vehicle. The towns are below snow level, so the climate is mild. To get to the mountains you have to drive up mountain access roads. The ski areas are at lower altitudes than what you are used to, the top of TC is about 7,000 ft, so no worries with altitude sickness.

The ski areas don't have trees. Everything is what North Americans call alpine. Mostly wide open bowls and faces. The areas won’t be as big as what you are used, but there are less people, and you can ski almost every square acre of the ski area, due to the lack of trees.

There are two types of ski areas - commercial fields and club fields. The club fields are open to the public but the amenities are more basic, usually rope tows with nut crackers and less grooming. So it depends on what type of experience you want. The club fields usually have lodges on the mountain that you can stay at for very reasonable rates including food and tows. If you are into back country skiing, the club fields in the Arthurs Pass area (about an hour from Christchurch) would be worth a look. I have not spent much time there myself as we frequent Queenstown and Wanaka ski fields. Visited Craigieburn or the first time last season and it has some awesome terrain. But after riding 3 steep rope tows to get to the top, we were rather exhausted by 2:30pm. Have got soft riding chairlifts.

Both Wanaka and Queenstown are tourist resort towns. Both have lakes and spectacular mountain scenery, so are busy all year round. The towns are just over an hour apart by road, but suggest staying in both towns if you want to ski all the areas.

If you like the comforts of chair lifts and a hotel room, then I would suggest basing yourself in Queenstown and then Wanaka. Queenstown is the adventure capital of New Zealand. Lots of other acitivites such as bugy jumping, parapenting, hang gliding etc. Queenstown probably has the best apres ski in NZ. From Queenstown you can ski the Remarkables or Coronet Peak. Remarkables can be rather boring but has some excellent chutes and extreme skiing within a short walk, look for Lake Alta on the trail map. Coronet Peak is worth a visit when it has a good snow cover. They do rely on snow making a lot as they are at a lower altitude than the Wanaka fields. If you visit Coronet Peak in June/July you will be paying $60 NZ to ski down a trail with man made snow, so August is definitely the best month to visit. Has some nice rolling contours and variety on its slopes. Remarkable slopes are smoother and less varied.

Wanaka is a smaller and quieter and cheaper than Queenstown. Most of the locals prefer Wanaka for that reason, and Queestown is left for the international tourists (woops - that will be you). Wanaka has two downhill ski areas - Cardrona and Treble Cone, plus a cross country ski area called Wairou (never been there myself - I'm too lazy to work for my turns). Cardrona can be quite boring unless you know your way around. It is very popular with families as there are lots of blue and green runs. There is an area that is popular with the extreme skiers and the local competitions are held there. So it does have a few challenges, make sure you get a trail map so you can find the Arcadia chutes.

Now Treble Cone - I have skiied there for 25 years and never got bored. We visit the other fields for maybe one or two days a year, but basically spend the season at Treble Cone, also referred to as TC. It has the highest vertical in NZ and the most skiable acres. It is very popular with snow boarders as there are a lot of natural half pipes, and hits. They installed a 6 seater chair a couple of years ago, a couple of years ago the the queues were bad because it is becoming so popular. Admittedly, it was days when they could not run it at full capacity due to local power supply problems. The most recent season, there were not many queues at all. Treble Cone has the best view of all the ski areas in New Zealand. It is in the Matukituki Valley which in my opinion is the most beautiful area in New Zealand. When at TC, make sure you traverse right from the top of the 6 seater chair across to the view point. It allows you to look right up the valley. The terrain over the ski area is snow tussock, so it does not need a huge amount of snow to make it skiable. Some ski areas are rocky so need more snow. When you get to TC don’t be put off by what you can see from the car park, you look up at the ‘Rock Garden’ which is only a small part of the ski area, and can only be skied when there is a good cover.

If you want to experience something a bit different, I would suggest visiting Mt Potts. It is a small ski cat operation (refer www.snow.co.nz) but you need to book in as it is very popular and they only take 14 customers a day. Not sure if they will be operating this year as they had an avalanche last year that took out their snow cat garage with the snow cat inside it. It is reasonably priced (about $240 NZ a day) if you are spending US dollars and it includes transport and lunch. We got 10 runs in the day we went, but had to go in mid July and the snow conditions were marginal. We will definitely be going this year if they are back in business.

The other major commercial area is Mt Hutt, which is about 90 minutes from Christchurch. Skiers normally stay in Methven. Most times I have been there it has been icy, but we struck the best day of the season this year on our one visit, and it changed my views on the ski area. Worth a couple of days visit if the conditions are good if you have the chance.

And if money is no object then heli skiing from Wanaka or Queenstown would be the ultimate. US and Canadian dollars go a long way here so it would be the cheapest heli skiing experience you could get. Links from www.snow.co.nz.

If you drive from Christchurch to Queenstown/Wanaka, allow time to have a look at scenery on the way. The best route is Christchurch /Geraldine/Tekapo/Omarama/Tarras. If you have time you could stop off at Mt Cook National Park (Tekapo/Omarama area). Mt Cook is our highest mountain, was 12,345ft before a bit fell off the top a few years back. There are no commerical ski fields (with tows), but there is ski plane operation on the Tasman Glacier. The Tasman Glacier ski adventure is a intermediate run that can be 20km long in the right conditions (would not recommend with a snow board as some poling involved on flat bits). You get to do ski down twice in the day. Worth doing if you are into scenery, the flight is spectacular (go see Vertical Limit to see scenes of this area). If you want a more challenging ski trip, ask about the one run option and use skins to climb a bit higher from the drop off point. There is also heli skiing at Mt Cook.

My suggested time for coming is August/September. We have always taken our two weeks at the start of August, but in the last two years the best conditions have be from mid August to mid September. During September you can get awesome spring days, warm enough to go mountain biking, or play golf.

Last year we had a seasons pass price war, this year might be the same. Coronet Peak, Remarkables and Mt Hutt are owned by the same company, last year a tri-mountain seasons pass was $299 NZD. A day pass is $68 at Coronet, so this is extremely good value. Around March/April, keep an eye on www.nzski.com for the specials. The other commercial areas also matched the prices. We bought a TC season pass for $299, and it also gave us $20 discount on a day passs at Coronet, Remarkables and Mt Hutt, got $20 day off.


<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ February 08, 2002 01:07 PM: Message edited 1 time, by twoKiwis ]</font>
post #6 of 11
The first price has been strick for an early bird season pass for ski areas.

nzski.com have just announced their early bird seasons pass for $399. This covers Coronet Peak, Remarkables, Mt Hutt and Ohau.

Check out


If you were going to base yourself in Queenstown then this would be a good deal. If you based yourself in Wanaka it would not be worth it as these fields at about 90 minutes from the town. I prefer the Wanaka skiing to Queenstown, better and more reliable snow. Coronet Peak does not have enough altitude.
post #7 of 11
for photos of NZ scenery check out

The photographer is based in Wanaka, many of the photos are of that area, and some Queenstown. So you know what you are looking at, Otago is a province of New Zealand, and the name 'Central Otago' is the Queenstown/Wanaka/Alexandra region. This is my favourite part of the world, such varied landscape in a small area. In a two hour from Alexandra to the Haast, you can go from arid desert like scenery to rainforest. The vineyard photos are Queenstown/Wanaka.

The Antartica photos are from a bit further south. Not so easy to visit.

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ February 08, 2002 01:21 PM: Message edited 2 times, by twoKiwis ]</font>
post #8 of 11
twokiwis: Nice piece on the South Island, but you are seriously misleading people by saying:

"don't bother about the North Island unless you want to say you have skiied an active volcano. Chances are you might miss out due to the weather or eruptions".

What you should say is: "Don't bother with the two biggest, best terrain (by a country mile), most lifts, biggest vertical (722m), most acreage (over 2500 acres), highest lift access, best facilities, best managed, deepest snow base, longest season ski areas in the country".

Whakapapa alone combines all the best features of Cardrona, Treble Cone and Mt Hutt by itself.

Whakapapa also DOES have on-slope accommodation, there are over 40 lodges on the mountain, most ski-in, ski-out. They are available through:

And a season pass to both areas is NZ$349 (includes Cardrona).

p.s. For the sake of impressionable visitors to NZ who hear of "eruptions" and picture mayhem and destruction, a word of comfort. The eruptions were in 1995 and 1996. They were ash eruptions, not rivers of lava. It only cost the final 7 weeks of the season in 1995, and I got 45 days as a weekend warrior in 1996 while the mountain puffed away happily, plus I got to see an active volcano erupting, an experience I will never forget. You can now climb to the crater (a reasonably demanding walk for anyone halfway fit) and see the technicolour build-up of various natural compounds in the crater, and get a feeling for the size of the mountain.
post #9 of 11
If you're in Queenstown and have a day off skiing, go and take a cruise on Milford Sound. Amazing.
post #10 of 11
therockskier - I am going to try and ski the North Island for the first time this year, then I can give 'informed' information. I guess my opinion is tainted by all the North Islanders I have met on the ski slopes down south, who have said not to bother heading up north.

The major fields have all posted their early seasons pass deals. Treble Cone is $399, with $20 discounts at other major fields.
post #11 of 11
two kiwis: good idea. only way to see what they are talking about is to see for yourself. Head up in early September if you can, you will get the best combo of snow and weather.

Have fun, and rock The Rock.
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