Whatever you think about Jon Snow, he was right about one thing; winter has come. With the white walker threat out of the way, it’s high time we focus on the important things, like the ski season in New Zealand.
Whether you’re a novice snow bunny curious about hitting the slopes, or a veteran ski bum with powder on your mind, you’ll have a blast on NZ’s peaks. Last year we dished the scoop on New Zealand’s best ski resorts. This time, we’re coming at you with all the essential tips to make the most out of the New Zealand ski season in 2021! Here’s everything you need to know:
New Zealand Ski Season Dates 2021
The New Zealand Ski Season usually begins early in June and runs until early October. But just because the mountains are open, doesn’t mean the trails are ready for you! We recommend checking individual ski resort websites (and snow-cams), to see how the powder is looking before you go.
Opening days this year:
4th June– Whakapapa, Ruapehu
5th June – Happy Valley, Ruapehu
11th June – Mt Hutt, Canterbury
12th June – Cardrona, Otago
19th June – Coronet Peak, Queenstown
26th June – The Remarkables, Queenstown
26th June – Treble Cone, Wanaka
2nd July – Tūroa, Ruapehu
When to head to the mountains
The best time for you to hit the slopes might depend on being in the right place at the right time. But if you have the choice, there are a couple of factors to consider:
June – early July:
If the season has started well, this is a great time to head up the mountain. The fields are still quiet, so you can spend more time flying down and less time queuing up. It’s also a great time to learn if you’re a beginner. The beginner trails open up earlier, and you can familiarise yourself in a chill environment before the masses join you. Make sure you check the snow-cams before committing to a day pass.
This is typically the busiest month across the country for ski fields, due to that pesky little thing called school holidays. Families will be flocking to the slopes then, and the resorts offer programmes for kids, so it gets busy!
August offers potentially the best conditions, with lots of snow and stable weather. With the kids back at school, the mountains are busy with everyone else, including a fair few who are conveniently sick from work on dump days.
September – October:
Things begin to quieten down. If you’re lucky, you can get a few of those magic days in where there is no one around, the sun is shining and the conditions are perfect. Don’t forget sun screen, and reapply! There’s nothing quite so free as skiing/snowboarding in a t-shirt.
Where to stay & how to get up the mountain
As you can probably tell, there are three main places that you can go to get your skiing fix, and the Stray bus can drop you off pretty close to all three. We’ll go from North to South:
If you’re heading to Tūroa, you’ll want to jump off the bus and stay in Ohakune. This little resort town is a pretty fun place to be a backpacker, and you’ll have easy access to the slopes from here. There are plenty of inexpensive shuttle services running daily from Ohakune township to Tūroa ski field.
For the Whakapapa ski field, the best place to transfer or stay overnight is National Park. A smaller, quieter ski village, you’ll be closer to the Whakapapa side here, and the best news? The park and ride shuttle service that runs from National Park is cheap as chips.
Probably the least accessible mountain from the Stray route, Mount Hutt is still a bit of a drive from Christchurch (around 2 hours). Luckily there is a reasonably priced bus service that will take you from Christchurch CBD to the ski field and back again for NZ$60 per person. Alternatively, you can take a bus to Methven, seek shelter in this little snow town and head up the mountain bright eyed the next day.
The mountain for the experts, Treble Cone is famous for a challenging, steep terrain. Hop off in Wanaka and base yourself in this cool little lakeside town. The ski field is just 25 minutes from town, and the best news is there’s a FREE shuttle service running twice a day to get you onto the slopes.
Cardrona is also best accessed from Wanaka 20 minutes away, but you can make the trip from Queenstown (approximately 50 minutes). Cardrona offers shuttle services from both of these locations. The shuttle departs from Queenstown/Wanaka and will set you back around NZ$35 return.
Just 20 minutes from Queenstown, hop off in the adventure capital of New Zealand to ski here. There are plenty of accommodation options, from party hostels to luxe backpackers, so you’re spoilt for choice. The bus runs every 20 minutes from Queenstown and is just NZ$15 return. Better yet, if you’re planning to practically live on the mountain, you can get a discount for booking 5 days worth of transport. Coronet Peak is the top spot for night skiing and snowboarding, and the bus runs in the evenings too!
The sister peak to Coronet, the Remarkables are also accessed from Queenstown. Just a little further away, the trip will cost you the same ($15 return). This resort is known for its awesome terrain parks, but is also a great spot for learners.
Tips to save money
Skiing is an expensive hobby, especially if you’ve flown half way around the world and not brought any of your own gear. We love saving money (who doesn’t), so we’ve got a few tips on how to keep the cost down, while still having a snowy blast.
- Early Bird Passes – This one requires a bit of foresight, but if you’re coming to NZ for a skiing holiday, or you think you’ll get a lot of mountain time in, you might consider buying a season pass. Better yet, if you buy it far enough in advance, you can get over 50% off!
- BYO thermos & food – Pick up a thermos from an Op Shop (second hand store), fill it with your choice of hot drink and avoid paying $5 for a long back. Likewise, if you pack your own lunch and eat it on the chairlift, you’ll get more runs in while it’s quiet over lunch, and save some coin!
- Hire your gear before you go – This is another time and money hack. Renting your gear the night before from a shop in town will be cheaper than doing it up the mountain. Not to mention you’ll get to avoid the stuffy queue of gear hire first thing in the morning.
- Buy your pass the day before – this may not save you money, but it will save you time in the morning. Like everyone always says, time is money baby.
You can hit all these spots with any of our NZ Tours. Now you’re armed with all the information you need for a sick New Zealand ski season, have a great run! Remember to stay safe on the slopes, and we will repeat – SUNBLOCK.