Skiing in New Zealand is… different. The Kiwis don’t have ski areas, they have “ski fields,” “clubfields,” or “clubbies” and their main form of ski hill transportation are rope tows referred to as “nutcrackers.” However the skiing in New Zealand is very laid back and more important than anything—very wild. The vibe is akin to that of a Vermont-based, tractor powered rope tow combined with the volcanic scenery of the Pacific Northwest.
However the snow is much more scarce, the season is shorter, and the weather is as fickle as it comes. But on a good day… Skiing in New Zealand might just be the best skiing on the planet. Here are the 5 best places to ski on a good or not-so-good day in New Zealand.
Located above Lake Wanaka, Treble Cone boasts arguably the best terrain in New Zealand. The ski field offers 2,740’ of vertical drop as well as abundant steeps that won’t be found inbounds at the other fields and ski areas. Not only does this ski field contain more advanced terrain than anywhere else in New Zealand, the resort also offers the highest annual snowfall totals, which comes in at 18 feet a season.
Craigieburn Ski Field is like the field of dreams for the Southern Hemisphere. Its skiing is considered entirely off-piste and the only lift access is the puckering “nutcracker” rope tow that has the capacity to burn holes in your gloves if you’re not careful. Yet, once you dial in the nutcracker way of getting to the top of the hill, massive amounts of backcountry wait just outside the boundary. Skiers can even access Broken Hill clubfield (#5 on this list) via a short 15-minute hike. Note: Glen Plake loves Craigieburn so much he has a membership at the club as well as a ski run named after him called “Plake’s Mistake.”
The Remarkables rise steeply from Lake Wakatipu, allowing for some of the most iconic looking mountains in the world. Not only is the scenery something to write home about but the Remarkables backcountry contains some of the best mini-golf chutes in the Southern Hemisphere… let alone the world. The terrain parks are also the most advanced in New Zealand and the ski area hosts a Burton Stash Park as well.
Mt. Olympus is referred to as the “playground of the gods.” Its steep pitches, south-facing powder stashes, and lack of crowds make it one of the best ski fields on this list. With zones called “Little Alaska,” it comes as no surprise that Mt. Olympus is known for its steeps. The mountain is also a great starting point for ski tours throughout the surrounding backcountry.
Broken River (Clubfield)
Broken River is like Mad River Glen’s destitute cousin. It is about as far from luxury as Timbuktu is from the States. However, Broken River hosts some of the best snowfall in New Zealand and its two main bowls are on the leeward side of the prevailing wind, which allows for some serious wind buff if the conditions are right. Also, the access to the backcountry is about the same as Craigieburn ski field and provides plenty of hiking and ski touring.