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This epic South Island ski resort is located right in centre of the action — it’s closest to Queenstown, but also not too far away from the scenic Wanaka. Facilities are open from early morning to late at night, offering a number of pistes and slopes for all abilities. There are various practice spots running along the base, and an ice-load of trails running everywhere in between. The Big Easy is quite popular among beginners, while the awesome Exchange Drop entices expert riders.
Another alpine resort conveniently located near Queenstown and Wanaka. You can get to Cardrona through the Alpine Connexions shuttle service, or via the Kiwi Discovery bus. The area is a great all-rounder through and through: families can enjoy it, seasoned skiers will love it, and snow bunnies will just marvel at the entire experience. Those who thrive on the alpine heights will be amped by Cardrona’s highest elevation point, which comes in at a full 1860 metres (6102 feet).
With a cool 550 hectares (just under 1400 acres) to play with, Treble Cone is the South Island’s largest skiing and snowboarding resort. It is one of Wanaka’s most popular picks for powder enthusiasts of all kinds, namely because their fresh lines are a true force to be reckoned with. Treble Cone offers beginner ski and snowboard lessons on-site, and there are a tonne of gullies and off-piste terrains for the more advanced skiers.
This astonishingly gorgeous mountain range is also home to some of New Zealand’s best slopes. The Remarkables field is just a quick 35-minute drive from Queenstown, and caters to all skill levels. Wide runs provide plenty of scope for beginners to practise, and the higher chairlift stopovers are perfect for the advanced adventures wanting to immerse themselves in the park’s large alpine terrains.
Mt Hutt is located in the Canterbury region, approximately 90 minutes from Christchurch. The World Ski Awards has crowned it New Zealand’s Best Ski Resort twice in a row, and the area is renowned for offering superb snow conditions. The spectacular field features two learner lifts, four freestyle mountain parks, and special ski passes geared towards different skills and abilities.
Roundhill is a family-friendly snow resort in Lake Tekapo. It is scenic as well as epic, not only because of the aforementioned lake, but because the terrain offers a fantastic vista of the Southern Alps and Mt Cook. Kids and novice skiers will be able to learn the ropes at a large beginners area; intermediate riders can swirl around the wide ski curves along the hill; while advanced powderhounds can venture up to the world’s longest rope tow.
Aoraki/Mt Cook is New Zealand’s highest mountain. This has made it a prime filming destination, and a cool stop-over for thrill-seeking skiers. Heli skiing is the local speciality: get into a helicopter and, when the time is right, plunge your way into the powdered snow. The expedition requires a bit of patience (because, you know, weather conditions…) but you’ll definitely receive some bragging rights after tackling the country’s largest slopes.
The Hanmer Springs ski fields are privately owned — ideal for those looking for somewhere uncrowded. It’s also a budget-friendly option: on-field accommodation is offered for skiers who want to spend a couple of days in the snow, with plenty of special promotions and passes to keep those costs at bay. The mountain is best for intermediate skiers, though there’s quite a lot of ground for other levels to cover. The Poma Lift, connecting to intermediate-advanced runs in the Bordeaux Basin, is the longest in the Southern Hemisphere.
Of course, we’re not going to let the South Island hog all the glory. Whakapapa is a ski site in the north-eastern slopes of Mt Ruapehu, at the Tongariro National Park. A boundary area of 550 hectares (1400 acres) and a vertical descent of 675 metres (2214 feet) invites skiers of all kinds to get into the snowy spirit. Happy Valley is their beginner terrain, which is secluded from the more advanced areas. There are 30 groomed jumps and trails for intermediate riders and 24 jam-packed black diamond runs for the seasoned pros.
Turoa is the other option for Mt Ruapehu bound skiers. This one faces south-west of the mountain and is home to New Zealand’s highest chairlift. The Highnoon Express will drop keen powderheads onto a 722-metre (2370-foot) descent, while the smooth chutes and bowls are guaranteed to keep the intermediate crowds entertained. Beginners can get a piece of Turoa too — the Alpine Meadow base has a cool carpet lift that will introduce novice riders to a truly unique experience.