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In the South Island, the Southern Alps have more than 13 different fields within a day’s drive of each other. A smorgasbord for powder junkies.
Large and established ski fields like Mt Hutt near Christchurch and Treble Cone near Wanaka are world-famous for their diverse terrain and great facilities. But a couple of smaller club fields offer a rootsier experience for the snow connoisseur.
In the south – Rainbow Ski Area
Rainbow Ski Area rental supervisor Jake Parker has become a familiar face to many Marlborough skiers. Photo courtesy of The Marlborough Express.
Rainbow Ski Area is an easy drive from the Picton Cook Strait ferry terminal and regarded as one of the best value options in the country. It’s a relatively small field with mainly easy to intermediate terrain, perfect for beginners and families.
Rainbow is a good place to escape the glamour and clamour of the larger fields. This is where you’re most likely to catch a glimpse of a quintessentially Kiwi phenomena: a farmer skiing in their swandris. You’ll also enjoy the spectacular views of Nelson Lakes National Park, with its extensive beech forest and picturesque Lake Rotoiti.
In the north – Manganui, Taranaki
In the North Island the largest and most popular ski fields are Whakapapa and Turoa – both on the iconic Mt Ruapehu. They’re the closest reliable snow options to Auckland and Wellington so they tend to get crowded when conditions are good.
For something a little different – and quieter – head west to the conical peak of Mt Taranaki. The Manganui Ski Area is 54km from New Plymouth, which is about a four-hour drive from the Cook Strait ferry terminal in Wellington.
Manganui is a slightly more challenging proposition than Rainbow, with 65% of runs classified as advanced, but there is plenty of beginner-friendly terrain too. They don’t offer lessons or equipment hire, but you can rent gear in New Plymouth.
With a mix of nutcrackers, rope tows and t-bars, don’t expect high-speed quads or gondolas. This is skiing (or boarding) the old-fashioned way. Simple, affordable and a whole heap of old-school fun.
Mt Taranaki towers over a district renowned for its gorgeous scenery and wild coastline so the views on clear days are jaw dropping.
The cold southerly fronts that sweep over New Zealand from the Roaring Forties at this time of year make life tough for commuters and farmers but if you’re a skier or snowboarder, you’ll love them for their promised load of white stuff.