If you’ve spent any time drooling over images of New Zealand, you’re sure to have seen the spectacular mountain ranges of the country’s South Island. These peaks aren’t just a hiker’s paradise. Skiers and snowboarders know that when winter hits the Southern Hemisphere, this is the best place to head for a powder fix.
You’ll want to start your trip in Christchurch, the South Island’s most populated city. Christchurch is located south of Pegasus Bay and is the seat of the Canterbury region. Although quiet, the city is walkable with trams, breweries, and gear-hire stores dotted around. Christchurch is rebuilding itself following the 2011 earthquake and mosque shootings from earlier this year. It’s worth dedicating an extra day or two to explore this city in transition.
Conveniently located a 90-minute drive from Christchurch, Mt Hutt is a premier ski field for locals and visitors alike. Voted New Zealand’s Best Ski Resort three years in a row (2015-17), Mt Hutt receives some of the lightest and driest powder in Australasia. By New Zealand’s standards, this mountain is big (365 skiable hectares). Another advantage of Mt Hutt is the views – on a clear day, you can see across the Canterbury Plains to the Pacific.
Ohau is a true locals’ mountain. This hidden gem is located midway between Christchurch and Queenstown. With nonexistent crowds, powderhounds can enjoy fresh tracks all day. The ski field is named for the nearby Lake Ohau and a hike to the resort summit will offer some incredible views of the nearby scenery. A visit to Ohau gets you off the tourist trail to experience one of New Zealand’s most charming and authentic ski fields.
With its central location, Cardrona is easily accessed from either Wanaka or Queenstown, making it one of the most popular resorts in the South Island. The resort hosts over 20 national and international ski and snowboarding events yearly. Cardrona’s three skiable basins are well-rounded and suitable for beginners, intermediates and experienced riders. The ski field’s efficient lift system gets you more time on mountain. Need to warm up? You can ride the chondola – a chair/gondola hybrid!
Get ready for the big leagues – Treble Cone boasts the highest annual snowfall level for New Zealand ski resorts at 5.5 metres annually! South Island locals might say the resort has a superiority complex but the reputation is well-deserved. Treble Cone is the largest ski area in the South Island and features the island’s highest vertical drop. This is definitely the place to come if you’re on the hunt for challenging advanced runs and ungroomed powder. Not to worry, intermediates and beginners are equally well-catered for.
Calling all adrenaline junkies! Queenstown is the perfect place to rest your legs in between all that powder hunting. You’ll be spoiled for choice in the world’s adventure capital with opportunities to bungee jump, skydive, jet-boat and more. Prefer to give your nerves a rest? Ride the Skyline Gondola for majestic views over Queenstown and adjacent Lake Wakatipu. Don’t forget to refuel at the famous Fergburger restaurant.
A ski field that lives up to its name, The Remarkables’ views, powder snow, and sun-drenched terrain will delight all day. Known as “The Remarks,” the resort is only 40 minutes from Queenstown and suits skiers and snowboarders of all abilities. Freestylers will want to check out the Burton Stash Terrain Park which features natural elements like log rails and jumps. The Remarkables also boasts a new international standard Super Pipe for advanced skiers and riders.
Coronet Peak is the most popular ski resort in the South Island due largely to its proximity to Queenstown. Spread across a broad mountain, the terrain is sunny and treeless. The resort’s efficient lift system copes well with the crowds from Queenstown and its facilities are top-notch. It’s possible to conquer this resort in the morning and drive back to Christchurch by evening. If time permits, extend your stay in Queenstown.
Spoiled for Choice
With so many Mountains in close proximity, New Zealand’s South Island is a haven for skiers and snowboarders who won’t settle for just one ski field. From the steep slopes of Treble Cone to the hidden snow stashes of Ohau, a week is all you need to conquer the very best the South Island has to offer!
This story was inspired by Haka Tours’ South Island Snow Safari – visit all 6 of these mountains in 7 days. Tours operate June through September.