New Zealand's Queenstown and Wanaka are the perfect winter holiday ski destinations
Queenstown and Wanaka are never more beautiful than in mid-winter. Simply flying into Queenstown Airport easily makes a holiday unforgettable. The glistening snow-topped peaks resemble clouds from 30,000 feet but as you descend you'll realize that jaggedly mountains dominating the skyline.
Explore the range of ski fields surrounding the area including sunny The Remarkables, friendly Cardrona and adventurous Treble Cone. Skiing in Queenstown creates a holiday in itself, you might be hard pushed to fit any other activities in once your on top of the world.
Credit: Cardrona Alpine Resort
Ski Season Dates for Queenstown and Wanaka
The ski season on New Zealand’s South Island generally runs from mid-June until early October. The exact dates for each ski field vary every winter depending on snow conditions.
Opening and closing dates are often flexible, so when the snow is good, expect to eek out a few extra dates in early season and spring.
Check out all the updated ski area opening dates for 2020!
Make sure you are aware of peak weeks to make sure you are booking flights, accommodation and ski rental early enough in advance. July is the busiest period during winter as Queenstown and Wanaka buzz with skiers and snowboarders.
If you’re keen to get the most out of your ski trip even during peak weeks then check out our ‘Inside Guide to getting the most out of your ski day’
New Zealand Ski Resorts
The Remarkables offers wide-ranging skiable terrain in an iconic location. A 45-minute journey up to the snow from Queenstown it can be helpful to get an early start to your ski day. The rewards are there though, especially when fresh morning snow glistens cold at over 1600 metres. The introduction of a new base building in 2015 makes skiing even more enjoyable with easy access to lifts and broad sunny decking for a quick coffee break. Read More>>
Coronet Peak is a perfect option for those who want quick access up and down the hill. A swift drive or bus ride to the ski resort means skiers can have a half-day on the mountain and experience Queenstown’s excitable energy. There is no need for excessively early starts, especially when staying in some of the nearby luxury accommodation and hotels. Despite a lower altitude compared to other nearby ski fields, the South facing aspect helps snow to stay cold and crisp throughout winter. Read More>>
One of New Zealand's most welcoming ski resorts, Cardrona is easily accessible from both Wanaka and Queenstown. The location and modern facilities, including a gondola installed for the 2017 season, complete a bustling ski field that makes life simple for beginners. The all-action ski resort enjoys a world-famous reputation becoming the home to international winter sports athletes from June through to October. Wide-open groomers, freestyle pioneers and smiling face, Cardrona has it all. Read more>>
Treble Cone provides eye-catching appeal for riders who like to explore the limit of skiing and snowboarding. The ski field is designed to cater for intermediate and advanced skiers with elongated steep runs. You’ll think you’re on top of the world as you carve the groomers and slash the pow while enjoying lakeside vistas. Freeriders joy at the backcountry terrain made accessible, especially on a powder day.
Queenstown Ski Accommodation
Queenstown is a busy multicultural town with ski accommodation to suit every budget. Many are perfectly placed to access the local ski resorts including Coronet Peak, The Remarkables and Cardrona.
Some lodgings are more ski friendly accommodation options that include ski lockers, shuttles and knowledgeable staff. For a selection of high-quality options check out hotels such as The Rees or The Spire or for private villas, Platinum Villas and Villa del Lago are ski impeccable choices. If you're looking for something particular, Relaxaway offer a selection of premier Queenstown holiday houses and apartments.
For more ski accommodation choices in Queenstown head over to our in-depth ‘Ski Friendly Accommodation in Queenstown’ guide.
Wanaka Ski Accommodation
Wanaka has truly grown into its own unique destination, shunning the tag of ‘Queenstown’s little brother’ and emerging as an organic stunning skier and snowboarder hangout. The appeal of Cardrona and Treble Cone ski fields is the big draw for most skiers but the added bonus of Lake Wanaka tops off this dreamy winter town.
As with any ski town, accommodation is in abundance here with the ideal setting for any and every visitor. You’ll find tranquil retreats, optimal locations and hangout lodges to suit.
For a selection of highly recommended options take a look at Lakeside Apartments and Wanaka Luxury Apartments. If you want some comfort but still want to get up to Treble Cone for first tracks then Edgewater Hotel is a winner.
For more information head over to our in-depth ‘Ski and Snowboard Accommodation in Wanaka’ guide.
Gone are the days of trekking into town to be met with long queues and poorly fitted ski and snowboard rental equipment. Pretty much everything is available for delivery in the 21st century thanks to the internet. This includes your ski rental.
Snopro Ski Hire provides a unique ski rental delivery service across Queenstown and Wanaka.
‘Make your ski holiday simple and stress-free with your very own ski concierge to deliver and custom fit the very latest in ski and snowboard gear. All in the comfort of your accommodation, we even return for support and pick up! This is the Snopro difference, and it comes standard!’
Snopro has even developed what we think is the world most advanced ski hire booking engine.
How To Get To the Slopes
So do you need a rental car for your ski holiday in Queenstown and Wanaka? A good question that naturally varies depending on the rest of your trip.
There are a number of transport options for getting to all of the local ski resorts. Queenstown visitors have plentiful bus options for getting to Coronet Peak, The Remarkables and Cardrona.
NZSki runs a daily bus timetable for people looking to get up to The Remarkables and Coronet Peak.
Cardrona Alpine Resort provides skiers with busses that serve both Wanaka and Queenstown.
Treble Cone may be a touch harder to access from Queenstown mainly due to the extended travel time. It is readily accessible from Wanaka via a shuttle bus that delivers you for a full ski day.
While the bus services provide a handy option they can quite quickly restrict the flexibility of your ski day. You might find that you are on the mountain early in the morning until late afternoon. Not ideal if you have more than skiing planned for your winter holiday.
Having a rental car may well be a good choice for freedom and simplicity. Jump in the car when you're ready in the morning. Don’t worry too much about alarm clocks and bus timetables. However, it may still pay to get an early start in order to get a parking spot near the slopes and avoid queues. Take care when self-driving as weather can often be hazardous and snow chains are required to be carried throughout the season.
A selection of other transport choices are available to suit including buses or private transfers. It could be well worth paying for private transport if you are a large group. It may well be cheaper than everyone buying individual bus tickets.
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Buying a Ski Pass
Buying a ski pass for any of the premier ski areas in Queenstown and Wanaka is straightforward. You are able to preorder a pass online for Coronet Peak, The Remarkables, Cardrona and Treble Cone.
NZSki who operate Coronet Peak and The Remarkables have an office situated in the centre of Queenstown. It’s super handy and a massive time saver to pick up your passes from the Snow Centre the night before. It’ll save you time queuing in the morning. The NZSki pass is a handy one too as it gives you access to both their ski resorts.
Cardrona has offices in both Queenstown and Wanaka that enable you to pre-buy your ski passes before arriving on the mountain. Stay ahead of the queues and grab a pass in town.
Treble Cone ski passes are available from Wanaka, pop into their office for a swift start to your ski day.
It is possible to buy lift tickets on arrival at your chosen resort. This might be pretty painless at quiet times of the winter. As you may have gathered, it is generally advisable to grab a pass the day before you intended to ride to avoid queues when you could be skiing.
Apres Ski and Restaurants
Farelli's Trattoria - Perfect for families looking for a relaxing evening. Casual, rustic Italian dining in Central Queenstown.
Ivy & Lola’s - On Lake Wakatipu shores, in the Steamer Wharf building, Ivy & Lola’s serve up hearty food with an emphasis on seasonal ingredients and locally-sourced produce.
Thai Cuisine - Tasty dishes that arrive sizzling hot in no time at all. Casual Thai eatery featuring a menu of curries, noodles & wok dishes.
Atlas - A favourite local hangout serving craft beers and famously good steaks. Atlas is a friendly, unpretentious bar, hidden away at the back of Steamer Wharf.
Harry’s Pool Bar - If you’re looking for music, beers, pizza and endless games of pool. Home to 7 pool tables, wide screen TVs, large open fire and relaxing lounge area.
The World Bar - An awesome spot for afternoon and evening drinks, chunky burgers, teapot cocktails, craft beer and all sorts of events & live music.
Looking for some family-friendly activities? Have a look at these 6 Family Friendly Apres-Ski Choices in Queenstown
Francesca’s Italian Kitchen - Always busy and a mainstay of Wanaka’s restaurant scene offering delicious Italian food and marvellous service.
Federal Diner - Feeling like a long lazy morning before hitting the slopes? Federal Diner will open their arms and serve up yummy breakfast and a good cup of coffee.
The Spice Room - There’s always time to squeeze a curry in, especially if you need warming up after a long day out in the cold.
Cardrona Hotel - Sitting at the bottom of Cardrona Alpine Resort its the ideal place for a few drinks for apres-ski.
Water Bar - If you just want a hangout spot for a few beers then Water Bar will do just nicely. Beers, snacks and live music, sorted.
Gin & Raspberry - A touch of luxury with stunning views. Sip a cocktail on their balcony, there’s no better sight than New Zealand’s natural beauty.
Looking for some more family-friendly activities? Have a look at these 5 Family Friendly Apres-Ski Choices in Wanaka
Night Skiing in Queenstown
Coronet Peak’s unique night skiing adds a sparkle to your ski holiday in Queenstown. As of 2018 it now extends to 3 nights a week from late June until mid-October. From 4pm to 9pm watch from above as the sun sets and Queenstown lights up, all the while carving the cold crisp snowy groomers. Even grab yourself a pizza, crack a local beer and enjoy happy vibes under the New Zealand’s clear starry skies.
Let’s be honest there’s no shortage of things to do in Queenstown and Wanaka. You may even be exhausted from exploring the ski resorts across both lakeside towns. But you only live once right? Adding another lighting rod of colour, fun and excitement are events and festival throughout the winter that locals and visitors love.
Luma Light Festival - Using Queenstown’s unique alpine canvas as a giant amphitheatre for local, national and international talent to paint with light.
Winter Festival - Queenstown plays host to Winter Festival year upon year, decade upon decade. Fun, live music and snow await, both in town and up on the hill at Cardrona.
Gay Ski Week - Jam-packed with amazing events, including dance parties, apres ski, cabaret and ski and boarding, the festival is the perfect week for people to show their true selves in an accepting, supportive and fun community.
Mountain Film Festival - The NZ Mountain Film and Book Festival travels to Queenstown and Wanaka presenting a wide range of films, guest speakers, workshops and presentations from inspirational adventurers from within NZ and around the world.
Snopro Ski Hire is delivering ski rental across Queenstown and Wanaka. Our aim is to provide awesome service along with your equipment. We only employ ski tech's with a passion for the snow, so they know all the ins and outs of skiing in Queenstown and Wanaka. If you've still got any more questions after reading this guide then don't hesitate to ask us!