High altitude holidays

Guide image

Porters skifield, Canterbury. Photo: Christchurch & Canterbury Tourism

Temperatures are falling fast and the skifields will be open in a few weeks. So if you haven’t booked a trip to the snow, it’s time to start planning. If you’re lucky you may still be able to find a bach near the skifields, even if your skiing/snowboarding time is restricted to the school holidays.

And if you’ve never wriggled your feet into ski boots, it’s not too late to learn. Those of you in the Auckland area can get into practice at Snowplanet, an indoor skifield at Silverdale.

New Zealand has five main ski areas, one in the North Island and four in the South. There are two commercial skifields on Mt Ruapehu and 13 in the South Island; plus around ten club fields around the country, and lots of heliskiing opportunities. Get the lowdown on all of them on in our snow guides, and from Snow.co.nz, the main hub on the web for skiing/snowboarding, with webcams, snow reports, forecasts and forums:

Get snow reports on Facebook

Check the latest from ski areas on Facebook, where nearly all the skifields have their own pages. You’ll find updates on what’s happening on the field, lots of photos and, most importantly, web cams, which are the most reliable sources of information you can find on ski conditions. A few examples:

Mt Ruapehu
Coronet Peak
Mt Hutt
Treble Cone

Make the most of midweek skiing

In both the North and South Islands, the ski season starts mid-late June and ends late September-October. School holidays are, of course, the busiest times. As are weekends.

There’s a lot to be said for doing your skiing/boarding during the week. It means your ski trip is less likely to begin with a 10km/hour crawl down the motorway on a Friday afternoon. And when you get to the mountain you won’t find yourself wasting precious time looking for a car park queuing for chair lifts, or trying to avoid other skiers and snowboarders once you hit the slopes.

What to take

As a bare minimum, wear layers; thermals underneath, waterproof on top - jacket, pants, gloves, beanie, sunglasses/goggles and sunscreen. Snowboarders need wrist guards, and extreme skiers/boarders, a helmet.

The commercial skifields have poles, boots and skis or boards for rent, plus jackets and pants but you’ll need to provide your own gloves, hats, etc.

How to ski on a budget

If you want to push the boat out and go heliskiing (which can cost anywhere from $750 to more than double that for a day) in the latest designer gear, go for it.

The more budget-conscious can keep costs down by renting skis/poles/boots/boards – it’s often cheaper to rent them in town than at the skifield. If you’re a regular, it’s probably cheaper to buy your own and you’ll get bargains by picking up your gear and clothes second hand or in end-of-season sales. Just make sure that you get the gear that’s right for you; ill-fitting boots or poles that are too short don’t make for happy skiing.

If you’re skiing/boarding regularly, a season pass is definitely worth it. And finally, ski clubs offer a cost-effective way of getting your fix, particularly if you pick up a midweek-only season pass, which can go for as little as $250 for an adult.

More info

Snow guide: Queenstown Lakes
Snow guide: Canterbury
Snow guide: Mt Ruapehu
Snow guide: Club and small commercial ski areas

For snow reports and weather forecasts, see Snow.co.nz. You can sign up here for snow reports and web cams to be delivered direct to your mobile, or your desktop.

The Metservice has mountain as well as weather forecasts:

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