New Zealand ski resorts come in many shapes and sizes and cater to all types of skiers and boarders. In the Canterbury Highlands area located about one hour from Christchurch you have access to some of the best skiing in New Zealand. There are 9 ski areas all within an hour or two of Christchurch International Airport including commercial resorts Mt Hutt and Porters.
A unique aspect of skiing in New Zealand is its club fields. Club ski fields are small private operations dotted throughout the Southern Alps. There is a high concentration of club fields in the Canterbury Highlands region and includes the likes of Craigieburn, Broken River and Mt Olympus. Be warned however, club fields have no-frills and most have very primitive lifting systems called nutcracker rope tows. At some of these fields you will need to be a strong skier or boarder just to ride the lifts.
The best family ski areas in the Canterbury Highlands region include Mt Hutt, Porters, Cheeseman (club field). Further south you will find Treble Cone and Cardrona located near the beautiful Lake Wanaka. And of course, the most popular and best known ski resorts in New Zealand Coronet Peak and The Remarkables located within easy reach of Queenstown (the adventure capital of the world!).
There is generally no on-mountain accommodation in New Zealand (with the exception of a number of the club fields which have very basic and very limited lodging available). The main ski towns around the South Island are geared up to cater to every budget and every desire from luxury boutique hotels and bed and breakfasts to major resorts and back packers. Methven accommodation is some of the cheapest you will find anywhere with beds starting at less than NZD$20 per night whilst Queenstown accommodation is more expensive yet relatively inexpensive for the quality compared to other ski towns around the world.
Getting to the ski fields on the South Island is reasonably straight forward. The main entry point is Christchurch International Airport. Many international flights arrive in New Zealand via Auckland with a domestic flight to Christchurch. There are regular flights from LA and San Francisco to Auckland. Most Australian capital cities have direct flights to Christchurch and also offer indirect flights via Auckland (often at a discounted rate for the inconvenience). It is important to note that many package deal include these indirect flights and you can easily lose a day travelling here.
Getting around New Zealand is very easy. It is such a small country that everything is within easy reach. There are many bus services available between major ski towns including Methven, Wanaka and Queenstown. If you are planning on visiting several ski areas then hiring a car is the way to go. Car hire in New Zealand is reasonably inexpensive particularly of there is two or more of you travelling together. Be aware that if you intend on driving up to the resorts, the roads have a reputation of being a bit scary and there is a high probability that you will need to fit chains for most resorts. From the major ski towns mentioned above, there are regular shuttle services that run between the towns and the ski areas so if the adventure of driving to a resort is all too much you can drive between towns and catch a lift up to the mountain each day.
If you do plan on skiing, don’t forget your ski travel insurance. A skiing accident can cost a fortune in helicopter and ambulance recovery from the mountain.