The Best Time to Ski in New Zealand
New Zealand is unusual in that its ski season is more regulated than in most countries. Where ski fields in the US will open when the snow falls and stay open until it’s gone (even into summer, if it works out that way), New Zealand hires an extensive foreign staff for its ski fields, most of whom are only in the area for ski season, so the dates are non-negotiable.
Of course, that means our ski fields make an effort to open for their scheduled dates. With snow-makers on call and ski fields cleverly designed to take advantage of basins that naturally trap snow, our ski fields can typically open more or less on time regardless of the snowfall.
That means every month has a different advantage, so there is no “best” time to ski in New Zealand. Here is the best month for each type of skier.
Best time to enjoy the “holiday” spirit: Late June
Though the snow can be a bit less predictable, late June is when Winterfest comes to Queenstown, so it’s a winning time to visit New Zealand’s top ski resort town. Despite the popularity of the annual festival, the crowds are less intense than they will be a week later when July (and the school holidays) rolls around, so you can still find somewhat reasonable accommodation prices.
Winterfest brings musicians, events, mulled wine, holiday lights, and an outdoor skating rink to Queenstown, so if you’ve always longed for the idea of a winter Christmas, this is your chance to experience the festive atmosphere.
Best time for bargain prices: June 10th – 20th
The snow is very questionable in early June – only a couple of New Zealand’s ski fields are open by the 10th, while others aim to open around the 17th. However, early June is part of the Queenstown/Wanaka area’s elusive off season, which only exists in May and June. If you’re on a strict budget, you’ll never find lower prices than if you travel in June.
Best time for families: July
Yes, the school holidays in early July can mean hectic ski fields, but they also come with some great ski programs for your kids. So if you’re interested in a group ski school (rather than typical lessons) for your kids, join the throngs and head down to Wanaka or Queenstown in July.
Best time for guaranteed snow: August
No matter how patchy the snowfall has been, a good snow cover has almost always built up by August. With snow-makers on board along with a great base layer, you can’t go wrong in August. And we usually get frequent new snowfalls in August as well, so you’ll have plenty of powder to play in.
Best time for spring skiing: September
If you enjoy the wet snow conditions of spring, September is the time to visit. You won’t find prices as low as June, but the ski fields are definitely less crowded this time of year. And unless we have been experiencing unusually warm weather, early September is typically just as good as August in terms of snow cover.
Best time for procrastinators: October
Yes, our ski fields are still open into October. No, we aren’t usually thinking about skiing by this time of year. You can easily plan a last-minute trip in October, since there won’t be too much competition for accommodation, but the ski towns will be enjoying their spring flowers rather than embracing the winter vibe. The snow will probably be patchy, and several of the ski fields will inevitably close a few weeks before their scheduled dates. Cardrona is usually the most dependable ski field for October skiers.