New Zealand may seem like a long way to go for a winter holiday but the skiing facilities there can rival anything that you could find in the Alps. There are several top resorts in the country and they have the added benefit of not being overcrowded. The advantage of skiing in New Zealand is that their winter is our summer so you could go when everyone else is heading to the beach. June to October is the main skiing season here which is a fairly long season when compared to some areas of Europe.
Why not opt for the Central North Island? There are two main skiing areas here – Whakapapa and Turoa. Mount Ruapehu is the main destination here and skiers may be surprised to find that it is actually a volcano. There is a section within the Whakapapa ski field which is designed for those who are new to skiing and it is aptly named ‘Happy Valley’. The mountain has some natural half pipes and some very challenging skiing areas thanks to the old lava flows. The south-western side of this particular mountain has fields which are designed for all levels of expertise. Turoa also has a terrain park for snowboarding enthusiasts.
Whakapapa has a skiable area of more than 1,000 hectares and an altitude of 2,300 metres. Around half of the terrain is suitable for those with some experience with the rest divided equally between those who are beginners and those who are advanced. At Turoa you can ski over an area of 500 hectares which has a similar split between beginner, intermediate and advanced skiers.
When you pick up a lift pass you have access to all the skiing and snowboarding areas on the mountain so you can give all the slopes a go if you wish. Those who want to stay close by will find that the town of Ohakune is ideal. You are right in the heart of a World Heritage site and if you have time you can simply stop and enjoy the views for a while. When not on the mountain you can hike or hire a mountain bike to make the most of your time here.
If you want to spend some time skiing off-piste here you can opt for the smaller ski field of Tukino which is operated by a club and which can be found on Mount Ruapehu’s eastern slopes. There are far fewer skiers using this field and there are lessons available for those who are new to skiing and snowboarding. This field has the advantage of being sheltered from bad weather which can often cause the other fields to close.
For diversity you can always head to Canterbury-Mackenzie for skiing. There are more than a dozen ski fields here and it is perfect for those holidaying in a mixed ability group. You can head to Mount Hutt which is just 90 minutes by car from the city of Christchurch. This is one of the highest ski fields located on the South Island with a terrain park which is perfect for beginners. Spend some time in the village of Methven which is reminiscent of those found in the Alps to soak up some of the winter sports atmosphere. You are also close to a number of wineries which are perfect trips for your days away from the slopes. With more than 360 hectares of skiing terrain the Mount Hutt site has slopes which are suitable for all levels.
Alternatively you can head towards Mount Cook Mackenzie. The focus here is for beginners-intermediates and the field does not get overcrowded. You could stay in the popular towns of Lake Tekapo or Twizel. The Mount Dobson Ski Field is also a great place for a mixed ability group. This is close to Lake Tekapo and has a skiing area of around 400 hectares. It is close to the Roundhill ski field which has more than 500 hectares of suitable skiing terrain and a good mix of slopes.
Whichever skiing field you choose in New Zealand there will be a slope suitable for you. Most of the resorts have skiing schools and are close enough to towns and villages to offer a good variety of après-ski such as restaurants and bars. New Zealand is considered to be a very beautiful country and there is also plenty to see and do when not on the slopes such as hiking and spending time just enjoying the great views.