South Island or North Island – Which is Best for Your Ski Trip?

Planning next year’s ski trip to New Zealand? First things first, are you going North or South Island? Both islands have heaps to offer the keen skier or snowboarder, but the experience differs greatly between north and south. Let’s find out why.

What’s it like Skiing in the North Island?

Skiing in the North Island has an intimate feeling—especially in the Whakapapa ski village. But why? Well, for starters, both major ski areas—Tūroa and Whakapapa—are located on the same mountain, Mt. Ruapehu. It’s a great way to try different ski fields without the long journeys between mountains. Some of the highlights include:

The Chateau Tongariro

Be sure to visit Chateau Tongariro Hotel; it’s as close to a European ski chalet as you’ll find in New Zealand. This iconic hotel is only 10 minutes’ drive to Whakapapa ski field.


Tūroa is all about the elevation—it’s home to the largest vertical drop in the southern hemisphere. This means it’s home to consistently dry, easy-skiing snow. And naturally, the views over the North Island from the top of Mt. Ruapehu are absolutely incredible.

Long Seasons

Visitors to the Mt. Ruapehu ski fields love the long seasons (the season at Whakapapa goes well into October with great skiing in spring), and the more relaxed vibe than you’ll find in the hotspots in the South Island.

What’s it like Skiing in the South Island?

The South Island ski experience can be summed up with just a few words: variety, glamour, and adventures. Here’s why:

Off-Mountain Adventures—Road Trip!

The variety of ski areas in the South Island make it the prime spot for a ski-themed winter road trip. Start your adventure in Canterbury or Queenstown, then hit the road and ski your way round the island; you can do an extensive trip of the South Island in a week or two. And conveniently, all of the South Island’s major ski fields are within a couple of hours’ drive of an international airport.


Want to feel like a superstar on your ski trip? Queenstown has you covered. The alpine party capital backs up its incredible vistas with a buzzing nightlife scene, luxury shops and fine dining. Just an hour away, Wanaka is every bit as beautiful, but has a more relaxed vibe. And it’s only a short drive out to the Gibbston Valley region where you can taste some of New Zealand’s best wine.


The south is the king of variety. There’s Coronet Peak, The Remarkables, Cardrona and Treble Cone, and that’s just in the Otago region. Further north, Canterbury is home to heaps of great backcountry mountains, and of course the iconic Mt. Hutt ski area.

To Sum up

The South Island has the big names when it comes to ski areas, but with that come the big crowds, and some say, a more commercial feel. Some travellers prefer the more chilled out vibe at Mt. Ruapehu. Beginners are bound to love the range of easy-going terrain at Whakapapa in the north, while those looking for the best terrain parks will head to Queenstown or Wanaka. The bottom line is, there’s no bad choice here—we’re sure you’ll have the time of your life, wherever you decide to ski in New Zealand.

If you’re still not quite sure where to book your ski trip, be sure to contact us.