A skiing trip to New Zealand in the middle of August? This is not science fiction but a reality for thousands of people who have discovered the island paradise of this Pacific country. In New Zealand, winter lasts from June to August and while most of the world is sweating, New Zealanders are wearing sweaters and going down slopes. The regional Alps can be found on both islands and the South Island even has peaks that are covered by snow all year round. The following 4 NZ Ski resorts should not be missed if you want to experience skiing in New Zealand. If you just love a snowy landscape I've also included 3 of the best places to visit below these 4 NZ Ski Resorts.
4 Great New Zealand Ski Resorts
Mt Ruapehu is New Zealands highest mountain and is located within the beautiful Tongariro National Park in the central North Island. Not only is Mt Ruapehu an active volcano, it's also the only active volcano you can ski on in NZ. It's also home to two of New Zealands largest ski areas - Whakapapa and Tūroa. The Whakapapa Ski area is better for beginners as they have the excellent Happy Valley 'beginners playground'. Whakapapa's ski slopes face north-west and Tūroa's face south-east, so visit both to experience all the amazing scenery!
Whakapapa is also open during summer if you're into hiking or just want to do a bit of sightseeing.
2. Mount Taranaki - Manganui
Also located in the central North Island and not too far from Ruapehu, this ski area has fabulous steep runs for skiers and snowboarders. Whilst it is a lot smaller than the ski slopes on Ruapehu there are still 10.5km of slopes available and being smaller it's also a bit cheaper to visit too!
Mount Taranaki is located within Egmont National park on the West Coast. There are numerous walking and hiking tracks and the 18m Dawson Falls waterfall to visit. If you're an experienced tramper then Mount Taranaki is worth a visit in Summer as well, but make sure you check the weather as it can change very quickly and make visibilty quite difficult.
3. Lake Wanaka
A place that is a tourist hotspot almost every season is Lake Wanaka, a lake and an eponymous settlement on the South Island. It is a place that embodies all the beautiful contradiction the islands’ nature is famous for, as it is both a ski resort and a summer retreat. Here, winter skiing in New Zealand and summer swimming go hand in hand, as this wonderful land offers the best of both worlds.
In winter, there are so many ski fields to choose from: Treble Cone, Snow Park or Cardrona Alpine Resort, while most of accommodation and hospitality services are located in Wanaka itself, so this town-resort of some 9,000 souls receives most of the money the tourism industry brings to the region. If the weather conditions are favorable, you can climb to the top of Mount Roy but always be on the lookout for possible avalanches!
Another resort town in the Otago region is Queenstown. It is a fairly urban settlement, considering the wilderness that it is surrounded by. In fact, if you climb up the nearby Bob’s Peak at night, you will get an excellent view of the lakes, forests, and the town that looks like a beacon of civilization and it is home for 15,000 residents.
Besides the several ski fields in the vicinity of Queenstown, there are numerous hiking trails to be taken during winter. They are nice in the summer too, but the feel just isn’t the same if there is no snow around. Of course, you can always rent a car and drive up the mountains to enjoy the stunning views of this part of New Zealand.
The 4 destinations listed here are just the tip of the iceberg (pun intended) of what's on offer to people wanting to go skiing in New Zealand. But if you're not a fan of skiing or snowboarding read on for more snowy locations worth a visit!
More places to go for beautiful snow!
Situated between two valleys, Lindis Pass is of the best places to see and enjoy the snow on the South Island. With the elevation of 971 meter, it has as much snow as fog during winter time, so you have to be really lucky to catch a sunny day up there. Because it’s a mountain pass, reaching its top is also hard, so unless you travel by bus, you need to put chains on your car to combat the snow and ice on the road.
In fact, the road leading up the mountain can be so perilous that the local authorities have been known to close it during winter when the weather is particularly bad. Once you’re on top of the mountain, you get a chance to enjoy stunning views that are characteristic for all peaks in New Zealand.
State Highway 85 goes straight through the Otago region that can boast beautiful landscapes, especially in winter. In fact, people say that there is nothing prettier to see on both islands than the Hawkdun Range covered with snow. The entire area is located inland, so you won’t be able to visit the coast but you can travel across the flat plateau of the Maniototo which is quite wide, meaning that the temperature there can vary from + 30 degrees Celsius in summer, to -15 in winter.
Nature might be harsh here but at the same time it beautiful, which sheep farmers in the region know well. That is why you have to check the weather forecast before venturing to Otago’s wilderness, as freezing cold and pesky fog can ruin your skiing trip.
New Zealand too has a West Coast that is one the most remote and sparsely populated regions in the entire country. This is perhaps a part of its allure, as the region is bordered from the east and south by the snow-capped Alps that are just inviting you to visit them.
Lake Matheson is the best place to visit on the West Coast in winter where you can set up a basecamp for visiting the nearby glaciers, like Fox Glacier. Surprisingly enough, the foothills of the Southern Alps have a pretty mild climate throughout the year, so they can serve as an excellent starting point for every New Zealand adventure you decide to go on.
You need to seriously consider experiencing traditional kiwi hospitality this summer, that is, winter.
Author: Leila Dorari is an entrepreneur and freelance writer from Sydney. She is passionate about exploring different places across the globe and believes that first you need to get lost before you can get found. In her free time you can find her hiking with her furry four-legged friend.