Skiing the South Island: Schussing through the Southern Alps

While the Northern Hemisphere basks in summer, Kiwi snow bunnies are waxing their skis. Join them in their winter fun, schussing above the South Island tree line. Snow resorts cluster around tourist towns Queenstown and Wanaka, where mountains dominate the landscape. In this part of New Zealand, off-piste runs are measured in kilometres, the snow is measured in metres and local wineries measure out award-winning vintages for your après-ski pleasure.

Carving the Southern Alps

Be the very first to make your mark on the off-piste slopes at Treble Cone. The South Island’s largest ski resort nestles against the Southern Alps near Wanaka. Stop to catch your breath in just the right spot and you’ll be able to admire Mount Aspiring, towering above every one of the hundreds of peaks around.

Choices! Schuss the truly remarkable Remarkables,or ski backcountry slopes thick with pristine snow. Spend the morning conquering the groomed slopes, then ride the lift to the freestyle terrain of Lake Alta. Off-piste chutes and drop-offs will test your mettle and end your day on a natural high.

Skiing for families

Amped-up kids getting too much for you? Send them up the chairlift at family-friendly Mount Hutt. Runs here range from gentle to challenging and you can do your own ski thing while energetic instructors teach your kids new tricks. Cardrona Resort is also kind to beginners, meaning you can carve up spectacular terrain without breaking your neck.

Novice ski bunnies and adrenaline-fuelled intermediates head for Ohau Snow Fields, surrounded by no less than three World Heritage-listed mountain national parks. Groomed slopes here are always buried in powder because if Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate, Ohau’s snow guns will.

Backcountry and Nordic skiing

Pack up your skis and hop on a ski-plane that lands you smack-dab on the frozen Tasman Glacier. Stretching 27 white kilometres, the Tasman leads skiers into the shadow of Aoraki/Mount Cook, past sparkling icefalls and silver-blue caves sculpted by wind and snow. Serious adrenaline junkies head to the HeliPark,where choppers whisk you deep into mountain wilderness near Westland National Park.

Or make like a Norwegian: strap on a pair of cross-country skis and explore the snowy landscape at a slower pace. The Snow Farm, close to Wanaka, is the daddy of cross-country destinations and the only dedicated Nordic ski centre in New Zealand. Glide along 50km of groomed trails. Challenge yourself on hair-raising, hilly routes that twist through the snow-draped woods. Or try smoother paths perfect for beginners and skiers who want to snap alpine views.

Après-ski activities

Kick off your boots and rest up at Whakpapa ski area, where a day of skiing through Happy Valley typically finishes with happy hour. Booze-spiked coffee drinks and glasses of spicy New Zealand pinot keep things happy for some time in Queenstown lakeside hotel lounges.

As night settles in so does the hip crowd, in trendy bars like Tardis, Surreal and Bunker. Skiers in the know travel from both Wanaka and Queenstown to sip hot mulled wine or chilled pints around the courtyard fire of the old-world Cardrona Hotel. If a Tasman Glacier run has got you all tired and thirsty head to a different snowline; the Snowline Lounge at historic hotel The Hermitage for roaring log fires, panoramic mountain views, and some serious cocktail creations.