Whizzing down snowy peaks on New Zealand’s ski terrains

Queenstown's stunning terrains make it one of the best ski locations in New Zealand. Pic: Delighted Tours and Travels

NEW ZEALAND may be better known as the home to Middle Earth but it also hosts some world-class ski fields too, spread across both the north and south islands. Ski season in New Zealand begins in June through to September, sometimes stretching into October. 

Thanks to mountains running right through the country, whatever your location on the north or south island, you shouldn’t be too far away from snowy peaks and fresh powder. Here are five places to consider a ski trip this year.

Queenstown

View of The Remarkables from Coronet Peak. Pic: Concierge NZ

The adventure capital heats up over winter with mountain action just minutes from the center of town. The Remarkables and Coronet Peak ski fields are both within easy driving distance of Queenstown with an array of skiing, snowboarding, heli-skiing and even night-skiing opportunities available in stunning surrounds.

The Remarkables was featured in Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit so you may even recognize film locations as you whistle down the slopes.

In any case you’ll be hard pressed not to admire the scenery with the beautiful stretches of Lake Wakatipu far below you and mountains on all sides. Queenstown also caters for those still up for action after dark and off the slopes with plenty of nightlife, parties and shopping back in town.

Wanaka

Wanaka, also on the south island, is bursting with skiing and snowboarding opportunities with Treble Cone, Snow Farm and Cardrona Alpine Resort, all which are great options close to town.

Treble Cone is the largest ski area on the south island and also has the distinction of having the steepest pitch at Motatapu Chutes if you’re daring enough. Snow Park and Cardrona are renowned for their terrain parks with pipes, jumps, rails and boxes.

Even if Wanaka is generally considered more upmarket than Queenstown, there are budget options here as well.

Mt Hutt, Canterbury

View from a chairlift at the summit of Mt Hutt. Pic: Nathanael Coyne/flickr

Mt Hutt has the longest ski season in the country meaning you can ski right through to October if the snow falls are adequate. Mt Hutt ski passes also give you access to Coronet Peak and The Remarkables in Queenstown.

The ski area is 40 minutes from Methven and boasts a double black diamond run if you’re suitably skilled, however it’s also considered one of the most family-friendly places to ski with 75 percent of its terrain suitable for beginners and intermediates.

While Methven is the closest place to the slopes, some people opt to stay in Christchurch where they can access Mt Hutt and about half a dozen other fields such as Mount Potts, Mount Dobson, Ohau, Porters and Roundhill.

Tongariro National Park

Mount Ruapehu from a distance. The mountain was an integral location in the filming of Lord of the Rings. Pic: russellstreet/flickr

Tongariro National Park in the north island is the oldest national park in New Zealand and is home to three mighty mountains – Mount Ruapehu, Mount Tongagiro, and Mount Ngauruhoe.

Of the three, Mount Ruapehu is a stunning ski location with volcanic terrains and wonderful ski areas near Ohakune and Lake Taupo. Within Ruapehu, Whakapapa, 6km from Whakapapa Village, has the biggest ski area in New Zealand with some 65 trails while Turoa, 16km from Ohakune, boasts the longest vertical descent – an incredible 722 meters – and the highest lift.

Both fields can operate into October depending on the snow fall and weather conditions. Each of them has beginner, intermediate and advanced areas to cater to everyone. Tolkein and Jackson fans will also be pleased to note that scenes of Mount Doom from The Lord of the Rings were filmed on Ruapehu’s slopes.

Taranaki

Mount Taranaki has the option of advanced terrains for snow-bound thrills. Pic: Jim Evans/flickr

The alternative ski location on the north island is on the slopes of Mt Taranaki in Egmont National Park. The Manganui ski area is closest to New Plymouth and has wonderful views of the dramatic snowy, volcanic cone of Mt Taranaki above.

Manganui has beginner and intermediate ski areas as well as advanced terrains for those seeking more snow-bound thrills.