New Zealand is the land of helicopters. They're involved in just about every kiwi outdoor activity. Mountain bikers, kayakers, hikers, hunters, fly-fishers, snowshoers, glacier walkers, and mountaineers all regularly use helis for access. It's only natural that skiers would see this was the transportational equivalent of peanut butter and jelly, and NZ has long had a reputation for great and (relatively) affordable heliskiing.
There's an awful lot to like about skiing in New Zealand. Epic terrain, empty slopes, cool locals and interesting, low-key ski areas. But there's not denying that conditions here can be tricky.
One of the most common conversations I have back in Australia is about the timing of people's ski trips here. For some reason, a lot of people end up planning their trips here in July. So let me make this really simple:
The best skiing in NZ is August and September. September typically has the most snow, but it gets pretty warm from mid September onwards, so it's hard to ski powder. August is the most reliable option for winter conditions.
Officially, the season here starts in June. Keep in mind that the club fields don't have snowmaking or grooming, so they're absolutely reliant on natural snowfall to open. Plus, rope-tows need enough snow on the tow-lines (where you get pulled up the slope) to open, so they need decent coverage to get started. Less than 50% of the last 6 seasons have opened in June. If you plan a trip here in June, there's a very good chance you'll end up sitting around in town, or skiing a strip of man-made snow down a groomer at a commercial field.
There's something of an art to getting the most out a ski trip to New Zealand, but getting the most out of storm is one of the most subtle, and rewarding, arts to master. If you're looking to get the best out of some bad weather, you need to think about visibility, wind, snowfall, avalanche danger, terrain and lift closures, and road closures...
It's opening weekend at some of the NZ club fields! If you're heading over for some turns this winter, be warned that the club fields have a few extra logistical quirks compared to a regular ski holiday.
There are no ski towns like you'd find in North America or Europe. Each club field is usually just a some weird lifts and few simple hut/lodge style buildings at the top of a sketchy dirt road. Temple Basin doesn't even have a road. That means that you want to have a few things squared away before you arrive.
With June almost upon us, you've either sorted out your NZ trip or you need to get cracking. What's that you say? You say you're not going to New Zealand? You're going to ski in Australia? Well. You're definitely not going to have a good time in New Zealand. That's a serious breach of step zero of skiing in NZ:
Step zero: Go to New Zealand
It would be a true feat of self deception to have a good time in NZ if you weren't actually there at all. And yet each year hundreds of otherwise reasonable and intelligent skiers and boarders fail at this most fundamental step.