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Coronet Peak ski field seen from Queenstown, New Zealand

Hit the slopes in NZ: Queenstown ski trip guide

Queenstown is one of my favourite places to visit for a winter ski trip.

It’s pretty appealing for snow-loving Sydneysiders like me to head on over to Queenstown for a winter holiday. A quick 3 hour flight from Australia’seast coast takes us to ZQN airport, then the nearby ski fields are under an hour’s drive away.

For context, driving from Sydney to the Snowy Mountains in New South Wales takes about 5 hours, which means that accessing the snow in our home state takes just as long as it does to get to the mountains in New Zealand (a whole different country).Weird how that works, huh!

The mountains in Queenstown follow the Southern Hemisphere ski season with snow covering the peaks from June to October. While the ski fields are definitely not as big as some of the Australian ones, the biggest drawcard for a Queenstown ski trip is that you can stay in the centre of town where there is cheaper accommodation, bars and restaurants galore, and a choice of alpine areas that you can hop between pretty easily for variety in your ski days.

If you’ve never been skiing in New Zealand, I would highly recommend planning a ski trip to Queenstown. It’s an amazing winter destination that has something for everyone, whether it’s your first-time attempting to slide down a mountainside or you’ve been doing it for years. Here’s all my tips for hitting the slopes in NZ on a Queenstown ski trip!


Cardrona Alpine Resort, Queenstown NZ
The beginners area at Cardrona Alpine Resort

Which ski fields are near Queenstown?:

Coronet Peak:

The closest ski field to Queenstown is Coronet Peak which is only 20 minutes drive from town. This spot is jokingly nicknamed Concrete Peak as the snow up there is fairly exposed and therefore can get icy and hard underfoot. The ski field has 3 chairlifts and 4 surface lifts covering 280 hectares of terrain.

Coronet Peak’s proximity to town is obviously convenient and it’s the only Queenstown ski field that offers night skiing (on Wednesday and Friday evenings), but I personally didn’t enjoy this spot as much as the others. It may be best to visit on the days after there’s been a fresh dump of powder on top.

The Remarkables:

The Remarkables is only 35 minutes drive from Queenstown, making it the second closest ski field. I really loved skiing at The Remarkables as it had some great green/blue runs (easy-intermediate level) for beginners or people like me who just enjoy cruising downhill at a lazy pace.

Although it has limited food and drink facilities, this ski field still offers 4 chairlifts and 4 surface lifts covering 385 hectares of terrain. It’s also fairly protected from the elements, so the snow and weather conditions are generally nicer than at Coronet Peak.

Cardrona:

Cardrona takes a little longer to drive to at just over an hour away, but I think it’s my favourite of all the ski fields near Queenstown. It has more lifts and terrain (400 hectares) that is evenly distributed between ski abilities, so you might enjoy this spot if you’re more of an intermediate or experienced skier. Also, Cardrona has more on-mountain facilities than the other ski fields to account for the remote location, plus the views from the mountaintop on a clear day are super incredible!

The Remarkables ski area in Queenstown, New Zealand
Chairlift at The Remarkables

Queenstown ski lift passes + pricing:

The Remarkables and Coronet Peak are both run by the same company, so a lift pass for either of these will grant you access to both mountains. A regular day pass is $139 NZD for an adult, and the tickets get slightly cheaper if you book for 2 or more consecutive days. There are also discounted tickets available for students, children, and seniors, or you can choose to go for an afternoon pass or learner’s area pass for a cheaper price.

Cardona is on a separate ticket.A regular day pass costs $140 NZD for an adult, and the price is also discounted for multiple days. Cardrona has the benefit of being slightly cheaper if you go in the shoulder season which usually starts at the beginning of September. You can also use your Cardrona lift pass at the nearby Treble Cone ski field, though this spot is further away from Queenstown at about 1 hour and 40 minutes drive.

Driving up to The Remarkables in Queenstown, New Zealand
Driving up to The Remarkables

How to get to the ski fields from Queenstown:

Driving:

I normally drive up to the ski fields as I travel during the shoulder season when there is plenty of parking available on mountain.If you’re renting a car, check with the hire company that you will be allowed to take it up to the ski fields as some might not allow it, and be sure to rent snow chains as these will be required for most vehicles.

If you’ll be travelling during peak season and aren’t making an effort to arrive at the ski fields early, you may find the parking areas closest to the resorts are full. There are additional parking lots available lower down the mountain at both Coronet Peak and The Remarkableswith free shuttle buses running to the resort entrance. At Cardona, there is a large overflow parking lot at the base of the mountain with a free shuttle bus that takes passengers up the mountain every half hour.

Driving time from Queenstown (approx):

  • Coronet Peak: 20 minutes
  • The Remarkables: 35 minutes
  • Cardrona: 1 hour 10 minutes

Buses:

There are bus options for getting between the ski fields and Queenstown. Tickets for Coronet Peak and The Remarkables cost $15 NZD for the return day trip (or $10 NZD if youcombine it with lift tickets), with buses departing the Duke Street Bus Station every 30 minutes from 8:00AM-11:30AM (and additional buses in the afternoon for the days when there is night skiing at Coronet Peak).

For Cardrona, a daily bus with various pick up points leaves Queenstown in the early morning and returns in the late afternoon. Tickets cost $35 NZD return and must be booked a few days in advance.

Tours:

If you’d prefer to jump on a group tour, Contiki has an Ultimate NZ ski tour option which is based in Queenstown and visits all of the best alpine resorts nearby. This would be great if you’re travelling solo or if you’re hoping to make some new ski buddies! The tour includes accommodation, lift passes, and transfers to the ski fields so basically everything is already organised for your trip.

The Remarkables ski area in Queenstown, New Zealand
Rob learning to snowboard at The Remarkables

Where to rent ski gear in Queenstown:

You have the choice of renting ski gear from a store in town or renting on the mountain. If you’ll only be skiing for one day then I’d suggest getting your rental gear at the ski resort. It’s a little more expensive but it means you won’t have to carry the gear outside of the ski field. This is what I did last time as I just did one day in The Remarkables and one day at Cardrona, and I found the rental process easy. You can just turn up and organise it all on arrival–there’s no need to book ahead.

If you’ll be doing a few days of skiing at different mountains, it will be cheaper and easier to rent your gear in town then take it with you up the mountain each day. Some of the best rental shops options areOne Stop Snow Shop, Green Toad Snowboard & Ski, or Brown’s Ski Rental. If you want to leave your gear at the ski fields overnight to use again the next day, there are lockers at the resorts that you can rent for storage.

Cardrona Alpine Resort, Queenstown NZ
A blizzard at Cardrona Alpine Resort

Where to stay in Queenstown:

Cardrona is the only ski field that offers on-mountain accommodation. There are a limited number of rooms and they can fill up months in advance, so get your hand on one of these early if that’s the kind of ski holiday you are looking for.

Everyone else stays in Queenstown then travels up the mountain each day. This has its benefits, as accommodation in Queenstown is less expensive than some other winter destinations. Just be prepared to book well in advance as hotels can book up if you leave it too late.

In the past, I have stayed in a number of hotels as well as Airbnb holiday homes around Queenstown. If you’ll have a car, then it might be worth staying a little outside of town for cheaper prices and parking availability. If you’ll be relying on the buses to get to the ski fields each day, then you should stay as close to the bus terminal as possible to lessen the amount of walking you have to do with your gear each morning.

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