The basics: This is a great mountain for the average skier or boarder but it’s especially good for those who want to try their hand at freestyle stuff, with four halfpipes and two terrain parks full of jumps and rails. I came out worse for wear but felt I had pushed myself that little extra because Cardrona’s technical courses have a smooth learning curve. With wide open spaces, there are also plenty of lines to be had on a powder day.
Where to stay: Cardrona is placed closer to Wanaka than to Queenstown but if you’re also looking for the good nightlife stay in Queenstown. There is a wide a range of hostels and lodges to choose from.
Charge it: $97 will have you riding all day, while $70 will get you a half-day, but then you’ve missed out on the fresh stuff.
The basics: It’s not unusual to see blue skies above and a foot-and-a half of snow beneath your toes at Treble Cone – perfect conditions to fall all over the place, as you try to find your mountain legs again. TC to the cool kids, this mountain, close to Wanaka in New Zealand’s Southern Alps, has excellent terrain, especially off-piste action. Be prepared to have your lungs explode from the crisp yet almost non-existent air. There are runs for all levels of snow lovers, with a quaint chalet for the hot chocolate afterwards. There’s even a new Jazz Fun Park full of rails and jumps.
Where to stay: Wanaka is your nearest town, only 40 minutes away. Punching above its weight for fun, this town has a few sweet hostels, a lounge chair cinema and a good pub by the lake, even a skatepark for the gnarlies. Indeed, National Geographic Magazine recently named Wanaka as one of the world’s top 25 ski towns, the only southern hemisphere inclusion to make the list.
Charge it: Lift passes are $95 for a full day or $72 for a half-day.
The basics: There is nothing basic about Snow Park. Just as it sounds, this resort is one giant park: no real terrain here, just every jump, halfpipe and rail imaginable with terrain features for every level of rider. What makes this place great is the vibe they create. A huge sound system pumps the hills so alive with music you’d think the Von Trapps were on the wheels of steel. Because you’re in the southern hemisphere, Snow Park has become a playground for the world’s best skiers and boarders in the northern off-season.
Where to stay: Snow Park is right across the road from Cardrona so again, you’ve got the choice of Wanaka or Queenstown.
Charge it: A day pass is $88 or half a day for $67. As this is a specialist resort, there is no rental equipment, however you can hire gear from Wanaka or Queenstown.
The basics: The Remarkables are deserving of their name, rising from Queenstown and surrounds like a wall of ice. It looks like you could fall from top to bottom with one leap. This all-round resort offers plenty of space to roam both in-bounds and off-piste. It has some steep and deep snow as well as the groomed corduroy. Slink down the hill after last runs and find yourself in aprés mode, by a fire in one of Queenstown’s top bars.
Where to stay: Queenstown is directly below Remarks. Once you get down the windy road it’s just a five-minute drive. Back to the hostel, take off your pants and jacket then shower, jacket back on, happy hour.
Charge it: A day pass is $93, afternoon pass is $63, or beginners only lift for $46.
The basics: Kamikaze Kiwis have been skiing Coronet Peak for more than 50 years. It has a wide range of runs, a lil’ somethin’ for everyone, from halfpipes and parks to easy-does-it runs with a conveyer belt, in case, like many, you find the lift dismount the hardest part. Enjoy some sun on the patio in your fluoro one-piece and work on your goggle tan.
Where to stay: Again, Queenstown is the place to be, just up the road.
Charge it: To spend the full day there is $97, while a half-day is $66, not to mention night skiing at $50.
The basics: Just south of Lake Taupo in Tongariro National Park, near Frodo’s Mt Doom, Mt Ruapehu is home to the biggest ski area in New Zealand, with a vertical drop of 722m. It can get pretty busy in the peak season because of its size and proximity to Auckland but it offers world class terrain with a wide array of runs whether you’re experienced or still using the “pizza, french fries” technique. The views are spectacular – volcanic peaks circle your vistas. Spring skiing at Ruapehu is fantastic, lasting until November on a good year, with warm weather.
Where to stay: Whakapapa Village (pronounced fukapapa, tee hee) Ohakune and the National Park Village are all nearby and have a number of hostels, and camping if you’re sharing two people to a sleeping bag, brrr.
Charge it: A day pass is $97, while half a day costs $68.
The basics: Famous for its deep, dry snow and for having one of the longest seasons in Australasia, Mt Hutt makes the most of its location. The fields look back over the lush green Canterbury Plains and out to the Pacific Ocean. There’s a huge range of terrain, with plenty of space for novices to eat snow. Park monkeys are also guaranteed a rush with death-defying jumps and rails to sample.
Where to stay: Methven is a small town just down the hill with a couple of good backpackers; otherwise, Christchurch is a popular option.
Charge it: A day pass is $93, with half the day costing $63.
The basics: Mount Cheeseman is duly renowned for being a tame ski field, great for a safe, beginners experience and also very affordable. Settled within an alpine basin the ski area is a serene wonderland of relaxed groomed runs, steeper trails and park features including jumps.Experienced riders can drop over the back to more adventurous off piste tracks leaving Mount Cheeseman practically devoid of intimidating speed-demons, so if you’re a beginner this place is your ultimate savior!
Easy to maneuver T-Bars make accessing the mountain a breeze – a welcome relief to those who spend most of the day battling with unforgiving nutcracker tow-ropes.Where to stay: Castle Hill Village is only a couple of kilometers from the base of the access road offering houses and lodges, alternatively Methven is a one hour drive away.
Charge it: $79 will buy you the whole day, or $59 for a half day pass, but hold onto your hats – it is only $10 for the beginners lift or $62 for a beginners lift, lesson and hire package.
The basics: Some of New Zealand’s most challenging patrolled terrain is found at this ski field, one you would not refer to as a ‘resort’. Instead of latte-sipping posers, Craigieburn is reserved only for adrenalin seeking, hard-core ski enthusiasts. It certainly lives up to its label – ‘Steep, Deep and Cheap’, being a completely non groomed, entirely off piste experience.
The steep narrow trails and natural powder bowls are reminiscent of terrain you would only find heli-skiing. For an expert rider – Craigieburn is unparalleled as the place to unleash your prowess on the difficult terrain of the Craigieburn Valley.The area does in fact accommodate multiple blue runs – just beware, they are severely under-rated in comparison to the triple black runs which are merely described as ‘suicidal’.
Where to stay: There are bunk style rooms with shared facilities available on the mountain for the ultimate ski-in ski-out experience, otherwise you can find off mountain accommodation nearby. Failing that, the town of Springfield is only 45 kilometres away.Charge it: Only $72 for a full day pass. If you compare that to heli-skiing it’s a steal!
The basics: The motto of the Mount Olympus ski area is ‘Playground of the Gods’ – and this is certainly the spot to bring all of your virtuous friends as there is a little something for everyone. The treeless ski area offers vast mountain skiing, gentle learners slopes and a wealth of backcountry glory for the adventurer.
Although snowboarders may loathe the amount of flat cat-tracks between runs, a relaxed attitude and no crowds make this place supreme. Join your mates at the end of the day to share stories and bruises over a pint, or brave riders can partake in a spot of night skiing.Where to stay: It’s only a day trip from Methven, Springfield or Christchurch, or alternatively there is very basic and reasonably priced accommodation below the mountain.
Charge it: $70 for a day pass, or jump on the beginners slope for only $10.
The basics: The closest ski area to Christchurch lies a tiny 89 kilometres away from the city. Only recently transformed into a commercial ski resort, Porters reputation is somewhat understated. Here you’ll find groomed runs, park terrain and scenery that will stop you in your tracks. There is something charming about Porters, where the atmosphere is contagiously friendly and welcoming.
The relatively small ski field is a great choice for beginners, however even expert riders won’t be disappointed, with the vertical drop offering long black runs such as Bluff Face and Big Mama.
Where to stay: A comfortable day trip from Christchurch, otherwise look for a bed near Castlehill or Springfield.
Charge it: A whole day pass will set you back $84, half a day for $59, plus there are great beginners packages and Two-for-One Mondays.
Photos: Tourism New Zealand, Sensational Selwyn