Home  >  Magazine  >  Issue 8 : June 2006  > Features >  Skiing Godzone

Features

2006
ISSUE
8
Skiing Godzone
By Eddie van den Broek

Welcome to your new summer holiday powder-fix retreat.

Fast becoming the holiday destination of choice for skiers with many world-class facilities spread across both islands, New Zealand (NZ) offers visitors to the country an unforgettable experience with an abundance of perfectly white powdered snow for many months of the year.

THE KIWI EXPERIENCE

With spectacular scenery and awesome terrain to suit novice or seasoned pro skiers alike, NZ has it all for those in search of the ultimate adventure. World-class facilities and instructors offer first-timers and professionals alike the skills needed to advance your game.

New Zealand is an awe-inspiring land of intrigue, well regarded for both the landscape and the friendly people. Forest fringes the rolling landscape until it meets beautiful coastline that stretches as far as the eye can see, clean waterways and of course large pure white snow-capped mountain ranges.

The South Island is home to one of these ranges, the Southern Alps, which almost stretch the length of the island. It has some of the best skiing facilities in the world, including The Remarkables, Cardrona and Coronet Peak. Each mountain has its own character and uniqueness, sharing the beautiful South Island backdrop of vast open farmland on one side and rugged, unspoiled bush-clad ranges on the other.

In the North Island, Mt. Ruapehu is the only commercially ski-able mountain offering a distinctiveness of its own for any level of skier.

Skiing in NZ differs from many countries such as Canada or the USA in the fact that all commercially skied mountain ranges are tree-less slopes, offering enthusiasts safer, more open, free skiing.
   

Other disciplines such as heli-skiing and snowboarding have really taken off in this country and many of the top ski-fields now have facilities to cater to the growing demand. Natural and man-made obstacles have been erected with snowboarders in mind in dedicated terrain parks.

NZ Heli-skiing has been described as the new ultimate skiing thrill and has some of the best heli-packages available. You don’t need to be an expert either. Up high, powder is deeper, the air is thinner and the views are out of this world. The best areas for heli-skiing are the mountains around Queenstown and Wanaka. Expect to pay around NZ$700-800 per person/day for this experience.

Cat skiing (similar to snow boarding) in NZ is relatively new, and presently only offered by a couple of ski-fields including Mt. Potts Backcountry, the highest ski area in the South Island. A cat-ski day pass will cost around NZ$400 pp/day, including a heli-pass to the top and lunch.

THE SKIING

Below is a rundown of some of the most popular ski-fields in NZ with a useful guide to skiing; each of them including distance from a major city or town, where to stay and what to expect. During the winter months, because of the popularity, it is essential to pre-book all accommodations prior, to ensure you don’t miss out. The snow season is generally from June to October. All ski-fields operate chairlifts and tow-lifts on the mountain.

An all-day lift pass will cost about NZ$70 per person. Each ski-field caters not only to the advanced skier, but also to those who have never had the opportunity to try this addictive sport with learner slopes and lessons available.
Most NZ ski-fields have gear that can be hired on location. This gear will normally cost you around NZ$40 pp to hire for the day. The cost includes poles, skis and boots. Snowboard equipment is slightly more expensive. Jackets and pants can also be hired on a daily basis for around NZ$30 pp.   

North Island
Whakapapa/Turoa (Mt Ruapehu)


 Mt. Ruapehu is located about 360 km. from Auckland or 320 km. from Wellington. Accommodations on and around Mt. Ruapehu are plentiful – but popular, including Whakapapa Village, National Park, Taupo and Ohakune. The ski-field also offers gear hire, professional guidance and lessons.

The ski-field at Turoa has a vertical decent of 720 meters with a skiable area of 400 hectares (ha), while Whakapapa has a vertical descent of 675 meters and a skiable area of 500 ha. Food, beverages and amenities are also available. Mt. Ruapehu rises to an impressive 2,800 meters.

South Island
Rainbow Valley (Marlborough)

Located 390 kms. from Christchurch is Rainbow Valley. Accommodations for this ski-field can be found in Blenheim or St Arnaud, 32 kms. away. Popular for its breathtaking views and heli-ski opportunities. Vertical descent is 320 meters, with a skiable area of 350 ha. Offers gear hire, amenities and obstacles such as half pipes. Great ski-field for families. Elevation is 1,760 meters.

Mt. Lyford (Canterbury)

Mt. Lyford is 140 kms. from Christchurch, with nearby accommodations from Mt. Lyford township 4 kms. away or neighboring Waiau. This is one of the smallest with a skiable area of just under 200 ha. Vertical descent is a mild 420 meters. Has cafés and gear hire available. Elevation is 1,750 meters.

Mt. Hutt (Mid Canterbury)

Located only 120 kms. from Christchurch. Has lodge accommodations in Methven, 23 kms. away. Offers gear hire, lessons, heli-skiing, shuttle services and amenities. Vertical descent is 670 meters, while skiable area is 365 ha. Offers great panoramic views. Elevation is 2,075 meters.

Cardrona (Otago)

Located 57 kms. from Queenstown. Very busy ski-field at peak times of the year. Offers gear hire, heli-skiing, half pipe for snowboarders, cafés and professional guidance including lessons. Easy access and accommodations from Queenstown or Wanaka. Skiable area of 320 ha, smaller, but one of the busiest ski-fields in NZ. Vertical descent is 390 meters. Elevation is 1,894 meters.

Treble Cone (Otago)

Treble Cone is one of the largest and busiest skiable mountains in NZ with an area of approximately 550 ha. It is located 90 kms. from Queenstown with accommodation options either in Queenstown or in Wanaka, 29 kms. away. Offers skiers professional guides, hirage, lessons, heli-skiing, advanced terrain, as well as learner fields — all with sensational views. Vertical descent 705 meters. Elevation is 2,088 meters.

Coronet Peak (Otago)

Coronet Peak offers a smaller skiable area of only 280 ha, but has some of the best skiable slopes for all abilities. Location is 18 kms. from Queenstown, with accommodation options here or in nearby Wanaka. Vertical descent is 430 meters. Offers gear hire, heli-skiing package and professional ski lessons. Elevation is 1,649 meters.
   
Remarkables (Otago)

Location is 28 kms. from Queenstown, with accommodation options either here or in Wanaka. Remarkables offers a small ski area of only 220 ha, but has some of the best skiable slopes for all abilities including challenging skiing at high altitudes. Vertical descent is 325 meters. Offers gear hire, cross-country treks and professional ski lessons, and amenities. Elevation is 1,935 meters.

New Zealand AT A GLANCE

Population?
Just over four million. Largest cities are Auckland, Wellington and Hamilton in the North Island, Christchurch and Dunedin in the South Island.
Tourism hotspots? Rotorua (North Island) Queenstown (South Island).
Weather? The winter months are May to October (average 4ºC–14ºC), while the warmer summer months are November through April (average 14ºC–28ºC). The South Island is generally cooler than the North Island.
Currency? NZ Dollar. NZ$1.00 = JP¥74.00 (Approx.)
Official languages? English and Maori.
Time difference? NZ is three hours ahead of Japan.

Beginner Tips

Here are a few tips to ensure your skiing experience on the mountains is a memorable one:

• Up high, the weather can be very unpredictable – dress appropriately and be prepared for any weather change. Check daily ski reports before you set off for the mountain you wish to ski.
• Consideration of others is paramount. Be aware of other skiers or boarders around you. It is very easy to cause someone else injury through a simple mistake.
• If you have never skied before, it may pay to take a lesson first.
• Ensure you have gloves, a warm jacket and socks, sunglasses/goggles and sunscreen.
• If hiring gear, ensure everything fits properly first. It can save unhappiness later. The sizes of the gear may be different to what you are used to.
• Take someone with you, especially if heading to more advanced areas.