South Island for Ski

Mid-September and we were headed to the South Island for our second NZ skiing experience, our first having been on the North Island in Whakapapa for a weekend. Once again as seasoned European skiers, used to the week long chalet style holidays we weren’t too sure what to expect. Here I’ve focused on a few questions that sprung to my mind!

Which ski-field and for how long?

Depending on your circumstances I’d make use of all the mountains for variety! with a bit of pre-planning this is completely viable and doesn’t involved silly amounts of driving. We had planned to do 1 day of skiing at each of the main mountains; Cardrona, Treble Cone, Coronet Peak and The Remarkables. For this we chose to split time between staying in Wanaka and Queenstown which we would definitely do again.Due to our timings we did one day at each and probably wouldn’t do more than 2 days at each. It’s worth mentioning that we went for Spring skiing in a season that has had minimal dumping some of the ski run sections had already been closed. Despite this we really enjoyed the snow, even when it went slightly slushy in the afternoons, it was more like powder than the slush that I remember!

How do I sort ski hire?

Plenty of options available around Queenstown, Christchurch and Wanaka. I hired from Torpeado7 in Queenstown which was handy as they also have a store in Wanaka so in case . had any problems with the gear I was covered. This coupled with the fact that they were offering 30% off at that time made it an extremely cost effective option in comparison to some of the other places. Plus I was very impressed with the quality of the ski gear I got.

What are the roads like/What car do I need to hire?

unadjustednonraw_thumb_3c45In fair weather conditions you will be fine getting up and down the mountain in a normal 2WD car, and although there may be a bit of skidding and you won’t feel quite as indestructible as you would in a larger car it’s fine. Snow chains need to be carried at all times in case of sudden changes in weather and you get stuck up the mountain For wintry conditions, snow chains are a must. There are snow chain lay-bys as you approach and ascend up the mountain. I can imagine that once those winding roads get icy, a bit of extra grip is very much needed!

What can I expect parking-wise up the mountain?

Again, not sure if it’s because we went towards the end of the season but the mountains were quiet and often only operating, 2-3 of the parking areas. In Cardrona and Treble Cone we were clearly ushered to our parking spot, whereas Coronet Peak was a bit of a free-for-all, perhaps as it was a bit quieter. Here they have a drop of option so you can drive right up to the main area to drop all your kit, before going to park the car. probably handy if it’s the whole family heading up the mountain.

Iconic, ‘apres’ bars?

The ‘apres ski’ culture is perhaps slightly tainted by the fact that you need to drive down the mountain and back to where your staying. While it’s not quite as seamless as skiing into a bar and skiing back to the chalet, it works. I thought this might be an aspect I’d find hard to adapt to but actually all good and saves the liver for an extra hour or so. One place that is definitely worth a stop if your in Cardrona, is the Cardrona Hotel….


Cosy inside with a roaring fire, with a lovely outdoor garden it’s perfect for a drink and snack before you head onwards. The mulled wine was great! There were also some very nice looking rooms and restaurant menu, so we have put it on our list to pop back and visit next time we’re in the area…

Favourite Ski Area?

we had differing views on this but for me it was definitely Treble Cone. It was the most interesting of areas terrain-wise and I could see that with a lot more snow it would easily be a playground of fun with some more testing steep sections. I actually also surprised myself by really enjoying Cadrona. It’s a friendly resort and has a good range of easy going intermediate runs so as long as you’re not expecting anything too steep it’s very enjoyable. Plus, you can never get bored of watching the ski park action.  Always amazed by their skills of flying and somersaulting through the air – definitely not for me!

Other tips?

  • If you’re heading there later in the season and it’s likely to be muddy, remember to take plastic bags to line the car with and to put your ski/snowboard boots on. I think we successfully managed to change the colour of our white car, inside and out.

Where we stayed;

There are obviously a number of options and am sure mostly we turn to to see where the deals are. We struck lucky and picked 2 great places to stay;

QueenstownHeartland Hotel – although we were looking for something a bit more rustic than a ‘hotel’ this place had a good offer on Great views over the lake and very comfortable ensuite room of high standard. Worked very well for what we needed and just a short stroll into town (5 mins or less). And they have parking.

Wanaka – Wanaka View Motel – Another great place to stay with a breathtaking view of Lake Wanaka on your doorstep. We stayed in an ensuite studio room with kettle and a fridge, perfect for what we needed as we tend to eat out. However there were also larger units which had a number of rooms and larger kitchen facilities ideal for families and self-catering.

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