Snow guide: club and small commercial ski areas

Guide image

Tukino. Photo: J Palmer

These resorts might be lower profile and less sophisticated than the big fields, but for those who appreciate queue-free lifts and cheaper prices, this is just the way they like it. Take the time to seek out these hidden gems and you might just find, like me, you’re hooked! While members of the club fields usually get big discounts on lift passes, have voting rights and do working parties, they also give a warm welcome to the public.

North Island

Tukino

Tucked away on the eastern side of Mt Ruapehu, this club operated field is protected from the prevailing winds so it’s often open when the other larger fields have to close. At Tukino you’ll find ski and snowboard lessons and rentals, cat skiing and ice climbing. Tukino has some of the mountain’s most challenging off-piste terrain. Those with Ruapehu Alpine Lifts season passes can ski mid week at Tukino for discounted rates. Tukino’s four wheel drive access road is 22km north of Waiouru on the Desert Road, or south from Turangi for 46.4km. You can book a shuttle service that operates from the 2WD car park (Base Camp) up to the Tukino Skifield. Phone 06 387 6294 to book the shuttle.. Other nearby towns are National Park, and Ohakune.

Vital stats

         
  • Base altitude 1680m
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  • Highest altitude 2020m
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  • Vertical drop 340m
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  • Average snow depth 81cm
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  • Famous for: its volunteer ski patrollers: where else will they help you dig a jump, shred The Wall, or take you on a back country tour to drop some chutes?
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More info | Where to stay: Mt Ruapehu

Manganui Ski Area

Manganui Ski Area, Taranaki
Photo credit: Manganui Ski area, Taranaki

Mt Taranaki (once known as Mt Egmont) can be seen around much of the central North Island, its dramatic cone rising out of the Taranaki plains. There are three lifts for all levels; 65% is advanced terrain. The ski area is a 45 minute drive from New Plymouth. There is no gear hire up at the ski area, so rent beforehand. Take good footwear and a backpack as it’s a 20 minute walk up from the carpark.There are gentle intermediate runs and bowls lower down, and steeper runs accessed by a long rope tow higher up.The nearest city is New Plymouth, 45 minutes away.

Vital stats


         
  • Base altitude 1260m
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  • Highest altitude 1680m
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  • Mt Taranaki Summit elevation: 2518 m
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  • Vertical drop 420m
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  • Average snow depth 85cm
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  • Famous for: smooth, wide sealed access road that doesn’t give you heart failure before you get onto the slopes.
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More info | Where to stay: Mt Taranaki

South Island

Rainbow Ski Area
Photo credit: Rainbow Ski Area

Rainbow

The South Island’s northernmost ski area, Rainbow is a great value ski club field open to all beginners, families and experienced skiers and boarders. But its relaxed non-commercial feel does not mean quality and safety are compromised. The skifield is open 4th July to mid-October, and has wide bowls, scenic ridgelines and a terrain park. There are ski and snowboard lessons and rental, and a cafe. When you buy a weekend day pass, you can upgrade and get a half-price Monday ski. Rainbow is about an hour and a half from Nelson airport and an hour and a half more or less from Blenheim, Picton and Murchison. Nearest village is St Arnaud, on the edge of the Nelson Lakes National Park. It’s 40 minutes away, along State Highway 63.

Vital stats

         
  • Base altitude 1540m
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  • Highest altitude 1758m
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  • Vertical drop 218m
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  • Average snow depth 69cm
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  • Famous for: half-price Mondays and stunning alpine ridge views
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More info | Where to stay: Nelson-Golden Bay

Mt Lyford Alpine Resort

Doug and Jenny Simpson’s high country sheep farm 60km west of Kaikoura had so much powder, they turned the sunny north-west facing slopes into a boutique snow resort 20 years ago. This is a heavenly place, but the access road is not for the faint hearted. You can take a shuttle from the top of Mt Lyford village if you want to keep your eyes shut… But once you’ve made it onto the wide open slopes, you’ll look out over the dramatic peaks and valleys of the Southern Alps. There’s a great learners’ area as well as challenging runs for intermediate and advanced skiers. After your day on the slopes, have a drink and a meal in front of the roaring fire at Mt Lyford Lodge at the bottom of the access road.

Vital stats

         
  • Base altitude 1249m
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  • Highest altitude 1750m
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  • Vertical drop 450m
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  • Average snow depth 103cm
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  • Famous for: Sunshine.
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More info | Where to stay: Hurunui District

Hanmer Springs Ski area

This friendly club ski field is made up of thee basins, with a variety of terrain with plenty of virgin snow for adventurous intermediate to advanced skiers and boarders who enjoy wide open spaces. If you’re not used to steep mountain access roads, you might prefer to take a shuttle from Hamner Springs 17kms below. This thriving alpine village is known for its gorgeous, steaming hot springs. There are a variety of restaurants, bars and boutique shops too.

Vital stats

         
  • Base altitude 1459m
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  • Highest altitude 1769m
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  • Vertical drop 310m
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  • Average snow depth 68cm
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  • Famous for: open since 1959; kids under 10 ski free with an adult
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More info | Where to stay: Hanmer Springs

Temple Basin

Temple Basin Ski Area
Photo credit: Temple Basin Ski Area

Despite its rugged alpine skiing in the heart of the Southern Alps, this club field has a huge variety of terrain spread over four basins for all levels. It’s an off-piste paradise - no grooming here. International snow-boarders give it top marks. It’s a 40-50 minute walk up from the carpark, with great views along the way. There’s a goods lift for your gear about 800m west of the carpark.Temple Basin’s car park beside State Highway 73 is 4kms west of the Arthur’s Pass Village. While this village has supplies and petrol, they can be expensive and limited, so you may like to stock up in Greymouth, Hokitika or Christchurch before you set off for the Alps. This area is a Mecca of walking tracks with truly spectacular mountain views.

Vital stats

         
  • Base altitude 1328m
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  • Highest altitude 1923m
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  • Vertical drop 420m
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  • Average snow depth 115cm
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  • Famous for: being in the heart of the Alps, with steep, big mountain terrain
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More info | Where to stay: Canterbury | West Coast

Craigieburn Valley Ski Area

Steep, deep and challenging, this club ski area is a favourite for hard-core expert skiers. There are three high-speed nutcracker tows, and a bit of a traverse gets you to some amazing terrain, such as the 600m vertical descent of Middle Basin. Mere mortals who can’t hack the steep chutes can enjoy hiking and ski touring in the area. There are no ski hire facilities on the mountain. Traveling west on Highway 73 toward Arthurs Pass, the Craigieburn Valley Ski Area turnoff is 9kms after Castle Hill Village, or about 15km from the top of the Porters Pass. The nearest town is Castle Hill Mountain Village, between the Torlesse and Craigieburn Ranges. It’s 110kms from Christchurch.

Vital stats

         
  • Base altitude 1310m
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  • Highest altitude 1811m
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  • Vertical drop 503m
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  • Average snow base 120cm
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  • Famous for: no grooming – it’s all offpiste
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More info | Where to stay: Canterbury

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Craigieburn Photo: Duane Shroeder
Piwa perched