ULTIMATE Guide to Skiing in Queenstown

Views from the top of Coronet Ski Resort in winter

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Queenstown is a snow chaser’s paradise and one of the top ski destinations in New Zealand. With three excellent ski fields all less than an hour’s drive from the center of town you’re definitely spoiled for choice if you choose to ski in Queenstown. In total, there’s a huge 1560 hectares of combined skiable terrain to ski here, and with great yearly snowfall, you won’t have trouble finding some serious powder in Queenstown.

Skiing is one of the best things to do in New Zealand and I don’t think Queenstown could be any more appealing as a ski destination. With three excellent ski fields; a fun après ski scene and the gorgeous Southern Alps scenery – personally, I think Queenstown is the best choice for a ski vacation in the Southern Hemisphere.

But where should you go? How do you get there? And what about rentals?

Well, as a Queenstown local who actually spent my first ski season ever in Queenstown I had to answer all those questions for myself. But luckily for you, in this blog, I’ll share it all so you can be prepared for an awesome trip skiing (or snowboarding) in Queenstown! After all, it’s one of the best winter activities you can do here!

Skiing in Queenstown FAQs

A snowboarder flys over a jump at Cardrona Ski Resort
Even the most serious of skiers and snowboards can test themselves skiing in Queenstown

Did you know – Kiwis say “ski fields”, whereas Americans typically say “ski resorts”.

Best Time to Go Skiing in Queenstown/Weather

A snowboarder lays in deep powder snow at The Remarkables Ski Resort near Queenstown
At the right time of year you can get some serious powder!

The best time to go skiing in Queenstown is during the peak of the Winter months of July and August. This is when the ski fields in Queenstown receive the most snowfall. It’s also when temperatures drop giving the snow the best chance to stay soft.

Temperatures during the winter months in Queenstown range from 4 to 9°C (39-48°F) during the day. It gets much colder here at night with temperatures reaching as low as -6°C (21°F). At the ski fields, temperatures are much cooler and skiers should expect daytime temperatures around -4 to -10°C. With that said, you can get days above 0 which make for awesome spring skiing conditions!

Annual snowfall at Queenstown ski fields ranges from 2.7 to 3.7 meters, which is a lot lower than North America, Canada, and Japan. But, the ski fields here have excellent snow-making capabilities meaning you will always have decent conditions during ski season. On fresh powder days, you can expect anywhere from 5cm to 20cm of snow.

The ski fields here are typically open from mid-June to early October. Both Cardrona and Coronet Peak ski fields open in the middle of June whilst The Remarkables opens a week later every year. The closing of the ski season in Queenstown is the first week of October for both Coronet Peak and The Remarkables whereas Cardrona stays open longer until approximately October 18th.

Obviously, these dates are dependent on weather conditions but it gives you a rough idea. You should check the expected opening date of the year you plan on going and never plan your trip for the first or last week as the ski field could be closed.

Queenstown Ski Fields

Views from the top of Coronet Peak
The views from Coronet Peak are the best of all three ski fields!

There are three excellent ski resorts (or as Kiwis call them, “ski fields”) within easy driving distance of Queenstown. The options for skiing in Queenstown are The Remarkables; Coronet Peak and Cardrona Alpine Resort. All three are a fantastic choice for skiers and snowboarders of all abilities.

The closest ski field to the center of Queenstown is Coronet Peak, being just a 25-minute drive away means it’s a very popular choice for locals. It has, however, earned the not-so-nice nickname of ‘Concrete Peak’ due to the icy nature of some of the runs. But, it has a fun night skiing event three times a week plus spectacular rollercoaster style terrain.

My personal favorite choice for skiing in Queenstown is The Remarkables, it’s a 40-minute drive from central Queenstown. There’s a good variety of runs at The Remarkables plus if you’re keen on park snowboarding or skiing then this is the mountain for you.

Cardrona Alpine Resort is a further drive away and is in fact closer to the popular town of Wanaka than it is to Queenstown Driving to Cardrona from Queenstown will take you 45 minutes to an hour. Cardrona is a great choice for experts with a huge jump park as well as beginners since they run a very good ski school here. It’s also home to a huge variety of dining options as well as a childcare center and a ski school kindergarten for the children. It is the largest ski field in the Queenstown area.

Below, I’ve included more details on each ski field so you can make the right choice for your Queenstown ski holiday!

1. The Remarkables

The Remarkables Ski Resort from the bottom of the mountain looking up the curvy basin chairlift
I love blue bird days at The Remarkables!

Getting from Queenstown to The Remarkables

It’s a 40-minute drive from downtown Queenstown to The Remarkables ski area. To get there, follow Frankton Road out of Queenstown towards the airport, turn right onto State Highway 6 and The Remarkables is very well signposted from here. The road up to the top is steep and windy and is for the most part a gravel road, so caution is needed and of course, drive slowly. Always carry snow chains too – it is required.

There are a few parking lots at the top as well as lower parking lots that you need to catch a bus from. The earlier you arrive the more likely you are to get one of the top spots. Don’t worry though, the bus is free and runs regularly.

If you don’t drive then you can catch one of the ski shuttles which departs from the Snow Centre in Queenstown. Prices for this start at $15 NZD return. There is an option to be picked up from your accommodation and this is priced at $25 return. Departure times for this are every 30 minutes between 8:30 am and 11:30 am. Be sure to arrive early though as the line can get very long.

The Remarkables ski passes and prices

  • A Superpass is priced at $139 NZD for an adult (aged 18 and over) for one day. If you want to ski for two days it’s priced at $129 NZD per day and for three days $99 per day.**For 2021, all adult, child, and senior full-day lift passes are Superpasses. Your Superpass gives you access to ski at Coronet Peak, The Remarkables, or Mt Hutt ski areas!
  • A 3 Peak Season Pass (includes The Remarkables; Coronet Peak & Mt Hutt) is priced from $899
  • A Lift Lesson & Rental Pass (includes a full day lift pass, group lessons, and ski/snowboard equipment rental. is priced at $269 per adult per day
  • The Lift & Rental Pass is priced at $159 per adult per day
  • A Beginner Pass is priced at $78 it includes access to the beginner surface lifts at Coronet Peak or The Remarkables
Climbing high at The Remarkables Ski Field
The best runs require a little more effort than the chairlift!

Why ski at The Remarkables

As I mentioned earlier, “Remarks” as it’s locally known, is my favorite ski field in Queenstown – it’s a very popular choice with locals because it tends to be quieter than Coronet Peak but has better conditions. It also has an excellent learning area if you’re not so confident in the snow and really smooth green runs.

There are 385 hectares of terrain here and a 468-meter vertical drop. The trail stats are as follows: 30% beginner, 40% intermediate, and 30% black. The sunny north-facing terrain means that on those bluebird days there’s no better place to be. The jump park is one of the best with a great learner, intermediate, and expert area. If you love getting off the groomed trails, the backcountry runs here are also some of the best.

Conveniently too there’s a restaurant and café as well as two bars. In fact, it’s probably got the largest restaurant area of all three ski areas- with soaring glass walls and incredible views. The outdoor decks have gorgeous views too of the surrounding snow-capped peaks.

Related read: During the summer in Queenstown you can still visit The Remarkables and hike one of the best trails in QueenstownLake Alta Track!

2. Coronet Peak

Coronet Peak Ski resort chairlift the Coronet Express
Coronet Peak!

Getting from Queenstown to Coronet Peak

Coronet Peak is the closest ski field to the center of Queenstown, it’s about a 25-minute drive (16 km distance) away via Arthurs Point. The road to the top is sealed, which is very rare for New Zealand.

You can either drive yourself or hop on on the Coronet Peak Ski Bus. The Ski Bus departs every 30 minutes between 8:30 am and 12:00 pm from outside the Snow Centre on Duke Street in town. This option is priced at $15 NZD return. There is an option to be picked up from your accommodation and this is priced at $25 return. It’s the same timetable as the bus to The Remarkables.

Coronet Peak ski passes and prices

  • A 3 Peak Season Pass (includes 3 mountains – The Remarkables; Coronet Peak & Mt Hutt) starts at $899 per adult
  • A Superpass (includes Coronet; Remarkables & Mt Hutt) is priced at $139 for an adult (aged 18 and over) for one day. If you want to ski for two days it’s priced at $129 per day and for three days $99 per day.
  • A Multi-Day 4 Day pass is $340 per adult; a 5 Day pass is $375 per adult and 6 Day is $420 per adult
  • Night Ski Pass is priced at $65 **Night skiing is available between 4-9 pm Wednesdays and Fridays from 25th June – 27th August with Saturday Night Ski on 10th, 17th, 24th July, and 14th August
  • A Twilight Pass (valid from 12:30 pm to 9 pm on Wednesday, Friday, and some Saturday nights) is priced at $139 per adult
  • Beginner Pass is priced at $78 per adult
  • Lift Lesson & Rental Pass is priced at $269 per adult
Falling over at Coronet Peak Ski Resort
Skiing isn’t always fun! After a hard fall it can be daunting to get back on your skis!

Why ski at Coronet Peak

A big bonus is Coronet Peak offers night skiing on Wednesday, Friday, and certain Saturday nights. This event starts at 4 pm and finishes at 9 pm. Night skiing is a very cool and unique experience and is an event that attracts lots of friendly locals. There are wide floodlight lit trails, a heated outdoor deck to enjoy a cozy après-ski, and live DJs. Night skiing at Coronet Peak is definitely worth adding to your bucket list!

Also, Coronet Peak’s short drive from Queenstown means you can do the popular “first tracks” option from 8 am-9 am and be back down in time for breakfast (or even work) in town. A downside to it being so close to Queenstown is that the runs (particularly on weekends) can be very busy!

Some finer details for Coronet include it has 280 hectares of skiable terrain and 462 meters of vertical drop. There’s not much opportunity for backcountry skiing here though. The runs are mostly open (no trees) which is great on a sunny day but it means there’s less visibility on cloudy days.

There’s a varied selection of dining options on Coronet Peak with 3 restaurants in the base building and a stunning mountain restaurant called Heidi’s Hut, over at Rocky Gully.

Unfortunately, Coronet Peak doesn’t receive a lot of snowfall (just 2 meters annually) that’s due to its relatively low elevation. The snow guns are working regularly though to ensure good ski conditions.

3. Cardrona Alpine Resort

Cardrona ski Resort as seen from one of the ski runs
Cardrona is a big ski resort with lots of runs and jumps!

Getting Queenstown to Cardrona Alpine Resort

Cardrona is a 55-minute drive from Queenstown via Crown Range Road. Driving the Crown Range Road is one of the best road trips on the South Island and if you can, make the trip from Queenstown to Wanaka. In winter, Crown Range Road can become icy so snow chains are required. Once up Crown Range Road, you’ll still need to drive up to Cardrona which is accessed via a windy gravel road that also requires lots of care.

You can catch a bus which is a little pricier than the option to Remarkables and Coronet as it’s a longer drive (55 minutes to an hour each way). The price is $55 return per adult and there are over 24 pick-up points in Queenstown and the surrounding area. Personally, this is the best option especially if road conditions aren’t the best.

Getting to Cardrona is quicker from Wanaka. Wanaka is also a great place to go skiing with a few nearby ski fields. Consider staying in Wanaka for your ski holiday as opposed to Queenstown for something a little different.

Cardrona ski passes and prices

  • A Season Pass (for Cardrona only) starts at $799 per adult. Including Treble Cone the Season Pass starts at $1099 per adult.
  • A lift pass is $140 per adult for a full day and $99 for a half-day.
  • A 1-Day Learner Pass is $70 per adult
  • A Multi-Day Ski pass is priced from $270 for two days of skiing up to $500 for 5 days
  • A 1-day ski school pass costs $165 for adults and $125 for kids and includes two 2-hour lessons. You can also do two days for $230 and $180 respectively.
  • A 1-day lift pass with gear rentals included is $175

You can book your lift pass for Cardrona here!

A chairlift at Cardrona Ski Resort
Up up we go!

Why ski at Cardrona

Cardrona typically runs a longer ski season, with the 2021 winter season running from June 12 – October 17.

It’s the perfect mountain to learn to ski on with gentle beginner slopes and a highly rated ski school. For the more experienced skier and snowboarders, there are terrain parks, half-pipes, and challenging black runs. In fact, Cardrona delivers the Southern Hemisphere’s most extensive terrain park facilities. The backcountry terrain is great here too for all you expert skiers.

Cardrona is the best option for kids with a fully licensed childcare center (for children from three months to five years old) and even a ski school kindergarten.

Cardrona receives 2.7 meters of snowfall annually but because it’s south-facing the snow generally stays on the ground longer than other ski fields in the area. Like the other ski fields in Queenstown, snow machines are used consistently on most runs.

Offering a whopping 8 food and beverage options you’re spoiled for choice! You can choose from a pizzeria on Captain’s Basin to a noodle bar on the top floor of the Snow Sports HQ. In the Base building there’s casual dining downstairs, and upstairs is The Mezz which offers table-service dining.

If you want to experience somewhere a little different for lunch or dinner then head on down to the Cardrona Hotel – the oldest pub in New Zealand. It has an award-winning restaurant situated in a very pretty historic building. In fact, this is the most photographed building in all of New Zealand and home to some of the best craft beer in Queenstown.

Related read: Weather got you hiding inside? Check out the best indoor activities in Queenstown.

Renting Ski Gear in Queenstown

A snowboarder with rental gear at The Remarkables Ski Area

For sheer convenience renting your ski gear on the mountain is the way to go. You don’t have to lug all your equipment back and forth in your car or on the ski shuttle. On top of that, they offer ski and rental passes. With that said, you don’t have as much variety in the type of equipment you can rent.

Renting your ski gear from one of the many stores in Queenstown means you have a better variety of equipment available and typically better quality equipment too. Because there’s so much competition in town it means you can usually get a great price. Most ski rental shops will deliver your gear to your accommodation too. Also, if you plan on skiing multiple days, some of the ski fields have lockers you can rent to store your gear. This is usually priced at $10 per day.

Some stores in Queenstown I highly recommend for equipment rental include Snow Rental Queenstown at 39 Camp Street; Outside Sports at 9 Shotover Street and Browns Ski Rental at 4 Brecon Street.

Due to health & safety issues, you can’t rent goggles or gloves either on the mountain or from the rental stores in town. Luckily there are a few sports stores in town where you can purchase these for a reasonable price.

Best Places to Go for Après Ski in Queenstown

People play pool at Harry's Pool Bar in Queenstown
For a quiet social drink head to Harry’s! Photo credit: Harry’s Pool Bar

Après ski is one of the highlights of skiing in Queenstown. Seriously, the town comes alive once the ski hills close as people flood back to Queenstown to celebrate an amazing day on the hill. But where should you go? Well, that all depends on the après ski you want to have. Below I’ll mention some of the best places to après ski and who they’re best suited for!

Harry’s Pool Bar

For the keen pool player who loves cheap pints of beer and a social atmosphere, Harry’s Pool Bar is the place to go. This small bar is hugely popular among locals and you’ll fit right in your ski gear. It’s not fancy but it’s fun!

The World Bar

If you consider yourself a cocktail lover or someone who likes a trendy vibe The World Bar is a top choice when skiing in Queenstown. It’s one of the best places to party in Queenstown and as the sun sets and the ski fields close it fills with people for a fun and exciting après ski. They also have lots of craft beer on tap as well as a famous mulled wine for a relaxing thing to do in Queenstown.

Rhino’s Ski Shack

The name really says it all and for the partier among us, it’s a top choice for après ski. Once again it’s not a fancy place but for those wanting to get a little tipsy straight from the hill, it’s one of my go-to places to hang out. I love the dimmed lighting, especially with my ski helmet hair!

Little Blackwood

If your idea of après ski involves craft beer, cocktails, or wine by the water then head to Little Blackwood. Located on the Steamer wharf this trendy bar has one beautiful location. If it’s not too cold grab a seat outside and let time go by with a drink in hand!

Related read: Need a coffee before hitting the ski hills? Check out the best cafes in Queenstown.

Where to Stay in Queenstown in Winter

Lake Wakatipu with views of the Remarkables as seen from Queenstown
Winter in Queenstown is so beautiful!

When it comes to where to stay in Queenstown in winter this all depends on what you’re here for the most. If it’s skiing at Coronet Peak or The Remarkables then there are hotels for each ski field, if it’s for the vibrant town then there also a hotel for you. Below are the best hotels in Queenstown for different reasons and trips!

Hilton Resort and Spa – The Hilton is easily the best hotel if you’re skiing at The Remarkables due to its close location to the ski field access road.

Swiss-Belresort Coronet Peak – If you plan on skiing at Coronet Peak why not stay at the bottom of the access road. Swiss-Belresort is the best for this but there are also a few other hotels nearby you can check by clicking the map on the link above.

Nomads Queenstown Backpackers – For budget travels Nomads Queenstown is one of the best places to stay in Queenstown. Its location is perfect, and they have dorms and budget private rooms. Nomads is one of the best cheap hostels in Queenstown.

Crown Plaza Queenstown – if you want to stay close to town but in a nice hotel, Crown Plaza Queenstown is my choice. It’s in the heart of town along St Omar Park and they even have lake views!

There are also plenty of holiday home rentals you can choose from in Queenstown.

For more info on the best places to stay, check out my complete guide on where to stay in Queenstown! It includes all the best accommodation in various different areas of Queenstown!

Renting a Car, Campervan, or Motorhome in New Zealand

A motorhome by the beach
Me and my trusty campervan!

Let’s face it, you’re going to need wheels to get around New Zealand. Although a small country, buses between destinations are infrequent and expensive. Plus, some of the best experiences you can have in NZ are on road trips!

You have three options when it comes to getting wheels in New Zealand; a car, a campervan, or a motorhome. Here’s what you need to know about each and where to get them:

  • Car – A normal car is the cheapest rental vehicle you can get in New Zealand. It’ll get you around to all of the best destinations with ease. The only downside to a car is that you will need to stay in hotels or Airbnbs during your travels (no camping.) The easiest place to book a car in New Zealand is on Discover Cars where you can compare cars, companies, prices, features, and more very easily.
  • Campervan – A Campervan is a large van that has a bed and a small kitchen in the back. It is what most budget backpackers get for traveling around New Zealand since it allows you to camp comfortably and for free (most) nights. Campervans are best for couples or solo travelers who are happy to live in a small space. You should also love the outdoors and camping! You can easily compare campervans, prices, and book on the website Motorhome Republic.
  • Motorhome – A motorhome is larger and more comfortable than a campervan. Many motorhomes will comfortably sleep 6 or more people – perfect for a family visiting New Zealand. Motorhomes are the most expensive option, but with one, you won’t ever need to stay in a hotel and you’ll save money that way. Motorhome Republic is my suggested website for booking a motorhome in New Zealand simply because they are a reliable company and the website is super easy to use! For more detailed info, read my complete guide to renting a motorhome in New Zealand!

Thanks for reading!

Bailey from My Queenstown Diary enjoys a beer at the top of the Remarkables Ski Area
Cheers and thanks for reading!

Queenstown is a winter paradise for both ski and snowboarding fans. All three ski fields are an easy drive from the center of town, have excellent facilities, stunning views, and a wide variety of runs. The après-ski scene here is so much fun and with night skiing on offer at Coronet Peak – in my opinion, there’s no better choice for a winter vacation than Queenstown. If you’re a snow fan skiing in Queenstown simply has to be added to your bucket list.

Thanks so much for reading! I hope you enjoyed my guide to skiing in Queenstown and now have a good understanding of the ski fields, weather, après ski bars, and where to stay. If you did find this blog helpful be sure to browse around. I have so many more articles on Queenstown and New Zealand detailing road trips, where to stay, and amazing things to do!

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