Learn to Ski in New Zealand

If you are ready to learn to ski or snowboard, then there is no better place to tackle the challenge than New Zealand. From tiny tots to old dogs looking to learn new tricks, New Zealand has the variety of locations, facilities and dedicated snow professionals to get you up and carving on skis or boards. Working out where to go and what to do can be a bit daunting, so here is some information and options to get you on the right track!

Learning to Ski in New Zealand – What You Should Know

Beginner Ski Areas

Your new favourite colour is GREEN. That is the colour you are looking for on any mountain maps (aka trail maps). All New Zealand beginner ski areas will be shown as green lines. From green you progress to blue (intermediate) and then black (advanced). Each line represents a ‘run’ or trail. As a learner beware of the black run! There are also various terrain parks you might want to progress to. These are just ‘runs’ with half pipes or other obstacles to jump on or over and some are even setup for beginners and kids. Might not be ready for this on your first day in the snow though!

Lift Passes

Don’t worry too much about working out which lift pass you need. As a beginner you should be starting with restricted access to the mountains. You should be keeping to those green runs which are usually nice and close to the base building (this is the main ski field building that houses rental equipment, change rooms/toilets, restaurants, bars and management). We recommend buying product options that package up mountain access, gear hire and some lessons. They are often referred to as starter or first timer packs and these usually provide the best value way for learners to get their first taste of the snow. Talk to one of our ski specialists if you want to discuss these sort of learner options for your holiday!

Lessons

All the ski fields we sell offer individual lessons that you can purchase. Lessons at Coronet Peak, The Remarkables and Mt Ruapehu are full day lesssons. Lessons at Treble Cone and Cardrona will generally be about 1.5 to 2 hours long and they grade everyone on their ability. Usually first timers in one group, second or third timers in another and this goes on right up to advanced skiers or boarders looking to take the next step with their skills. Talk to one of our ski specialists if you want to lock in extra lessons on your trip!

Gear / Equipment

Any time this is mentioned it is referring to your skis, boots and poles or a snowboard and boots. You can actually hire various types of gear depending on your skill level but for the beginner, ‘recreational’ or standard equipment will work just nicely. Paying extra for ‘performance’ type equipment just to look good is a serious over investment and may lead to injury!

Skiing or Snowboarding?

Like most people when they start out, you are probably pondering whether you should ski or board. Whichever one you choose, we suggest you stick with it for the entire trip, rather than switching between them. Give yourself a chance to conquer it! You are going to fall over. You are going to fall over A LOT! The sooner you process that and come to terms with it, the more likely you are to push yourself and master the technicalities of either option! Bruises will be something to boast about to your mates! As for which one to choose, maybe this information can help you decide:

SKIING

For a first timer (newbie, newbs, beginner), skiing is the easier discipline to pick up with the main difficulty being keeping your skies separate and moving your legs simultaneously. Once you get the hang of starting, stopping, slowing down with a snowplough (Pizza) and straight skies (French fries), you are pretty much ready to conquer the rest of the mountain!

Pros: The biggest pro to skiing is with the chair lifts! Just walk on up to the wait point, squat and sit on the seat and you’re on your way up, just be mindful to not drop your poles through. Another big pro is that if you get stuck on a flat you won’t need to worry about taking your skies off and walking to reach the downhill part again. You can simply use your poles and skate.

Cons: With a piece of equipment for each limb, skiing can get damn messy! When you fall over, be prepared to become a knotted, tangled ball of embarrassment. We’ve all done it. Its why it is so sweet when you master the awkwardness and can actually enjoy the views and the thrills in a vertical position.

SNOWBOARDING

Snowboarding will be a bit more awkward at first and will require a bit more time, patience and a few more bruises. Because both your feet are strapped onto a single board you will find standing up and keeping your balance will be quite difficult. The first few things you will learn are: Heel side edging, Toe side edging and shoulder turns. Once you get the hang of these motions you will feel much more natural and be able to start going down the runs.

Pros: Off the slope, walking in snowboard boots is way easier than ski boots. Plus carrying 1 board is heaps less awkward that two skis and two poles. You will also look super cool on Instagram!

Cons: Chair lifts are torture. Persistence pays off! Don’t let it defeat you! Use magic carpets (conveyor belts) where ever you can! If your binding clogs up with ice (which they always do), you will need to sit down (Hello Haemorrhoids) and clear it off. T bar lifts kill between the legs and when you get stuck on a flat there are two choices: take your board off and walk or scoot, which can be a bit tiresome and some would say isn’t worth the pain.

Please note: For the kids starting out, only children 8 years and older can have snowboard lessons. This restriction is in place because children’s muscles are more developed from 8 years allowing them to steer and control the board better. For more Family/children related details and options, please check out our family ski holidays section

Where can you ski in New Zealand

Unlike Australian ski fields and other resorts around the world, NZ isn’t a ski in and ski out location, meaning you will need to get transport each day to the ski field from your accommodation/nearby town.

North Island

You may not realise this, but you can actually ski in the North Island at Mt Ruapehu. You can stay in Whakapapa village, National Park, Ohakune or even in Taupo to try out the Ruapehu ski fields. Driving yourself to the ski fields is normal for this mountain as the roads are tar sealed and pretty good really. Car companies generally don’t hire out snow chains in the North Island, but Budget Rentals do if you are concerned. Otherwise if you require them on a particular day you will need to hire through a local supplier. Your accommodation will be able to advise you on the best options if this situation arises. We can recommend some transfer companies that can be booked direct if you are still hesitant.

South Island

In the South Island, there are heaps more ski field options. The driving conditions can take time to traverse and can be a bit ‘hairier’ so if you aren’t a confident driver then we would highly recommend mountain transfers. In the South Island you will need snow chains in your vehicle, if you are driving in Queenstown or to Milford Sound, it is actually a legal requirement to have them on hand.

In the Canterbury region near Christchurch we can offer a few different ski fields. Mt Hutt is the main commercial field and to ski here you would stay in Methven.

Near the bottom of the South Island lie the New Zealand ski ‘big guns’ – Wanaka & Queenstown. Wanaka is a little less ‘adrenalin charged’ than Queenstown but still has a fantastic apres ski vibe (that’s the flash way of saying after you have been on the mountain there are plenty of awesome spots to hang out, have a drink and share stories about your snow accomplishments for the day). This region is home to 4 of NZ’s premier ski fields: Treble Cone & Cardrona which are closer to Wanaka, and Coronet Peak & The Remarkables, which are closer to Queenstown.

As a learner you can’t go wrong with any of these fields although it should be noted that Treble Cone probably has slightly less learner facilities than the others. Treble Cone is the South Island’s largest ski area though. So if you take to the snow you can progress to some expansive runs! It is only 30 mins drive from Wanaka CBD, and about 1.5 hours from Queenstown on the quickest route but we can organize transfers from either location for those who want to enjoy the stunning scenery. Cardrona is kind of wedged between Wanaka and Queenstown so really you can stay at either location and ski it on multiple days. It’s 35 mins from Wanaka and approx. 50 mins from Queenstown. This access from Queenstown is on the Crown Range Road (the highest main road in NZ) but on snowy days it can get hairy! So we suggest keeping an eye on the weather. If it’s all clear then drive yourself because it is a stunning drive but if the weather is looking dodgy then transfers are definitely the order of the day! Get in quick though, transfers will sell out!

We probably don’t need to say too much about Queenstown. It is one of NZ’s best known location and quite possibly the adventure capital of the world, full of amazing ways to test your body and mind! So accordingly it is a great place to be able to say you learned to ski there. Coronet Peak is the closest ski field, at just 20 mins drive from Queenstown CBD it is hard to beat for accessibility. The Remarkables are a little further out, 35 mins drive, but still pretty close. Both fields have regular bus transfers available and these can be organized from Queenstown CBD. For a little extra per day, you can be picked up from your accommodation, or at the most a short walk from where you are staying.

Turoa Ski Field, Mt Ruapehu – North Island

Closest town: Ohakune

The Alpine Meadow at the base of Turoa Ski Area is a wonderful little beginners’ area. It has a massive 120m long carpet lift. If you haven’t seen one of these before it’s basically like a conveyer belt over the snow – you just stand on it and it takes you smoothly and easily up the slope.

The Alpine Meadow is right next to the Alpine Chalet where you’ll find good coffee, meals, snacks or even a well-deserved cold beer after you’re done on the slopes. And, for the littlies in the family, there’s a tobogganing area right alongside the Alpine Meadow too!

Transfers *
Beginner Area 20%
Lessons  
Beginner Combo^  

(*) Limited Options. (^) Beginner Combo: Lift Pass + Equipment Hire + Lessons.

Whakapapa Ski Field, Mt Ruapehu – North Island

Closest town: Whakakapa Village / National Park

Whakapapa is home to New Zealand’s premiere beginners’ area, Happy Valley. It’s a big complete learner’s area in its own valley away from the worry of faster skiers/boarders putting you off. It has its own cafe, rental complex and ski school meeting area. The gentle slope is nice and long, giving you plenty of time to really get the hang of your new sport and there is a slow-moving chairlift that takes you to the top of the slope while giving your legs a rest between runs.

Transfers *
Beginner Area 25%
Lessons  
Beginner Combo^  

(*) Limited Options. (^) Beginner Combo: Lift Pass + Equipment Hire + Lessons.

Mt Hutt Ski Field, Mt Ruapehu – South Island

Closest town: Methven

The Alpine Meadow at the base of Turoa Ski Area is a wonderful little beginners’ area. It has a massive 120m long carpet lift. If you haven’t seen one of these before it’s basically like a conveyer belt over the snow – you just stand on it and it takes you smoothly and easily up the slope.

The Alpine Meadow is right next to the Alpine Chalet where you’ll find good coffee, meals, snacks or even a well-deserved cold beer after you’re done on the slopes. And, for the littlies in the family, there’s a tobogganing area right alongside the Alpine Meadow too!

Transfers  
Beginner Area 20%
Lessons  
Beginner Combo^  

(^) Beginner Combo: Lift Pass + Equipment Hire + Lessons.

Treble Cone Ski Field – South Island

Closest town: Wanaka

The Alpine Meadow at the base of Turoa Ski Area is a wonderful little beginners’ area. It has a massive 120m long carpet lift. If you haven’t seen one of these before it’s basically like a conveyer belt over the snow – you just stand on it and it takes you smoothly and easily up the slope.

The Alpine Meadow is right next to the Alpine Chalet where you’ll find good coffee, meals, snacks or even a well-deserved cold beer after you’re done on the slopes. And, for the littlies in the family, there’s a tobogganing area right alongside the Alpine Meadow too!

Transfers  
Beginner Area 10%
Lessons  
Beginner Combo^  

(^) Beginner Combo: Lift Pass + Equipment Hire + Lessons.

Cardrona Ski Field – South Island

Closest town: Wanaka or Queenstown

Whakapapa is home to New Zealand’s premiere beginners’ area, Happy Valley. It’s a big complete learner’s area in its own valley away from the worry of faster skiers/boarders putting you off. It has its own cafe, rental complex and ski school meeting area. The gentle slope is nice and long, giving you plenty of time to really get the hang of your new sport and there is a slow-moving chairlift that takes you to the top of the slope while giving your legs a rest between runs.

Transfers  
Beginner Area 25%
Lessons  
Beginner Combo^  

(^) Beginner Combo: Lift Pass + Equipment Hire + Lessons.

Coronet Peak Ski Field – South Island

Closest town: Queenstown

The Alpine Meadow at the base of Turoa Ski Area is a wonderful little beginners’ area. It has a massive 120m long carpet lift. If you haven’t seen one of these before it’s basically like a conveyer belt over the snow – you just stand on it and it takes you smoothly and easily up the slope.

The Alpine Meadow is right next to the Alpine Chalet where you’ll find good coffee, meals, snacks or even a well-deserved cold beer after you’re done on the slopes. And, for the littlies in the family, there’s a tobogganing area right alongside the Alpine Meadow too!

Transfers  
Beginner Area 20%
Lessons  
Beginner Combo^  

(^) Beginner Combo: Lift Pass + Equipment Hire + Lessons.

The Remarkables Ski Field – South Island

Closest town: Queenstown

Whakapapa is home to New Zealand’s premiere beginners’ area, Happy Valley. It’s a big complete learner’s area in its own valley away from the worry of faster skiers/boarders putting you off. It has its own cafe, rental complex and ski school meeting area. The gentle slope is nice and long, giving you plenty of time to really get the hang of your new sport and there is a slow-moving chairlift that takes you to the top of the slope while giving your legs a rest between runs.

Transfers  
Beginner Area 30%
Lessons  
Beginner Combo^  

(^) Beginner Combo: Lift Pass + Equipment Hire + Lessons.

.

 

 

Learner Packages