New Zealand’s winter season is a ton of fun, with some of the world’s best powder to be found.
Whakapapa, Ruapehu Alpine Lifts.
Fancy sliding down the snow-plastered face of an active volcano? The North Island's Mt Ruapehu is at the centre of the Ruapehu region, and is one of Tongariro National Park's mighty "three sisters", boasting three ski areas and the rare thrill of combining ice with fire in surreal sight of The Lord of the Ring's Mount Doom (the perfect cone in the clouds of Mt Ngauruhoe, as seen from Whakapapa ski area).
Trekking in Tongariro National Park.
Dominating the heart of the North Island, Mt Ruapehu is no more than half a day's drive from all the major cities, offering great accessibility, with both the Whakapapa and Tūroa facilities catering to all abilities from beginner skier/snowboarder to advanced. Happy Valley Snow Park at Whakapapa now has three new undercover carpet lifts, high speed access elevators, not to mention the addition to Whakapapa of a state-of-the-art snowmaking system – which allows the snow season to start from June and run until October! Ski towns Taupō, National Park Village and Ohakune are the ‘hosts with the most’, with Ruapehu Alpine Lifts (RAL) offering frequent shuttles leaving multiple times a day from all and taking you directly to NZ’s largest ski areas. This year you can be one of the first to ride the newly opened $25 million ‘Sky Waka’ Gondola - a high-speed, luxurious way to ride up to the top of Mt Ruapehu for a fun day of snow sports or lunch at New Zealand’s highest restaurant, The Pinnacles. For days away from the snow, there’s a huge selection of activities, from adrenaline-charged bungy jumping to relaxing scenic lake cruises, sailing trips and kayaking adventures in Taupō & Turangi, or mountain biking, hiking, railcarts and more in the Ruapehu area. See the striking white vistas from above with Mountain Air flights or Taupō’s Floatplane - their most popular flight takes you the full length of Lake Taupō, climbing up to 10,000 feet to take a look into the active crater lake. On the way down take in amazing views of the Tama Lakes, Mt Ngauruhoe, the emerald lakes and Mount Tongariro. Taupō makes an ideal base for exploring all the North Island winter season has to offer.
Mt Hutt Skifield.
The South Island is a major ski and snowboard destination in New Zealand with beauty, character and snow conditions unsurpassed in the Southern Hemisphere. Queenstown rolls out a red-carpet of powder-fuelled buzz for visitors and locals alike. Four ski fields – Coronet Peak, The Remarkables, Cardrona Ski Resort, and Treble Cone – are located within a 25 to 90 minute drive, offering plenty to excite and challenge beginners all the way through to experts. The pioneers of heli-skiing, Harris Mountains Heli-Ski, offer incredible high-adrenaline packages for Queenstown & Wanaka. If you like moving at a slower pace, then NZ Snowshoe can take you on guided snowshoe hikes through the spectacular Queenstown backcountry.
World-famous Wanaka, the only Southern Hemisphere destination to be named in National Geographic's 25 Best Ski Towns, is a more laid-back ski base than Queenstown despite its impressive title.
About 3 hours drive from Wanaka you’ll find Mt Cook (Aoraki), New Zealand’s highest mountain, and home to Tasman (Haupapa) glacier, an incredible 23 kilometres long. You can experience ice climbing and heli-hikes year-round with Mt Cook Glacier Guiding.
And you’ll want to visit Mt Hutt, just under two hours drive from Christchurch. Powder snow, sunshine and uncrowded slopes are the magic combination that unlocks a paradise of an internationally-renowned ski centre that's a must-do for keen skiers and riders.
In Christchurch it’s snow all year round at the International Antarctic Centre, where penguins and huskies strut their stuff for eager visitors. Dubbed ‘the closest you’ll get to Antarctica without mounting your own expedition’, this award-winning attraction is a fun day out for the whole family.
Harris Mountains Heli-Ski.
Header image: Mt Ruapehu looking towards Taupo.