Here’s a quick rundown of the terms we use for fitness level and skier ability. They’re based on the kind of snow and terrain we usually ski and the sorts of days we typically do, so they might not align with what you’ve seen elsewhere.
So you’re doing the research and trying to rally the troops for a winter trip. Maybe you’re looking for a 3 day “All you can slay” powder buffet in Hokkaido. Or a 10 day balanced diet of pow, ramen and onsens. Or maybe you want to put first tracks into some chutes in the Craigieburn Range, or link up some alpine passes in Aoraki-Mt Cook National Park.
Whatever you’re planning, here are some tips from us to get the most out of your trip.
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.