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Skiing in Queenstown & Wānaka – Hit the snow in the Southern Lakes

For many snow bunnies, Queenstown is the snow mecca of New Zealand.

Few other parts of the country offer snow to the same level, and none provide skiers and boarders with the opportunity to hop between four incredible ski fields.

With The Remarkables, Coronet Peak, Cardrona and Treble Cone all within easy reach of both Queenstown and Wānaka, which should you visit this winter?

All of the ski fields mentioned have both retail and hire shops on-site. They also offer car parking, transport solutions and opportunities to purchase food and drink in between runs.

There are significant differences between each of them though.

Some of these mountains are better suited to adventurous, advanced riders, whilst others are incredibly family-friendly.

Read on to discover the best options for you and plan the winter break of your dreams in Aotearoa!

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Skiing on the Remarkables Ski Field.

The Ultimate Guide to Skiing in Queenstown & Wānaka

Join us as we share the best features of each of these wonderful Southern Lakes ski fields and compare their relative shortcomings.

To help you orientate yourself, we’ve listed them in order of their distance from Queenstown.

Pro Tip: If you’re heading to the Southern Lakes with skiing and snowboarding in mind, and you’re planning to drive, we recommend signing up for the daily winter road report — it will be sent to you via email bright and early each morning.

1. Coronet Peak

Coronet Peak is the easiest ski field to get to in the Queenstown Lakes area but it is also the smallest.  This means that it can be very busy — particularly on the weekends and during school holidays. 

This ski field is home to 3 chairlifts, along with a T-bar and conveyer belts in the beginners’ area. You’ll find a few advanced/expert runs there, along with the beginners’ area, but intermediate run are where this mountain really excels.

Coronet Peak (known affectionately as Concrete Peak) is also the only ski field in the area that has night skiing and a first tracks option, both of which hold great appeal.

Plus, kids will love the sledding and snow play area — it’s the perfect spot to build a snowman!

For those that don’t want to hit the snow though, Coronet is a worthwhile (and easily accessible) spot for sightseers too.

Skiing while cable lift passes overhead in the Coronet Peak.

Night Skiing

Night skiing is available from 4 pm until 9 pm on:

  • Wednesdays and Fridays from the 22nd of June until the 2nd of September in 2022
  • Saturday 9 July
  • Saturday 16 July
  • Saturday 23 July.

On these days, you’re able to enjoy the sunset from the top of Coronet Peak and then ski and board under massive floodlights.

It is a little harder to make out the terrain in this light though, so we’d suggest you upskill yourself in the daylight if you’re new to snowsports — then you’ll be guaranteed a good time when you do make it up the mountain after dark.

Skiing during the night in Corona Peak.
Why not try night skiing whilst in Queenstown? You can at Coronet Peak.

First Tracks

The mountain doesn’t officially open until 9 am but if you purchase a ‘first tracks’ pass, you’ll enjoy early access from 8 am.

This is perfect for those wanting to ski or board in peace and quiet, or for those that appreciate the first few runs of the day, before everyone else has carved up the snow.

Snowfall at Coronet Peak

Coronet Peak does not receive a whole lot of natural snowfall so relies heavily on snow guns to provide snow cover.  Because of this, the more advanced terrain is often sketchy at best. 

At only 4,000 feet, this is the lowest ski field in the region, so it isn’t quite as cold as the others. Because of this, the mountain is a little more susceptible to icy conditions.

Run Map

Coronet Peak Trail Map that shows the location of Base Facilities, Ski Areas, and Responsibility Codes.

What We Love About Coronet Peak

  • This is the easiest ski field to access from Queenstown.
  • They offer night skiing which is a fantastic experience that’s seldom offered in New Zealand, plus it’s surprisingly affordable.
  • You’ll have the opportunity to be first on the mountain with their first tracks pass.
  • They have a gondola that provides shelter from the wind (and you don’t need to ski/snowboard off of it which is a bonus for novice guests).
  • Kids love the sledding/snow play area.
  • They have a ski school that is open to children aged 2 to 5 years of age. You’re also able to book private, small-group and group lessons. In addition, they train the Queenstown Alpine Ski Team (QAST) and run an adaptive programme.
A boy looking at the mountains while her sister lays down on her belly to the snow.
Family fun is on the cards at Coronet Peak!

Things to Consider

  • There isn’t a huge amount of advanced/expert terrain on Coronet Peak.
  • If you want to use a storage locker, you’ll need to pay for it.
  • This is the smallest ski field in Queenstown.
  • Coronet Peak has one gondola, three chairlifts, 1 T-bar and 4 conveyors/magic carpets.
  • Coronet Peak, Mt Hutt (near Christchurch) and The Remarkables are on the same lift pass.

Save On Your Coronet Peak Lift Passes

How to Get There

Drive time from Queenstown: 20 minutes (by car).

Drive time from Wānaka: 1 hour, 15 minutes (by car).

Coronet Peak Ski Area, Queenstown 9371

2. The Remarkables

The Remarkables is a wonderful ski field that is easily reached from Queenstown accommodation spots.

Though it is a relatively small ski field, it has terrain and facilities to cater for everyone.  There, you’ll find great groomed runs (which are perfect for more novice riders), a number of terrain parks (which prove particularly popular with more experienced snowboarders) and a surprising amount of advanced terrain.

In addition, the ‘base facilities’ area is large, catering comfortably to significant crowds. This is where you’ll find the restaurant, hire and retail shops, bathrooms and more. It’s also the perfect place to rest up in between runs.

Riding on a chair lift in the snowy mountains of The Remarkables.

Hop on a Chairlift and Explore The Remarkables

With groomers to suit all levels of experience, this relatively small ski field punches well above its weight.

Explore the different runs at The Remarkables by riding the following chairlifts:

  • The Alta 4-seater is great for novices who aren’t ready to head to the top of the mountain.
  • The Curvey Basin 6-seater takes you straight up the main bowl for some fun beginner and intermediate runs. 
  • The Sugar Bowl Express 6-seater will take you up to a great terrain park alongside some lovely groomers. 
  • The Shadow Basin 4-seater is where you’ll head if you’re after some steeper, more challenging terrain. Be careful if it’s a lean snow year though, as your gear may not get to the bottom in as good condition as it was when you got off the lift at the top.  When the snow is good, the riding is outstanding.
Skiing and snowboarding in the Remarkables.

Love Freeriding?

If you’d prefer to ride the backcountry, on the hunt for chutes, natural rock drops and plenty of powder, you’re in luck at The Remarkables.

This ski field has hosted the New Zealand Freeride Tour for years so there’s no doubt that this is the place to go off-piste. With a wide variety of natural terrain, this is considered a premium freeriding destination.

Map of The Remarkables

The Remarkables map showing the ski routes, terrain and facilities.

What We Love About The Remarkables

  • It’s a good all-rounder mountain, offering something for all types of skiers and boarders.
  • You can book a private or group lesson, or sign your kids up to ski school (available from 4 years of age). They also provide specialist training including the Free Ride World Tour Academy, along with performance camps and workshops.
  • It’s home to a good amount of advanced terrain — perfect for more advanced skiers and boarders.
  • It has seven terrain parks for those that want to test out their technical skills.
  • The mountain has extensive backcountry access.
  • This ski field gets lots of natural snow and is the biggest in Queenstown.

Things to Consider

  • If you want to use a storage locker, you’ll need to pay for it.
  • This is a relatively small ski field (compared to Cardrona).
  • In total, they have 4 chairlifts and 4 conveyors/magic carpets.
  • Coronet Peak, Mt Hutt (near Christchurch) and The Remarkables are on the same lift pass.

Book Discounted Ski Passes for The Remarkables

Getting to The Remarks

Drive time from Queenstown: 35 – 40 minutes (by car).

Drive time from Wānaka: 1 hour, 25 minutes (by car).

The Remarkables don’t have a physical address so we suggest typing the name of the ski field into your navigation system.

3. Cardrona

Cardrona really is the whole package when it comes to skiing and snowboarding in Queenstown.

Though it’s a little drive out of town (heading towards Wānaka), we think it’s totally worth the effort!

This wonderful ski field caters from the absolute beginner through the most expert riders and skiers.  Plus, it has all of the facilities that you could wish for — including childcare (from the age of 3 months), gear rental and a world-class terrain park. 

If you’re lucky, you might even see some Olympians (both local and international) practising in the terrain park, on the half-pipe or on the huge jumps. 

There are food options galore on the mountain (perfect for refuelling after some great runs). These are high quality and range from pies and fries, and a noodle bar, right through to a ‘please wait to be seated’ restaurant.

In addition, there is a free shuttle from near the bottom of the access road so you don’t have to brave the drive up the unsealed road. 

To round out an incredible mountain experience, it’s even possible to stay on Cardrona. You’ll need to book early though as availability is very limited.

Snowboarding in Cardrona Alpine Resort while a cable lift passes by on top.
Can you think of a better way to start the day?

Find Your Perfect Chairlift

So, you’ve decided to head up Cardrona? What a great choice!

Cardona really has something for everyone.  Beginners and families are particularly well catered for and the whole mountain can become quite the off-piste playground when the snow is on. 

Before visiting, you’ll want to get to know the chairlifts and runs on the mountain a little better…

  • Beginners will love McDougall’s Chondola and the runs that come off of it.  The chondola gives you the option of going in a gondola or on a chairlift. 
  • The Whitestar lift is the lift of choice for those doing laps of Big Bucks Terrain Park or Antlers Alley jumps, or the fun, fast runs alongside the chairlifts. 
  • Captain’s Basin is a favourite area for many. It has wide open groomers and some more advanced riding on the north edge of the basin (the right-hand side of the map that follows). 
  • Between the Whitestar and Captains areas is where you’ll find the Arcadia chutes — these are perfect for those who like steeper, narrower terrain. 
  • The new chairlift, Willow’s Quad (repurposed as the old McDougall’s lift), opened up some new terrain last year on the back side of the resort.  This area has something for everyone. 
  • When there is enough snow cover, the lower altitude Valley View chairlift services some wonderfully varied terrain also.

Cardrona Trail Map

Trail map of Cardrona Ski.

Prefer to Sightsee?

The views down the Cardrona Valley are stunning and you don’t need to be into snowsports to benefit.

Cardrona offers a sightseeing option that includes a gondola ride and enjoy a cheeky glass of champagne at the Vista Bar.

What a beautiful way to spend a snowy afternoon!

Father and daughter balancing with their hand on a heated walkway in Cardrona Alpine Resort.
Cardrona is well suited to everyone — from sightseers to the most experienced skiers, everyone’s covered here.

What We Love About Cardrona

  • It has a world-class terrain park and half pipe. The half-pipe even has its own platter lift/T-bar!
  • Enjoy wide runs for beginners and intermediate skiers and borders. 
  • You’ll find some fun chutes and steeps for expert riders.
  • Sign up to their ski school — their coaches do an excellent job and are able to cater to absolute beginners through to experts.  In addition, they run Ski Kindy from the age of 2 and school holiday programmes for big kids (from the High-Performance Centre). This includes ski racing and freestyle programmes, along with an adaptive programme.
  • Childcare is available for children from the age of 3 months.
  • They have several food options on the mountain, from very casual to full-service restaurants.
  • Use the free cubby holes under the seats in the base café to store any gear you don’t want to take on your run.
  • Free shuttle from The Pines car park, around 1km from the start of the access road.
  • Stay in their on-mountain accommodation.

Things to Consider

  • This ski field can get particularly busy in the school holidays.
  • The drive up and over the Crown Range can be challenging for less experienced drivers – if in doubt, make use of their transport.
  • There are no landfill rubbish bins at the mountain, so expect to take home any rubbish you take up.  We love that all food packaging sold on the mountain either has compostable packaging or is recyclable.
  • This ski field is home to one gondola, four chairlifts, one T-bar, and beginners’ area conveyors/magic carpets.
  • Cardrona and Treble Cone are on the same ski pass.

Getting There

Drive time from Queenstown: 1 hour (by car).

Drive time from Wānaka: 40 minutes (by car).

Cardrona Valley Rd, Cardrona 9305

Sitting on a snow giving a high five in Cardrona Alpine Resort.

4. Treble Cone

Treble Cone has some of the best views of any ski mountain, anywhere. 

No matter how many times we visit, we can’t help but stop to stare at the incredible outlook over Lake Wānaka and the surrounding alps. 

This ski field is a little more limited in terms of facilities (when compared to the others on this list). There is no childcare on the mountain, nor do they offer public group lessons.

They do, however, offer a free shuttle from the bottom of the mountain access road. This is handy if you don’t have chains on a snowy day or for those times when you just don’t want to brave the drive up.

When it’s time to relax in the cafe, you’ll find an excellent food offering and lots of outdoor seating. The indoor space is fairly limited though, so get there well before lunch if you’re looking to warm up inside.

Pro Tip: If you’re enjoying your food outside, be careful. Treble Cone is home to some wonderfully cheeky kea who love to steal food and will even try to open containers. We’ve seen them pick up ramekins and fly up to the roof with them!

Two people skiing downwards on the slope of a mountain, covered in snow.
Enjoy unbeatable views from Treble Cone – the best in the area.

What Type of Skiier/Boarder is Treble Cone Most Suited to?

While this mountain can cater to the beginner (with their beginners’ area platter lift), it’s fairly limited in what it offers newcomers. Group lessons aren’t on offer here, though (more expensive) private lessons can be arranged for individuals and small private groups.

For newbies though, the rest of the mountain can be a bit daunting. This is the ski field of choice for those who like to challenge themselves!

Experienced riders and skiers will appreciate quality groomers, varied terrain and plenty of steep and narrow runs.

Friends hanging out with wine and various drinks on the table with mountains and lakes on the background of Treble Cone.
Treble Cone’s outdoor deck is a great place to chill in between runs.

Riding the Chairlifts on Treble Cone

There are two main chairlifts on Treble Cone, but don’t be fooled into thinking this means there’s less skiable space. Quite the opposite in fact — Treble Cone boasts the largest ski area in the South Island!

  • The 6-seater Home Basin Express services Home Basin and the Matukituki Basin.
  • The Saddle Quad will take you up to Saddle Basin and provide access to the Motutapu Chutes.  For skiers and boarders who like more extreme terrain and chutes, the Motutapu Basin is the place to head after ski patrol has finished their avalanche control.

Map of Treble Cone

Ski guide maps, terrains, and facilities of Treble Cone.

What We Love About Treble Cone

  • This ski field has the most amazing views!
  • Enjoy expansive intermediate/advanced/expert terrain across the mountain. Being the biggest skiable field in the South Island, there is so much to explore.
  • There’s plenty of backcountry access too.
  • The High Performance Centre runs a Freeride programme and there is training available in the school holidays.
  • They have a relatively small but great selection of food available — grab & go, bar and BBQ.
  • Make use of the free shuttle from the bottom of the access road.
  • You’ll find free bag storage on-site.
Man in yellow suit skiing downwards in Treble Cone showing lakes and mountain ranges at the bottom of the mountain.

Things to Consider

  • Though they offer private lessons, they don’t have a ski school (so public group lessons are not available) or childcare.
  • They don’t have a terrain park.
  • A platter lift services a great beginners’ area but outside of that the rest of the mountain isn’t great for beginners.  The one green run (which would normally suit novices well) is narrow with tight turns and it often gets iced up near the bottom.
  • They have a very small retail shop.
  • There are no landfill rubbish bins at the mountain, so expect to take home any rubbish you take up.  All food items with packaging sold on the mountain either has compostable packaging or is recyclable though, which is fabulous.
  • Treble Cone has two chairlifts, a platter lift/T-bar and a very short conveyor/magic carpet. 
  • Cardrona and Treble Cone are on the same ski pass.

Getting to Treble Cone

Drive time from Queenstown: 1 hour, 35 minutes (by car).

Drive time from Wānaka: 35 – 40 minutes (by car).

Mt Aspiring Road, Wanaka 9305

Kids with their father riding on a ski lift.

Frequently Asked Questions

Now that you’re clued up on the differences you can expect whilst skiing in Queenstown and Wānaka, let’s run through the key information…

Which ski fields are closest to Queenstown?

Coronet Peak is closest — it’s only a 20-minute drive from Queenstown. The Remarkables are also close — that drive will take 35 to 40 minutes by car.

Which ski fields are closest to Wānaka?

Treble Cone is a 35 to 40-minute drive, whilst Cardrona is 40 minutes from Wānaka.

Which ski fields are best suited to families?

Cardrona is widely considered the best facility in the area for kids — this ski field is closer to Wānaka. Coronet Peak also has a sledding/snow play area and ski school — this field is the closest one to Queenstown. Likewise, The Remarkables also has a ski school.

Which ski fields are best suited to new skiers/boarders?

Cardrona has wide, sweeping runs (it really is a great mountain for all ability levels), making it our top pick for beginners. If you’re staying in Queenstown, The Remarkables is also another favourite for newbies – it gets lots of natural snow and as it’s so close to town, you can easily head back to your accommodation when you get tired.

Which of the local ski fields are best suited to intermediate riders?

The Remarkables and Cardrona are our top recommendations here. Intermediate skiers and boarders will also enjoy the challenge of twilight/night skiing at Coronet Peak.

Which ski fields are best suited to advanced riders?

The Remarkables has seven terrain parks which are a hit with experienced snowboarders. Treble Cone is widely considered a more advanced mountain on the whole. Cardrona also offers something for everyone, including advanced skiers, with challenging runs and a terrain park.

Which resorts offer childcare?

Both Cardrona and Coronet Peak offer childcare, so your kids can be taken care of by experienced professionals whilst you go for a blat on the mountain. The Remarkables offer full-day lessons for children 4+, these include skiing lessons with snow play and rest breaks — again, you don’t need to stay with your child during these lessons, freeing you up for the day.

Where can I night ski/board near Queenstown?

Coronet Peak is the only ski field of the four near Queenstown/Wānaka that offer twilight and night skiing.

Which mountains share lift passes?

Cardrona and Treble Cone are on the same ski pass as each other. Coronet Peak, Mt Hutt (near Christchurch) and The Remarkables are on the same lift pass as each other also.

With four amazing ski fields within easy reach of Queenstown and Wānaka, each offering a wonderfully unique experience, it’s no wonder the Southern Lakes are considered the ultimate snow-bound adventure in New Zealand.

Which of these ski fields have you visited already?

Aside from the best activities in Queenstown, which ski fields have made the shortlist for your next vacation?

Did you know? There are two additional ski fields in this area — Snow Farm and Soho Basin. We’re hoping to review these smaller fields soon.

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Guest post by Sarah Phillips.

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