In the winter, Wanaka becomes the gateway to your ultimate New Zealand ski holiday. Often referred to as “Queenstown’s less busy little sister”, Wanaka is a gem all on its own just waiting to be explored – that’s arguably better than Queenstown when it comes to skiing.
Wanaka is the perfect place to base yourself if you plan on hitting the slopes this winter. With four of NZ’s top-rated ski fields at its doorstep and another two just over an hour away, it’s no surprise that skiing in Wanaka is super popular.
But besides skiing, this tiny town is stunning – it’s located right on the edge of Lake Wanaka and Mount Aspiring National Park. So when you’re not hitting the slopes, you can enjoy your downtime in this peaceful, yet fun, town exploring all the fun things to do in Wanaka. Check out the craft beer scene for Apres ski, conquer some of the best hikes on the South Island, and soak in those views of the Southern Alps.
But there’s lots to know about skiing in Wanaka. From choosing the right ski fields, to deciding where to stay, to knowing what it all costs – there’s a ton of info you should be armed with before arriving.
That’s why I wrote this blog. To help you enjoy skiing in Wanaka with all the info you simply need to know before you go. I’ve also included a few extra tidbits including a comparison between skiing in Wanaka and Queenstown as well as some great places to stay in Wanaka in the winter.
Skiing in Wanaka FAQs
Did You Know – Kiwis say “ski fields”, whereas Americans typically say “ski resorts”.
Best Time to Go Skiing in Wanaka/The Weather
The best time to go skiing in Wanaka is during the peak of the Winter months of July and August. During these months there is the most snow at the ski fields near Wanaka, plus the temperatures are the coldest making for the best powder days!
Temperatures during the winter months in Wanaka range from -1.2°C (29.8°F) to 8.4°C (47.1°F). At the ski field, temperatures are much cooler and skiers should expect daytime temperatures around -4 to -11°C. With that said, you can get days above 0 which makes for awesome spring skiing conditions!
Annual snowfall at Wanaka ski fields is around the 2.9 m (115 in) mark, which is not a lot when compared to other places around the world. But, the 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 (2 in) to 20cm (8in) of snow.
The ski fields here are typically open from mid-June to early October. Cardrona is usually one of the last to close, but it does change annually depending on the weather.
Wanaka Ski Fields
There are actually 4 different ski fields within a 40 minutes from Wanaka town: Cardrona Alpine Resort, Treble Cone, the Snow Farm, and Soho Basin. Another two ski fields are located closer to Queenstown just over an hour’s drive away: Coronet Peak, and The Remarkables. These 6 ski fields are the most accessible from Wanaka and easily visited on a day trip.
Below, I’ve included specific info on each ski field. You’ll find info on how to reach each ski field from Wanaka, the prices for lift tickets, features of the ski field, and more!
Cardrona Alpine Resort
Cardrona Alpine Resort is one of the closest ski fields to Wanaka (Treble Cone is equally as close.) Featuring plenty of groomed runs for all levels, multiple chair lifts, and quite a few different restaurants and bars, Cardrona is easily the most popular place to go skiing in Wanaka. Honestly, if you’re looking for a fun day out on the slopes, Cardrona is an easy choice.
Getting from Wanaka to Cardrona
Cardrona is a 40-minute drive from Wanaka via Cardrona Valley Road and Skifield Road. You can easily rent a car in Wanaka and drive yourself. There is plenty of parking at the top however you will have to drive the final 14 kilometers on an unsealed road. You will also need to carry snow chains (and know how to use them) in case the road conditions become poor.
If you’re worried about driving the last 14 kilometers (8.7 miles) on the unsealed steep road up to the ski field, you can park at the bottom and take a shuttle from there. Just park at the Pine Trees Carpark and catch one of the shuttles up to the ski field. Shuttle departure times are 8:30 am, 9 am, 10 am, 1 pm, and 3 pm.
Hot Tip – If you’re flying into Queenstown, then rent a car from the airport there for your trip! This way, you can drive the scenic road from Queenstown to Wanaka exploring the best attractions along the way. Plus, you can easily drive yourself to ski fields or any other attractions near Wanaka. Can you say “freedom”?!
You can also catch a bus to Cardrona from Wanaka. Cardrona Alpine Resort offers daily shuttles from Wanaka to Cardrona. There are three convenient pick-up points throughout Wanaka. The bus leaves Wanaka daily at 8:00 am and returns at 4:30 pm. It operates throughout the entire ski season until October 10. This bus must be booked in advance otherwise you do risk missing out. It costs $35 NZD for a return trip per adult and $30 NZD per child.
If you’re traveling in a group or with family, renting a car will likely end up being cheaper than paying for the bus for everybody.
Ski passes and prices at Cardrona
Cardrona ski passes and prices
- A Season Pass (for Cardrona only) starts at $799 NZD per adult. Including Treble Cone the Season Pass starts at $1400 NZD per adult.
- A lift pass is $150 NZD per adult for a full day
- A Multi-Day ski pass is priced from $280 NZD for two days of skiing up to $500 NZD for 5 days
- A 1-day ski school pass costs $282 NZD for adults and $204 NZD for kids and includes two 2-hour lessons. You can also upgrade the package to include clothing, helmets, goggles, and gloves for one day
- A 1-day lift pass with gear rentals is $185 NZD
Why ski at Cardrona
Cardrona typically runs a longer ski season than its competitors in the area, with the 2022 winter season running from June 11 – October 16.
Unlike Treble cone, it’s the perfect mountain to learn to ski on with a highly rated ski school. There are also plenty of beginner runs. 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 (106 in) of snowfall annually but because it’s south-facing the snow generally stays on the ground longer than other resorts in the area. Like the other ski resorts in and around Wanaka, snow machines are used often.
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 from Queenstown.
Treble Cone Ski Area
Treble Cone is a favorite among locals. With mostly intermediate and advanced runs, Treble Cone is best suited for those with a decent amount of experience. That, combined with its close proximity to Wanaka, makes Treble Cone another great option for skiing in Wanaka.
Getting from Wanaka to Treble Cone
Like most ski fields near Wanaka, you can choose to either drive yourself or take a shuttle bus from Wanaka to Treble Cone Ski Area.
Driving from Wanaka to Treble Cone takes about 40 minutes. The last 7 kilometers (4.3 miles) of the road up to the ski field is unsealed, windy, and somewhat steep. It is required that you carry snow chains to drive this section of the road. If you don’t want to drive this portion of the road, you can catch the free shuttle from the bottom parking lot up to the top instead.
If you want to grab a shuttle bus, the Treble Cone Express departs daily from their office right in Wanaka. Expect to pay $35 NZD for a return trip with discounts available for children. This shuttle arrives and departs based on their daily schedule which you can see here.
Treble Cone ski passes and prices
- A Season Pass starts at $1,499 NZD per adult (including Cardrona).
- A lift pass is $150 NZD per adult for a full day.
- A 1-Day Learner Pass is $70 NZD per adult
- A multi-Day Ski pass is priced from $280 NZD for two days of skiing up to $500 NZD for 5 days
- A 1-hour private lesson for adults costs $149 NZD, 2 hours costs $289 NZD, a half-day costs $429 NZD, and a full day costs $699 NZD for adults. You will need to inquire about pricing on group lessons.
- A one-day lift pass with rental gear included is $185 NZD
Why ski at Treble Cone
Calling all intermediate and advanced skiers and snowboarders – Treble Cone is the ski field for you! With 45% intermediate runs and the other 45% advanced, Treble Cone is best suited to those with experience. In all honesty, if you’re a beginner then I would probably hit up Cardrona instead.
Treble Cone has a few claims to fame including having the largest ski area in all of New Zealand – a whopping 500 hectares! It also has the biggest vertical drop at 700 meters (2,297 feet). The longest run at Treble Cone is 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) in length. Treble Cone is also known for its many off-piste runs and incredible panoramic views.
At Treble Cone you’ll find a restaurant and bar offering both hot food and drink options. There is also a grab-and-go bar for takeaway items such as sandwiches. The Alpress at Atitude Bar is located up on the mountain and also serves drinks and hot and cold food options. The views from here are seriously impressive!
The Snow Farm is a ski area for those who want to cross-country ski. That’s right, no downhill skiing here, but lots and lots of cross-country ski trails as well as snowshoeing. You’ll also find a designated “Fun Zone” where you can play in the snow. Make snowmen, throw snowballs, and even go snow-tubing!
If you’re looking to go downhill skiing or snowboarding then you need to head to either Cardrona or Treble Cone, the Snow Farm doesn’t offer downhill.
Getting from Wanaka to the Snow Farm
Most people drive themselves to the Snow Farm. It is a fairly easy 40-minute drive to the Snow Farm from Wanaka. Drive along Cardrona Valley Road and then turn left about 200 meters (700 feet) after the Cardrona Alpine Resort exit. Although this portion of the road is unsealed, the drive is pretty easy and suitable for 2wd drive vehicles. It is necessary to carry snow chains with you in case bad conditions occur.
If you do need transport, Yello Shuttle Service does operate on this route on occasion (depending on demand.) For more info, click here.
Ski passes available and prices
- A full-day cross-country ski pass with rentals included is $88 NZD, a half-day is $77 NZD
- A full-day cross-country ski pass with rentals AND an introductory lesson includes is $99 NZD, or $88 NZD for a half-day
- A season pass is $149 NZD, or $359 NZD with rentals included
- A full-day trail-only pass (bring your own gear) is $50 NZD for a full day or $44 NZD for a half-day
- There are various rates for lessons (both private and group)
The Snow Farm is about more than just cross-country skiing. They have other activities including tubing and snowshoeing with various packages available starting from $15 NZD per person.
Why ski at the Snow Farm
The Snow Farm is the place to go if you want to go cross-country skiing. Cross-country skiing is a great fitness activity that’ll have you exploring the Pisa Conservation Area in the snow. It’s a fun alternative to hiking and is easy enough for people to get the hang of even on their first try! It’s also suitable for the whole family – even your dog is allowed to come along!
In the summer, you can also drive up to the Snow Farm and do some hiking. There are plenty of amazing hikes in and around Wanaka that are worth checking out!
Related Read: After a long day hitting the slopes you’re sure to be hungry! Check out some of the best restaurants that Wanaka has to offer.
Soho Basin is home to over 1000 hectares of backcountry runs. You won’t find chairlifts or a bunny hill here, the only way up is by snowcat! In a snowcat with a small group, you’ll be transported to some of the most remote backcountry runs in all of New Zealand. Think of this experience like heli-skiing, except with a snowcat instead of a chopper.
Sounds amazing, right?
Well, an experience like this doesn’t come cheap. It’s expensive, so expensive that I’ve not been able to experience myself (my blogger salary just isn’t that flashy.) In fact, they don’t even advertise their full price list and instead, you must contact them for more information. What I do know is that a full-day group experience for up to 9 people is $10,000 NZD. You would definitely need to be a keen skier to opt for this Wanaka skiing experience, that much is for sure.
With that being said, Soho Basin is located right next to Cardrona and their base is actually just off the access road. So, it is one of Wanaka’s ski fields that I needed to include in this blog.
Plus, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience! If you’ve got the cash, why wouldn’t you try it?!
Coronet Peak is just over an hour’s drive from Wanaka located fairly close to Queenstown. It isn’t known as one of the top ski fields in the area simply because of its lower elevation and less snow. With that said, there are some neat features of Coronet Peak that make it worthy of the journey from Wanaka – such as night skiing!
Getting from Wanaka to Coronet Peak
To get to Coronet Peak from Wanaka you must first drive to Arthurs Point. This best done through Arrowtown. The road to the top is completely sealed, which is very rare for New Zealand.
There is no shuttle bus from Wanaka to Coronet Peak. Your best bet is to drive yourself or drive to Queenstown and take the Queenstown shuttle from there.
Coronet Peak ski passes and prices
- A 3 Peak Season Pass (includes 3 mountains – The Remarkables; Coronet Peak & Mt Hutt) starts at $1,299 NZD per adult
- A Lift Pass (includes Coronet; Remarkables & Mt Hutt) 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 $109 NZD per day.
- Ski Holiday Package includes three days of lift passes and gear rentals for $420 NZD
- Night Ski Pass is priced at $69NZD **Night skiing is available between 4-9 pm Wednesdays and Fridays from 22nd June – 2nd September with Saturday Night Ski on the three school holidays in July.
- A Twilight Pass (valid from 12:30 pm to 9 pm on Wednesday, Friday, and some Saturday nights) is priced at $139 NZD per adult
- Learner Area Pass is priced at $79 NZD per adult
- Lift Lesson & Rental Pass is priced at $289 NZD per adult
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 one of the best things to do in Queenstown in winter!
Some finer details for Coronet Peak include that it has 280 hectares of skiable terrain and 462 meters (1,516 feet) 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 (6.5″ annually) that’s due to its relatively low elevation. The snow guns are working regularly though to ensure good ski conditions.
The Remarkables is one of the best spots for skiing in Queenstown since it located only about a 40-minute drive from Queenstown center. With that said, it is totally doable to visit The Remarkables from Wanaka too, just be prepared for a 1-hour and 40-minute drive each way.
Getting from Wanaka to The Remarkables
It’s a 1-hour and 40-minute drive from Wanaka to The Remarkables ski area. To get there, drive the very scenic road from Wanaka to Queenstown (one of the best road trips on the South Island if you ask me) making your way towards the airport. From Frankton Road, 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.
There is no regular bus service from Wanaka to The Remarkables, so you’ll have to drive yourself or organize a private transfer.
The Remarkables ski passes and prices
- A Lift Pass 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 $109 NZD per day.**For 2022, all adult, child, and senior full-day lift passes are Super Passes. A Super Pass 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 $1,299 NZD
- A Lift Lesson & Rental Pass (includes a full day lift pass, group lessons, and ski/snowboard equipment rental. is priced at $289 NZD per adult per day
- A 3-day Lift & Rental Holiday Pass is priced at $420 NZD per adult per day
- A Learner Area Pass is priced at $79 NZD it includes access to the beginner surface lifts at Coronet Peak or The Remarkables
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 (1,535 feet) 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 one of the largest restaurant areas with soaring glass walls and incredible views. The outdoor decks have gorgeous views too of the surrounding snow-capped peaks.
With that said, it isn’t the most convenient location from Wanaka. With nearly a 2 hour drive each day, I’d say it is slightly out of reach when it comes to being an accessible ski field in Wanaka. If you want to visit Remarks, then I’d recommend finding a place to stay in Queenstown for at least one night.
Other Things to do in Wanaka
- Cardrona Valley Mountain Quad – Zip up into the mountains on a quad bike! This tour makes sightseeing a little bit more thrilling as you’ll follow your guide through winding dirt tracks past lush farmland. Look to spot sheep and cattle and learn from your local guide about the area! You’ll stop to take in the panoramic views of the snow-capped mountains of the Cardrona Valley. It’s only a 2-hour tour so you will still have a lot of time for other activities.
- Wine and Maori Culture Tour – You’ll get to taste wine right from the land of the indigenous Maori people in Wanaka. This tour is a half-day experience that includes round-trip transport so you don’t have to worry about driving! Just focus on the wine and beautiful landscapes as you visit the different wineries and enjoy the provided cheese platter.
- Horse Riding Trek – This is the perfect leisurely sightseeing activity that takes you up into the countryside and past historical gold-mining locals for some fabulous views and information from your local guide about this area’s past. You’ll navigate through cattle farms and across a river and end the day with a free beer from the Cardrona Pub on the way back to base.
- Kayak Adventure – This tour gives you the chance to choose your starting point from several different suggested scenic route options nearby (on a lake, down the coast, to an island). They will drop you off at your starting point and your aim is to paddle your kayak to the end. It’s a very peaceful and laid pack activity as you are not in a group or with a guide.
Renting a Car, Campervan, or Motorhome in New Zealand
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. We also have a 5% discount code (DTRAVEL5) with Mad Campers, which you can use at checkout.
- 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! We are also partnered with Kiwi Motorhomes, which is well known as the top motorhome rental company in New Zealand. You can get 5% off using the code Queen5. For more detailed info, read my complete guide to renting a motorhome in New Zealand!
Where to Stay in Wanaka
There are tons of places to stay in Wanaka. Seriously, you’ll have so many options that it can be overwhelming. Luckily, I’ve stayed in Wanaka countless times and can recommend the below accommodation options:
Hawea Hotel – This is the perfect budget option for anybody looking to save a few dollars. Although really comfortable, clean, and offering incredible views, Hawea Hotel is super affordable with budget dorms rooms as well as double rooms and family rooms. It is likely the best value for money hotel in Wanaka!
Manuka Crescent Motel – When I travel, I often like to stay in apartment-style hotels so that I can cook my own meals. Manuka Crescent Motel offers studio apartments, one-bedroom apartments, as well as two-bedroom apartments for really reasonable prices. These are great for families or people traveling in groups (I stayed here last time I traveled with friends.) The motel is located a only short drive from town in a peaceful area.
Club Wyndham Wanaka – If you’re visiting Wanaka to relax and spoil yourself, then there’s no question that you should stay at Club Wyndham! This hotel is located right in town only minutes from Lake Wanaka and features an outdoor heat pool, waterslide, hot tub, sauna, and an onsite bar and cafe! All rooms come with a kitchenette or full kitchen, and many offer lake views!
You can also choose from a huge selection of Airbnbs and bach holiday home rentals in Wanaka. These are typically better for groups or a family traveling together. Or, simply anybody who wants to have their own kitchen!
For more detailed information, check out my blog all about where to stay in Wanaka! It includes different areas to stay in and the best hotels for all budgets!
Thanks for reading!
Wanaka is such a beautiful little town, and with so many ski fields nearby, it’s the perfect place to base yourself for a NZ ski holiday! I hope this blog has helped clarify where to go skiing in Wanaka and answered some of your questions about Wanaka’s ski fields. I’m sure no matter which ski field you choose, you’re going to have a brilliant time!
For some more info, continue browsing around my blog. I’ve written a ton of long, informative blogs about Wanaka, Queenstown, and even other popular attractions such as Milford Sound! Or you can also have a look at some of my favorite blogs below.