Grey, wet and dull. For most people, the onset of winter signals the end of outdoor adventures; instead retreating to the relative comfort of their heaters and warm soups. For some, however, this marks an exciting time of year: snow season! Luckily for us, we have an incredible winter wonderland happening on our neighbour’s doorstep.
Offering a world of fun, New Zealand’s snowfields are considered among the world’s best. You don’t have to be the most experienced of snow bunnies to head to the country’s snowfields either: there’s a range of activities for all ages and experience levels. What are you waiting for? Pop on your snow shoes and hit the powder with us!
Ever felt like skiing down an active volcano? Here’s your chance! Mt Ruapehu is great for thrill-seekers, featuring two ski areas on the volcano: Whakapapa and Turoa. The mountain is located halfway between major cities Auckland and Wellington. Whakapapa is New Zealand’s largest ski area, with more than 65 trails for all ages and abilities. The resort is home to New Zealand’s premiere beginners’ area called Happy Valley. Separated from the main ski areas, it’s regarded as the ‘best place in the world’ to learn to ski or snowboard.
For some old-fashioned fun on the slopes, Happy Valley even has its own toboggan area, where kids and adults are welcome to show off their speed. Tuckered out after your 20th toboggan race? The on-mountain bistro offers a variety of hot and cold food and drinks. Turoa is a more advanced ski field, boasting Australasia’s longest vertical descent and New Zealand’s highest lift. Here you’ll find a variety of terrain as an advanced skier or snowboarder. There are natural half-pipes and chutes, and if steeps are your thing, Turoa’s Hamilton’s Face is for you. The kids can be kept busy at Turoa’s childcare centres while you tackle the piste.
Queenstown is often referred to as the ‘Adventure Capital of the World’, offering bungy jumping, skydiving, skiing, snowboarding and a wealth of other winter-friendly thrill-seeking activities. Queenstown is surrounded by four major ski fields, so there’s an abundance of choice for beginners to expert snow fiends. For the beginner, Cardrona is New Zealand’s family-friendly ski resort with stable snow conditions. Located a picturesque hour’s drive from Queenstown, Cardrona has easy-to-use lifts, beginner trails, as well as skiing and snowboarding lessons.
If you’re looking for somewhere to keep the kids occupied, there are four fully-licensed childcare centres and a ski kindy if you can’t get them away from the slopes. If you’re a bit powdered-out, there are five cafes on the mountain serving a huge range of food and beverages; you can sit back and relax with anything from a latte to a green smoothie. If you’re a serious snow bunny, Treble Cone would be your kind of resort. The area is 45 percent intermediate and 45 percent advanced. If you’re not a seasoned snow lover, it’s best to stick with Cardrona for the mean time.
If you’re up for the challenge, Treble Cone is the South Island’s largest ski area with the longest vertical rise in the region. It’s world-renowned for its extraordinary views of Lake Wanaka and neighbouring Mt Aspiring. Its views and slopes may have been the main reasons why Treble Cone was voted New Zealand’s best ski resort in 2013. If you’re a sucker for a good photograph, but don’t want to tackle the mountain just yet, the café, bar and sun deck are open from 8am-4:30pm daily, so you can sip a cappuccino or glass of red wine while overlooking the spectacular sights below. Selfie, anyone? The Treble Cone Photo Frame is located at elevation 1260m, giving you an amazing background of Lake Wanaka and the Southern Alps.
Winter wonderland trip essentials
The best thing about going on a snow holiday is that you don’t need to pack bulky snow jackets and pay for excess luggage: most equipment and clothing can be hired on the mountain. If you want to get in early, Cardrona and Treble Cone offers online equipment and clothing hire pre-order. Mt Ruapehu’s on-mountain rental store has everything you need to make the most out of your snow holiday. Prior to setting off on your winter adventure, make sure you take out comprehensive travel insurance that covers you for any accidents and injuries you may acquire on or off piste.
Skiing and snowboarding are especially risky, more so for beginners and extreme thrill-seekers, so having a level of cover that protects you for your planned activities is crucial. Injuries relating to skiing or snowboarding can be expensive, so having travel insurance can get you one step closer to peace of mind so you don’t come back with a broken leg and an empty wallet. Compare policies today to get the best deal, or check out our guide to travel cover in New Zealand.