A Beginners Guide To Skiing In New Zealand

Ready for a change, would-be snow bunnies?
If you’re a newbie to the ski slopes of New Zealand, the South Island’s Mount Hutt and the North Island’s Mount Ruapehu are the ultimate alpine people pleasers. Here’s a beginner’s guide to skiing in New Zealand. Book your stay with Choice Hotels.

Mount Hutt

With the longest ski season in New Zealand, if not the Southern Hemisphere, Mount Hutt operates from early June through to mid-October. Just over 90 minutes’ drive from Christchurch, Mount Hutt has scooped the title of New Zealand’s best ski resort for five years running. With five ski lifts that cater for beginners to advanced skiers, it’s an all-embracing ski resort, also boasting the longest vertical chairlift access of any mountain in the country.

Mount Hutt. Ski slopes taken from a high view point with ski lift ascending on left of image.
Mount Hutt. Image Courtesy of Tourism New Zealand

The road to the ski field is an adventure in itself – 12 kilometres of steep, loose metal roads that traverse many winding ridgelines. Need chains? You can hire them in Methven. If you don’t want to drive yourself, Methven also offers handy shuttle services.

An added new feature this season is the Nor’wester Express – New Zealand’s first 8-seater chairlift! This new lift has some smart design features, including a loading carpet which is custom-designed to simplify the boarding experience. With a ride time of just two minutes, the lift can carry up to 3,000 people an hour!

Not only is the sensation of skiing or snowboarding absolutely exhilarating, but it’s fiendishly addictive. You’ll be staggered how fast the day sweeps by. When you’re not smashing the slopes, there’s a feast of other temptations on offer. Indulge in a hot chocolate, soak in New Zealand’s highest spa pool (which crowns the top of the Summit Six Chairlift), or enjoy an a la carte meal in front of a roaring fire.

The fantastic team of ski instructors on the mountain make the beginners’ lessons super entertaining and encouraging. They won’t let you graduate to the chair lifts and higher runs until they’re confident you won’t injure yourself – let alone anyone else! The dedicated learning area includes the 140-metre-long Magic Carpet, which kids just love. The beginner slopes are pitch-perfect to get ski legs sorted, before you head further up the mountain to rock down the likes of ‘Highway 72’ and ‘Broadway’, or carve down the intermediate slopes or the upper trails, including ‘Morning Glory’ and ‘Upper Fascination’.

Six skiiers are pictured on flat snow at Mount Hutt.
Mount Hutt. Image Courtesy of Tourism New Zealand

Need a place to stay?

Quality Suites Amore offers contemporary accommodation in picturesque Riccarton, just west of Christchurch and close to Riccarton Bush, Hagley Park and the Botanic Gardens.

Econo Lodge Canterbury Court is situated just a few minutes’ drive from the Christchurch city centre. There are 20 ground floor rooms in a tranquil garden setting, all with kitchen facilities.

Located north of the CBD, Quality Hotel Elms features stylish and contemporary accommodation. Perfect for business or leisure travellers, the hotel features a range of room types — including standard rooms, executive suites and a luxury apartment. 

Mount Ruapehu

Ski lift carriages ascend up a slope at Mount Ruapehu.
Mount Ruapehu. Image Courtesy of Tourism New Zealand

From Taupo, make tracks to majestic Mount Ruapehu’s snow-coated ski fields, which operate from 1 July to mid-October. It’s less than 90 minutes’ drive to Ruapehu’s ski areas from Taupo, while trusty shuttles also operate up to the slopes from Ohakune and the city. If you’re self-driving, chains can be hired from Ohakune.

Whakapapa Ski Area is the largest ski zone for skiing in New Zealand, and encompasses over 65 trails. Situated at 2020 metres above sea level, Whakapapa’s Knoll Ridge Chalet is New Zealand’s highest café, and offers sigh-inducing views. Take a ride to the mountain-top on the glorious new Sky Waka Gondola.

At the neighbouring field, Turoa Ski Area, even in the peak of the season you’ll have ample room to roam. Revel in the space and freedom of the wide open bowls and chutes. Turoa’s Alpine Meadow is tailormade for beginners. Here you’ll find your feet in no time.

However, if you’re a complete newbie, Happy Valley will be your happy place. It offers beginner ski options and a vast snow play area. Spend the day experiencing the best that a family winter holiday has to offer with ski and snowboard lessons, sledding, snowball fights and snowman building – The perfect introduction to skiing in New Zealand!

Two skiiers descend a snow slope at Mount Ruapehu.
Mount Ruapehu. Image Courtesy of Tourism New Zealand.

Need a place to stay?

Quality Suites Huka Falls is located just a few minutes’ drive from the Taupo town centre and Huka Falls. Set in stunning landscaped grounds, the hotel offers a choice of studio rooms and one, two and three-bedroom villas.

About the writer

As a writer, Mike Yardley mixes his life-long passions for travel and current affairs. Born and based in Christchurch, he is a travel editor and syndicated columnist for several newspapers nationally, and can be heard as a contributor on New Zealand’s number one radio station – Newstalk ZB.

Cover image courtesy of Christchurch NZ

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