A bounty of breathtaking snow fields catering to all abilities carpet Aotearoa’s main trilogy of ski zones: Mount Ruapehu, Canterbury and Otago. Verve brings you a selection of some of their most sumptuous slopes and nearby lodgings.
Whakapapa (pictured above)
Halfway between Auckland and Wellington, in Tongariro National Park, North Island’s highest peak, Mount Ruapehu, rises to 2,797m and hosts New Zealand’s largest ski area. The snow fields are spread across a couple of sites; Whakapapa, the biggest at 550 hectares, carpets the northwest slopes of the volcano; while Turoa, on the southwest slopes, offers the country’s longest vertical descent (722m). Both sites cater to skiers and snowboarders of all skill levels, with the season running from late-June to mid-October, occasionally spilling into November.
Beginner runs can be found in the Happy Valley area of Whakapapa, while for those wishing to carve up a something a little more challenging, there are ample gullies, powder stashes and backcountry trails, too. On a clear day you can tackle the slopes to a view of ‘Mount Doom’ (the volcano, Ngauruhoe, star of Lord of the Rings). Here you’ll also find the country’s highest cafe, Knoll Ridge. The Whakapapa chair lift operates all year, closing only during bad weather.
Turoa’s chair lift, the High Noon Express, takes riders to the highest lifted point in New Zealand—and offers some jaw-dropping views ofa good chunk of the northern part of it. This site, referred to as resembling “frozen waves”, offers wide sweeping trails at Alpine Meadow for the less confident, and plenty of gullies, chutes and drops for the more daring. The town of Ohakune to the south serves as the launchpad to Turoa. For further information on everything from clothing and equipment hire to lessons to maps to passes and packages for both sets of fields, head to mtruapehu.com.
Chateau Tongariro Hotel
The Shining meets The Sound of Music at this most handsome and historic of New Zealand hotels. An isolated architectural wonder in the shadow of foreboding snowy peaks, the 1920s building boasts its own golf course, tennis courts, spa and cinema, surrounded by a vista to die for.
Hamner Springs Ski Area (pictured above)
Aotearoa’s ‘alpine village’, Hamner Springs offers year-round adrenaline activities, and from early-July to mid-September visitors can make the most of the Hamner Springs Ski Area. One of the nation’s quieter winter sports sites, it caters mainly to those with at least intermediate skills, though there are runs for amateur alpiners. The highest point is 1,769m, with a 310m vertical drop. Its Pomu Lift is the longest in the southern hemisphere. Check out skihamner.co.nz for details about passes, rentals, maps and more.
When you’re all done on the snowy slopes, the historic Hamner Springs Thermal Pools are the ideal way to soothe away any aches, pains and chills. Established in the mid-19th century, the outdoor complex is awash with steaming thermal streams and pools—including private ones—while the spa offers a range of pampering treatments.
Just a few minutes’ stroll from the thermal pools, the modern St James affords stunning views of the Southern Alps from its suites’ private patios and balconies, some featuring their own spas. Fires and underfloor heating add to the cosiness, as do the local artworks adorning the walls.
The closest ski zone to Christchurch (it’s 90km west of the Garden City), Porters is positioned near the border of Arthur’s Pass National Park, reaching to 1,950m—meaning that you’re in for some seriously life-affirming views. The ski area is spread across 285 hectares, with a 678m vertical drop, with carpet-, platter-, four-seater-chair, and T-bar lifts ferrying guests to the various slopes. Skiers and snowboarders looking to get a little more creative should make use of the Terrain Park. You can find a full list of facilities and more at skiporter.co.nz.
Temple Basin (pictured above)
One of Aotearoa’s most authentic alpine experiences, Temple Basin should only be tackled by more experienced snow sport souls. The all-natural site, proud of its “cult-like status”, unfurls over 320 ungroomed hectares that must be reached by a steep track that takes about 45 minutes to summit—though there is a goods lift to transport your gear! Spectacular and isolated, basic but comfortable lodge rooms overlook glacier-kissed peaks, with further amenities including drying rooms and a bar and eatery. Find out more at templebasin.co.nz.
Among New Zealand’s most magical of accommodation options, the Wilderness Lodge sits 16km southeast of Arthur’s Pass Village on a 1,600-hectare site patrolled by three thousand sheep and more than one hundred Angus cows. The luxury lodgings are equipped with the likes of spa baths, and roaring fires, its grounds laced with walking trails, and its isolation promising dazzling star-filled night skies.
Mount Hutt Ski Area (pictured above)
The multi-award-winning Mount Hutt ski resort is just an hour-and-a-half from Christchurch, and is renowned for its reliably excellent conditions and lengthy season that runs until October from early June. A popular family option (lift passes are free for kids aged under 11 and there are heaps of supervised programmes), its 365 hectares include a mammoth 2km run, and the awesome Summit Six Chairlift that serves as a sightseeing tour overlooking the Canterbury Plains and Southern Alps. Visit mthutt.co.nz.
Terrace Downs Resort
The area’s most upmarket lodging, picture-perfect Terrace Downs Resort is a much in-demand wedding venue for good reason. Facing the Southern Alps, premium facilities include an 18-hole golf course, a day spa, a couple of eateries and a fitness centre, complemented by activities like horse riding, archery, clay-bird shooting, quad-biking and four-wheel driving. Accommodation takes the form of luxurious chalets and villas.
One of the nation’s prettiest ski fields, the Remarkables rests in a natural, north-facing amphitheatre that serves as a sun trap and incorporates chutes and slopes to suit everyone. The fields are 30 minutes from downtown to their 1,622m base from where the lifts rise to 1,943m. Queenstown snow fields are open from the middle of June until early October. Info on passes, lessons, equipment hire and so on can be found at theremarkables.co.nz. There are also plenty of outdoor stores in town that loan gear and arrange passes and packages.
Coronet Peak (pictured above)
Though the fields at Coronet Peak aren’t as high as those of the Remarkables, the 481m vertical drop is longer, and, most tempting of all, hosts South Island’s coolest night skiing. This year’s after-hour carve ups are taking place every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday until 31 August. Enjoy floodlit trails and a festival vibe thanks to roaring outside fires and live music. More information at coronetpeak.co.nz
Queenstown Park Boutique Hotel
Complimentary wine and nibbles and fascinating modernist architecture awaits at the Queenstown Park Boutique Hotel, uber-luxurious lodgings just a short stroll from downtown. The eco-friendly accommodation has rooms—including a two-level penthouse—with fires and private patios and balconies with alpine views.
Cardrona Alpine Resort
On-site accommodation, bars, eateries and a ski school makes Cardrona Alpine Resort one of the best set-ups on this list—especially for larger groups or families. A variety of slopes provide views across the lake, while the on-site gondola adds to the sightseeing. Spare at least an hour to try some tubing (sliding down the slopes on an inflatable doughnut). The highest lift here peaks at 1,860m, and there’s a 600m descent. The season stretches from mid-June to early October, and there are plenty of rental places scattered about town. More information at cardrona.com.
Another superbly stocked alpine resort with everything except on-site accommodation. Treble Coneis South Island’s most substantial ski fields, spread across 550 hectares with ample runs to challenge all—including some of the country’s longest trails (the longest is 1.3km). Treble Cone is also noted for it’s off-piste offerings, and lofty fields—the lift reaches to 1,960m. Check out treblecone.com.
Snow Farm (pictured above)
While Snow Farm is most famous for its cross-country trails (50km and counting), this fun-filled, world-class resort also offers the likes of snow biking, snow shoeing, and dog sledding, while the Snow Fun Zone keeps the kids entertained with tubes and safe spaces to throw some snow balls and build some snowmen. Accommodation ranges from backcountry huts to an alpine lodge with a bar, restaurant, gym and sauna, as well as gear hire services and a ski school. Find out more at snowfarmnz.com.
Lime Tree Lodge
Luxury boutique accommodation, Lime Tree Lodge is a gorgeous stone structure on four hectares of beautiful backcountry with unobstructed alpine views—aside from the occasional lime tree. Designer linen-clad suites open onto pristine grounds that host a pool, croquet lawn and a helipad. Expect to dine on gourmet breakfasts, plenty of local produce and the finest of Otago wines.