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03Jul2011

Where to Ski in NZ

The wild terrain of New Zealand is perfect for just about every outdoor activity: from hiking trails through forests to rolling hills for mountain bikers to winding rivers beloved by white-water rafters.  But in the wintertime, there’s no natural attraction quite as great as our dramatic mountain ranges and powdery ski fields.  New Zealand is a premier ski destination, popular with winter sports lovers from around the world.

The kiwi ski season runs from June to October: if you’re in the country, check out some of these great ski fields:

Mt. Ruapehu

Photo from http://www.flickr.com/photos/airflore/3773242086/


Ruapehu has two ski fields: Whakapapa (northern side) and Turoa (southern side).  Whakapapa is one of New Zealand’s busiest ski fields and has plenty on offer for all skiers.  Turoa is a nice choice for thrill-seekers: this ski field is home to the largest vertical drop in Australasia plus some natural half pipes and exhilarating black runs.

Most Ruapehu skiers base themselves in Ohakune (the carrot capital of New Zealand!).  This little town is also popular in the summer, where it’s a jumping off point for Togariro and Whanganui National Parks, so it boasts an impressive array of dining and accommodation options.

Mt. Hutt

Located in Canterbury, Mt. Hutt is great for intermediate level skiers, with about half of its slopes rated intermediate.  There are also a few double black diamond slopes and areas for beginners.  If you go on a clear day, be sure to enjoy the view from the top: you can see both the Pacific Ocean and Mt. Cook from here.

Mt. Hutt is only about 90 minutes away from the city of Christchurch, home to the South Island’s biggest airport, making it an easy day or weekend trip.  But, while you’re in the area why not swing by Hanmer Springs for a day of soaking sore legs and warming up frozen fingers in the hot pools?

The Remarkables and Coronet Peak

For a real ski holiday, you couldn’t do much better than a visit to Queenstown.  From June to October, the town pulses with ski spirit.  The town centre empties out during the day, as just about everyone hits the slopes, and then fills with revellers eating and drinking after a day on the mountain.

The Remarkables (rumoured to be named so for their visual remarkableness) are a great choice for families or groups of varying experience levels.  There are some great slopes for beginners, intermediate skier and experts as well as a tubing park.

Coronet Peak is New Zealand’s oldest commercial ski field: opened way back in 1947.  Coronet Peak also gets to claim one of the longest ski seasons in the country: usually closing in mid-October thanks to its snowmakers.  The slopes are especially great for intermediate and advanced skiers, though there are a few options for beginners.  Coronet Peak also slips on the lights on Friday and Saturday evenings, offering night skiing.

Driving

Getting to and from the ski fields in the snow can be a challenge, but a 4WD rental car can help you get there safely.  Check out NZ Rental Cars depots in Auckland for a rental that can take you to Mt. Ruapehu and beyond.  For South Island ski holidays, car hire in Christchurch is a good bet: you can pick up your NZ Rental Car from the airport as soon as you arrive.

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