The Best Places to Go Snowboarding in New Zealand

Treble Cone on the South Island is among the top spots for snowboarding in New Zealand
Treble Cone on the South Island is among the top spots for snowboarding in New Zealand | © Jon Arnold Images Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Joe Coates
12 August 2020

For many people, there are only two important times of the year: winter and – to channel our inner Jon Snow – the time when winter is coming. This section of society goes by a couple of names: ski-bums, powder-hounds or, more commonly, skiers and snowboarders. With some of the most picturesque mountains in the world, New Zealand draws many of these folks – and if you’re one of them, read on to explore the best places to strap on a board, tighten your bindings and ride, ride, ride.

Cardrona

Ski Resort
Map View
Stunning mountain layers on the South Island of New Zealand from Cardrona Snow Resort.
© Matthew Scott / Alamy Stock Photo
Snuggled into the mountains between Queenstown and Wanakais Cardrona. This is probably one of the most (if not the most) popular places to ski and snowboard in the country. It’s the perfect place to bring the family and is super child-friendly. The slopes are above the tree-line, wide and open. There isn’t too much snow here, so if you’re a more experienced and accomplished rider, you may want to look elsewhere for some thigh-deep powder. Although there is only a little over 2.5m (8ft) of annual snowfall on average, the slopes retain the snow quite well. There are places for advanced riders to play about – the Tulips and Captain’s Basin, for example – but mostly the three bowls are great for beginners and intermediates.

Treble Cone

Natural Feature, Ski Resort
Compared to Cardrona, Treble Cone has more snow, and it probably offers the best terrain for snowboarders anywhere on the South Island. It is the island’s biggest ski field at about 526ha (1,300 acres) and has the highest proportion of black runs on the South Island. Rating-wise, 45 percent of the terrain is suitable only for advanced riders, which is about equal with Craigieburn. Although only 10 percent of this field is beginner-friendly, Treble Cone tries and tempts in those on the L-plates with free lift tickets to the beginner area.

Craigieburn

Forest, Park, Ski Resort
Map View
Locals say this about Craigieburn: it’s steep, deep and cheap. For an advanced snowboarder, that’s like a holy trifecta. While it shares the same percentage of black runs as Treble Cone, that is where the similarities stop. There are no Gucci-wearing day trippers here – none of the glitz and glamour you’ll find in Queenstown and the surrounding spots. This whole area is off-piste or back-country, with testing powder bowls and dicey, narrow chutes. This is no place for families, beginners or anyone with a modicum of self-preservation. The only way to make the first 500m (1,640ft) of vertical is by getting primitive “nutcracker” tow ropes, and then it’s hiking time. You’ll definitely earn your beer at the end of the day here.

Mt Hutt

Natural Feature, Ski Resort
With its combination of vertical and a steep pitch, Mt Hutt will see you boosting down the slopes in record time. The terrain here is suitable for all, and even advanced snowboarders can pick and choose from an array of off-piste lines. Because it is perched on the edge of the mountain, this ski-field is somewhat at the mercy of the weather gods, which can be frustrating. On the flip side, after a dump of snow, you can have a great time ripping it up and laying down some fresh tracks.

Turoa

Natural Feature, Ski Resort
Turoa Skifield at Ruapehu
© Turoa Skifield at Ruapehu
The action isn’t all happening in the South Island, thank goodness. Situated on the southwestern flank of Mount Ruapehu – New Zealand’s most active volcano – Turoa is one of only two ski-fields on the North Island. The other one is its little sister, Whakapapa. There are no trees here, so you ride right out in the open and have access to some incredible vistas as you make your way down the long, sweeping runs. What’s more, the terrain is varied, so you’re not going to get bored here. For the adventurous, there are gullies and cliffs to drop into and off of. There are long, beautifully groomed runs, natural half-pipes and a 4km (2.5mi) groomer that will leave the thighs burning in that satisfactory manner that only skiers and snowboarders can appreciate. There’s plenty here for snowboarders in the North Island to get their snow fix.

Coronet Peak

Ski Resort
Map View
For intermediate terrain, it’s safe to say that you can’t go past Coronet Peak. There are heaps of blue runs, and the grooming is top-notch, making it a lovely place to progress day after day in your riding. The infrastructure is brilliant, meaning that you’ll rarely have to put up with too much queuing. On the downside, Coronet only gets about 2m (6.5ft) of snow on average per year. This means that the likelihood of getting to lay down some freshies is slim, but with the great snow-making facilities, skilled grooming and the fact that there are only grassy tussocks under you, you’ll never be in any real peril. About 30 percent of the runs are designated as black, so even seasoned shredders won’t be short of fun.

The Remarkables

Park
The Remarkables ski field, Queenstown, Central Otago, South Island, New Zealand
© Jon Arnold Images Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo
Rightly named, the Remarkables ski-field is remarkable in its jagged grandeur. Overlooking Lake Wakatipu, this smaller ski-field – around 219ha (540 acres) – is located conveniently close to Queenstown. It’s perfect for beginners but quite limited when it comes to groomers, so you might not want to spend a whole week here. It does have an excellent terrain park though, and the Burton Stash Park means you can hone your tricks and gain a few war wounds.
These recommendations were updated on August 12, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.