I'd suggest either Wanaka or Queenstown. Queenstown is a bit over commercialised for me, Wanaka is a lot more laid back, much nice twon to live in. I think the scenery is better there and the town itself is better positioned for sun.
If you want a teaching job, Cardrona might be a better bet as it is very popular with beginners so more people take lessons. Whereas TC is a challenging mountian, which makes it my favoruite by a long way - but from a teaching perspective you may not get as much work, and no work means no money. Being a liftie is a good option in that you get regaular pay, but not as much chance to ski.
Wanaka does not have a lot of ski shops - maybe 6 at the most - so probably not a heap of jobs.
Queenstown and Wanaka are only one hour apart so if you have a car you can always visit the other areas. Take the suggestion of buying a cheap 4WD if you can get one, otherwise you may have to fit chains a bit. It is quite a climb from the valley floor up to the ski areas, over 1,000 ft,on a metal/gravel road so don't buy anything underpowered. 1800c would be the minimum with just two people in it, but any more you'd probably flog it to death by the end of the season.
To get an idea of the difference between the commerical and the club scene, check out www.biglines.com
. d-moo aka Dave, Canadian guy has spent the last few months down under and has been writing articles on the areas in the south island. I think his comments are right on the mark. There are plenty of photos too. I met this guy the weekend he was at Craigieburn (my favourite club area) - he made the mistake of buying a 2WD 1800cc car cause he did not realise what the roads were like, and he hitched a lot of days otherwise his car was not going to last the season.http://www.biglines.com/user.php?d-moo&article_posts=1
Hitiching up the mountains is common, and is not looked on the same by drivers as those hitching between towns. For example, if I was on my own (I am a female) in my car I will pick up hitchers to take up the mountain, but I would never ever pick someone up on the open road if I was on my own. Not many hitch hike to Treble Cone nowadays cause the higher lift price has put off a lot of skiers on a lower budget, so usually won't take you long to get a ride. But if going to Cardrona or the Snowpark you might have to wait a while. Two of the areas, TC and the Snow park are looking at putting Gondoals in from the valley floor to the base areas an alternative to road access. But you'd still need to get from the towns to the bottom to the gondola bases, about 20 minute drive. But these gondolas, if they get the go ahead, won't be operational until 2008/2009. It means you'd get by fine with 2WD vehicle and no chains cause the snowline is above the valley floors.
Which brings me to another difference to North America - where you live is below the snow line, you drive up to the snow. Which means you can do other activities like mountain biking during winter. Last time I was at TC they had a multisport race where they skied from the top of the mountain to the base area, got on mountain bikes went down access road to nearby river in the valley, kayaked, then ran. I cannot imagine being able to do that in North America. We also don't have any trees on our ski areas.