Where to stay in New Zealand
New Zealand’s skiing is really split into two worlds. There’s the tourism oriented ski areas in the Southern Lakes District (Queenstown and Wanaka) which have major commercial resorts clustered around towns that cater to tourists all year round, and then there’s ski areas that are really aimed at locals. These are scattered all over the place but the largest concentration of them is in Canterbury near Christchurch. This includes commercial fields (large and small) as well as some small ski areas built, operated and maintained by local clubs.
In the Southern Lakes, the usual ski town accommodation model applies. You can stay in town, there are bars and ski shops and supermarkets and all the usual things. Each day you drive up to a ski area but there are also buses and taxis and all the usual visitor amenities. If you don’t want to ski there are plenty of other things to do (the region thrives on summer tourism so there’s the usual gamut of bungee jumping/jet boating/shopping type things). The one unusual thing about this area is that there is really limited on-mountain accommodation. The vast majority of skiers/boarders commute roughly 30 minutes from town to a ski resort and back each day.
Canterbury doesn’t really follow the ski town approach. Most of the customers coming up to ski live nearby, so they don’t need hotels or other tourist facilities. They either drive to and from home or stay on the mountain. Most of the Canterbury fields have on-mountain accommodation. It’s fairly limited (maybe 50 people might stay on a moderately busy night) but there generally aren’t many people skiing at these ski areas (on a quiet day there could be 10 guests) so it all balances out.
This can be a bit confusing if you’re used to the normal winter holiday “stay in a ski town and have everything sorted out for you” model. If you want to ski in Canterbury you need to be a little more independent.
We’ve set out the main places to stay for skiing and boarding on the South Island. They cater to really different groups of people who want different things. Some have great resort skiing and convenient facilities. Some have no resort skiing and you need a helicopter to do all the good stuff. Others don’t even have an access road but once you’re there you’ve got ski-in-ski-out accommodation and epic terrain on your doorstep.
All of this information is intended to help you plan the rough outline of your trip. It should give you an idea of what kind of area to go to for your flavour of winter holiday. After that it’s up to you - all these places have plenty of information online. Happy planning! We’ll see you in the hills.