Guest Author - Carol Viau
It’s winter in the southern hemisphere and the ski resorts are open and ready for business. One great place to check out is the south island of New Zealand. In the area of Lake Wanaka, there are four resorts, Cardrona, Treble Cone, Snow Park NZ and Snow Farm.
Cardrona opened June 27, and the first customers on the chairlift were reward with bottles of Champagne! We can only guess that they may have put those aside for the end of their ski day. With a vertical drop of just over 5,000 ft, half of the terrain is for intermediate ability levels. All seven lifts are open, as are three of the four terrain parks. The half pipes will open later in the season, which continues until early October. There are apartments for rent within walking distance of the lifts, but no hotels.
Getting there: It is a 35-minute drive to Cardrona Alpine Resort from Wanaka,
an hour from Queenstown. A daily shuttle service is available to both.
Treble Cone is the biggest New Zealand resort, with almost 7,000 vertical feet. They also opened recently to decent conditions of 3 feet of snow. The majority of their runs are for intermediate and advanced skiers, but they do still have some beginner terrain and those two lifts are free this season! There are two lifts for the intermediate/advanced skiers, and those lifts cover a large amount of terrain. There is no lodging available at the ski area, as it is located in Mt. Aspiring National Park and on Department of Conservation land.
Getting there: A 35-minute drive from Wanaka, an hour and a half from Queenstown. Daily shuttle service available from both.
Snow Park NZ is a freestyle terrain park dedicated to that idea only. It is for both skiers and snowboarders of all ability levels. Snow Park NZ offers a superpipe, quarter pipe and a triple jump line. Over 40 features can be found in the form of jumps, rails, etc… They also offer a novice park and instruction to help participants progress with their skills. Accommodations are available onsite, in the form of bunk bed rentals or high-end apartments.
Getting there: A 25-mile drive from Wanaka and 35 miles from Queenstown. A rental car is necessary. There are no shuttles available.
Snow Farm is a cross-country resort that offers 17 trails for all ability levels. They even have a kids program for ages three through six! This season they are setting up a biathlon course. For anyone wanting to ski in and ski out for overnight stays along their trails, there are three huts available for a fee. Dog sled tours are also available from Snow Farm, and this is a unique way to experience the alpine environment.
Getting there: It is 25 minutes from Wanaka and 35 from Queenstown. A daily bus
shuttle is offered only from Wanaka.
For international travelers, you can fly via Christchurch (Wellington or Auckland) and connect to the regional carrier, Air New Zealand, to continue onto Wanaka or Queenstown. The latter will likely make for less expensive travel, but it is good to compare prices of flying into both. It is a five hour drive if you choose to fly in and out of Christchurch only.
New Zealand is a beautiful place, and the people are incredibly friendly. I highly recommend visiting both islands if you have the time.