Ski Fields

Skiing and Snow Boarding

New Zealand is a great place to snow ski and snowboard – and there are lots of snow fields to choose from – SO HOW DO YOU CHOOSE THE RIGHT ONE FOR YOU?

Skiers and Snow Boarders fall into roughly three groups – Beginner, intermediate and advanced, and you could probably add professional level too.


A beginner is someone who has not skied at all, or skied maybe once or twice – so what you are looking for are

  • Gentle slopes (small gradient) not a steep slope. Your first lesson is simply getting your balance, learning to stand up, go forward and ‘snow plough’ to stop – that is control your skis through the direction of your feet and the angle of the skis .
  • To go forward – the skis will be parallel to each other a body distance between them and push off using your ski poles and the slope to carry you forward. To slow down and stop you angle the front ends of the two skis towards each other (to create a triangle with your skis) , slightly angling your feet and the skis outwards to create a braking movement, then to move forward again, re-angle your feet and skis to be parallel again. Practice moving, slowing, stopping, then repeat as you ski forward.
  • Falling over – you will, but don’t worry – it just takes a bit of time to get used to the skis on your feet! If you can, always fall towards the mountain, not away from it.
  • Turning – to turn left, push down on your right ski foot. To turn right, push down on your left ski foot. Gently does it.
  • Take lessons – this will always help.
  • Stay warm and comfortable – there is nothing worse than being cold, wet and miserable – so choose the right clothes, ski boots and skis BEFORE you come to the ski fields to hire or buy what you are to wear.
  • Don’t wear yourself out. Walking up a ski field will wear you out very quickly – so if you can use what the ski field (chair lift, magic carpet or other) has to take you up the mountain (to a reasonable slope, but not too high), and then come down the mountain in stages. Select and plan what you want to do on a section of slope – 10 or 20 metres to ski to and stop, then again plan the next 10 or 20 metres, and if you fall always fall towards the mountain (up not down) keeping your skis with you if you can.
  • It takes practice – and patience to learn to ski, but once you do, it is magical, fun and with more practice, the closer you will come to becoming a skier! If you can ski with a friend or make a new friend on the mountain it makes for more fun too – so you can help each other as you develop your skills.


The best day to ski is when the sun is shining and the snow is soft powder snow (not too soft and not too hard) and certainly not ice – and those days do happen, but not always!

Most snow fields have a number of slopes – and degrees of difficulty – based on the width of the snow field, length of the ski runs and the gradient angles. The steeper the ski run slope the more suited it is to advanced skiers, and mostly this will be higher up the mountain. Advanced skiers even go heli-skiing to new fields, but probably leave that to the advanced skiers.

Almost certainly – there will also be more skiers on weekends than on weekdays – and having less skiers will mean smaller queues on chair lifts and more room for you to ski. Always ski with other people and don’t wander off on your own or away from where the people are. Sometimes when the cloud comes down low or there is fog and mist around, it can be easy to lose your bearings. Every year people get lost in the snow or hurt themselves, so always play it safe.

Planning your ski holiday –

There are three factors that are important – cost, time and distance from the snow.

  • Time – try and maximise the time you spend on the ski field, rather than travelling to them. Check the travel itinerary to see when you arrive and when you leave. A 5 day holiday may be 2 days of travel time if you arrive mid- afternoon on the 1st day and leave on the 5th
  • Cost – skiing can be expensive –so double check what is being offered in ‘the package’ – where you will be staying, meals, transport, lift tickets, ski passes inclusive or extra? Kids and family packages – are there special ‘extra value’ options? Bring what you need, but don’t overload yourself either.
  • Distance to and from the Snow field – the closer you are the less time it usually takes to travel to and from the snow field. The ideal is to stay on the snow field itself – as it means the snow fields and après-ski activities are right next to you, but it is usually more expensive – so balance the cost against the time needed to travel each day to and from snowfield. Being close at a lower altitude in a nearby town or village – will mean travel time, but it will also be easier and warmer to move around and enjoy after hours activities.
  • Travel Insurance – we recommend that you have it ‘just in case’!


The above list of cost, distance and time will mostly help you decide where to ski – and also your own ability and knowledge of the ski fields where you have skied before.

The season will also help you decide – as each season differs in the amount of snow that falls and also when the first snow arrives and when the last big snowfall happens. The overall season in New Zealand lasts usually from early June to mid-October, with the best snow being in July-August. There can also be great snow in September too, so it is important to plan when you think and hope that the best snow will happen. You may have great luck, and you may not, but New Zealand is pretty consistent with good snow most years.
On the north Island there are the two ski fields – Whakapapa and Turoa on Mt Ruapehu.

In the South Island there are a number of Ski Fields -

  • Near Queenstown – there are ‘The Remarkables’ and also Coronet Peak (See South Island – Queenstown on this website)
  • Near Wanaka – there is Treble Cone, Cardrona and Snow Farm/Snow Park (See South island – Wanaka on this website)
  • Near Christchurch – the closest ski field is Porters Ski Field. There are also smaller “Ski club” ski fields at Mt Cheeseman, Craigieburn, Broken River, Mt Olympus, and Temple Basin, and you don’t need to be a member to go to these ski fields, but they are less well known than the bigger ski fields and less commercialised than the bigger name ski fields. You do need to book for accommodation and find out what facilities they have. Also see Mt Lyford Ski field – which is about 146 kilometres from Christchurch or 75 kilometres from Hanmer Springs (See mtlyford.co.nz )

SEE www.cheeseman.co.nz, www.craigieburn.co.nz, www.brokenriver.co.nz, www.mtolympus.co.nz, www.templebasin.co.nz

THE MACKENZIE PLAINS AREA – (www.mackenzie.co.nz ) has a number of small towns on the Plains, and these are all places with accommodation close to ski fields.

  • Near Methven – (92 Kilometres from Christchurch ) is the big Mount Hutt ski field. Mt Hutt is 2086 metres high and about 35 minutes from Methven and about 1 ½ hours (112 kilometres) from Christchurch. Methven is sometimes called ‘Mt Hutt Village’ – being so close to the ski fields at Mt Hutt.
  • Near Twizel – about 30 minutes travel time from Twizel is Aoraki Mount Cook ski field and the Tasman Glacier area as well as the Ohau ski field (See ohau.co.nz )
  • Near Lake Tekapo – the Roundhill ski field is just 32 kilometres from Tekapo. (See roundhill.co.nz).
  • Near Fairlie – the Mt Dobson ski field is just 26 kilometres away (See mtdobson.co.nz)

There are lots of accommodation options in Queenstown, Wanaka, Christchurch, Methven, Twizel, Tekapo and Fairlie – and in all cases you should pre-book accommodation in the peak Ski Season. Also check to see when New Zealand has school holidays too – as these are times when lots more teenagers, small kids and family groups of skiers arrive to ski to the lifts can get busy and the slopes fill with more skiers and snowboarders. Also check what times Shuttles to and from the ski field operate from where you are staying- and the closeness or distance your lodge or accommodation is from the shuttle.

All of the Ski fields are in the Alps so surrounded by mountain peaks – so apart from the skiing there is the scenery, and of course a lot of skiers like to party too – so night life can be a lot of fun meeting new people and talking about the day’s skiing, the best runs, snow forecast and more.

There is also heli- skiing too – where a helicopter can take you to places high in the mountains to experience unique locations and ski runs that could only be accessed from the air. You can also just experience getting a bird’s eye view looking down at the mountains and not just up at them. Don’t forget your camera!

THE MACKENZIE HIGH COUNTRY – is also the place to go in Summertime – staying at any or all of the towns on the plains, at lodges, farm stays or other places that are open.

The mountain, lake and river scenery, and the remnants of snow in sheltered valleys and tops of the Alps are all here too – making the Southern Alps a great place to mountain bike, cycle, tramp (Trek) – and just enjoy the mountain air and atmosphere. The weather and the changes that happen can also add to the excitement of just being here.

Just one of the places to put on your list is Omarama (See www.omarama.co.nz) and a Clydesdale Horse Stud – See www.erewhonhorsestud.co.nz . Clydesdale Horses are the draught horses that were used before the age of tractors to pull wagons, ploughs and equipment – and to see these great horses still being used is a great sight and the Stud a great place to spend time.
Happy Travelling!
Geoff Stuart

Happy Traveller

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