What you need to know about booking the hunt of a lifetime.
Guide to a Great New Zealand Ski Holiday.
The Neon PomPom Guide to a Great New Zealand Ski Holiday. A great ski trip is the best thing about winter. It makes that cold period between June and October all worthwhile. You leave work and the depressing city winter behind, heading off to the mountains where the air is clear and the spirits high, to sample some of the magic that can only be obtained by sliding down a snowy slope on a pair of skis or board. If you’re anything like us, the annual ski trip is one of the highlights, if not THE highlight, of the year. But it’s about more than just skiing or boarding – a great ski trip depends on a number of key components all working in harmony. Chief among these is people – the ski trip is something you share with your mates, your family, with other skiers and boarders. This Guide is designed to help you get the best out of your New Zealand ski trip by making sure everyone has a great time. This guide will help you make these decisions so you can have your own great New Zealand ski trip by showing you:
What Makes a Great Ski Trip?
A Bit About Skiing in New Zealand
7 Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make
11 Things You Need to Think About
4 Simple Steps for an Epic Ski Trip
The Neon PomPom Guarantee
The NZ Ski Trip Checklist
Note: Where we use the term ‘ski’ we also mean snowboarders. No offence intended - we love both codes. It’s just easier to write about skiing instead of ‘skiing and boarding’ all the time. Hope that’s ok with you guys. Plan things well and everyone will love you for it.
What Makes a Great Ski Holiday? We can tell you from experience (lots of it) that a great ski trip depends on a combination of factors; some of which you can influence, some of which you can’t. Here are the factors that you CAN influence: Who you ski with Where you ski When you go Where you stay How much you spend How you get there What you take What you eat
What you do when you’re not skiing How much hard work you have to do to organise it all
And here are the factors you CAN’T influence (unless you’re God): How much snow there is How good the snow is The weather Unforseen events (i.e. Sh*t Happens) Other people and the dumb things they are capable of So, if we assume that the effects of factors we can’t influence can be mitigated by those we can, it’s pretty obvious that great ski trips depend on the decisions you make before you depart, based on what’s most important to the success of the trip.
Sometimes it all just falls into place...
A Bit About Skiing & Boarding in New Zealand. If you weren’t already aware, New Zealand is a skier and boarder’s Mecca. The South Island’s Southern Alps have more mountains than the European Alps, whilst the North Island harbours some pretty impressive volcanoes that tower over 9,000 feet. In short, that’s a lot of skiable terrain. Unlike Europe, or the US however, NZ is pretty young and raw in terms of development. We have a number of resorts that in terms of facilities and terrain might be considered world-class, but they lack the sheer size of some of the mega-resorts found offshore. This is because the snowline generally starts well up the mountain in NZ, so the opportunity to build a sprawling ski-in, ski-out base village is pretty limited - anyway, with a population of just over 4 million, we don’t really have the numbers to support such developments. The upshot of all this is that while there is plenty of groomed snow out there, New Zealand holds a vast amount of first-class skiing and boarding terrain that is pretty much as nature intended it to be – and much of it is quite accessible with the right gear, approach and attitude.
Weather and Climate New Zealand is a maritime country – as small island nation surrounded by a whole lot of sea – and this means that the weather can change – often, rapidly and with marked effect on the skiing. What this means is twofold: -
You may have to consider the fact that some days just won’t be skiable, at all… And the frequent storms mean we get a lot of fresh snow throughout the season - great for those who enjoy frequent fresh tracks.
As far as overall temperatures go, New Zealand winters aren’t that cold when compared to Canada or Northern Europe, but when you throw high alpine sub-climates into the mix, only a fool would come unprepared. So bring the right gear for proper cold winter conditions and you’ll be right. The Season Funnily enough, the New Zealand ski / board season depends on one thing – snow. In a good year, some resorts can open as early as mid-May, and close in late October. Within that period, each month has its own positives, depending on what you’re after.
May A few high,-altitude, long-season resorts like Mt Hutt often open in May – great for those who just can’t get enough of the snow or can only manage to get leave from work then. Some early-bird rates for accommodation and lift passes are available too. There can be marginal snow cover and thus a bit of a lottery for international travellers.
June When the NZ ski season usually kicks off in the big resorts. Crisp, short days with clear, frosty weather. Early season dumps can happen and are well worth being here for. Early season deals are still available in some places, not too many crowds on the big resorts, although skiable terrain can be a little limited. Great if you value space and freedom from the masses over deep snow cover. Opposite page: NZ has world -class terrain for those who want to go and get it.
July Things well and truly going across the country in a good year. Smaller resorts and club fields usually open by now. NZ and Australian school holidays happen in the first half of July, which is great for parents and something you may wish to consider if you don’t want to be skittled by a runaway 7year old on the learners’ slopes of the big resorts. Mid-winter conditions – cold, crisp days, good quality snow, magic.
August Arguably, the snow aficionado’s favourite month. Big snow base, slightly longer days (meaning more time on the snow), mid-winter conditions moving into early spring, frequent powder dumps, settled weather. Can get fairly busy on the big resorts around the weekends because of the generally excellent conditions – this is when most Kiwis without kids tend to make their annual pilgrimage to the snow.
September A personal favourite of the Neon PomPom crew. Days are longer and sunlight stronger, however overnight temps are still sufficiently low to ensure great snow quality. Storms continue to deliver great new snow conditions, meaning you get that magic mix of spring weather with winter snow…it’s hard to beat. The spring school holidays for NZ and Australia arrive in the latter third of the month. The NZ Club Fields: Skiing the way it should be.
October Spring conditions prevail and they’re great – think skiing in a t-shirt, lots of sun, warm air, spring corn snow, hiking, touring, surfing (if you’re tough and have a good wetsuit). October is a real opportunist’s month and those who choose to ignore the fact that winter is on the way out are often rewarded with some amazing times long after the crowds have left to tend the daffodils.
Places to Ski Skiing comes in all shapes and sizes in New Zealand – and one size does not necessarily fit all. You can pretty much classify New Zealand skiing into five different categories: The Large Commercial Resorts - with modern
facilities, high-capacity lift systems, snowmaking:
Mt Hutt (Methven, Canterbury) Coronet Peak (Queenstown, Otago) The Remarkables (Queenstown, Otago) Cardrona (Wanaka, Otago) Treble Cone (Wanaka, Otago) Snow Park (Wanaka, Otago) Whakapapa (Mt Ruapehu, Central North Island) Turoa (Mt Ruapehu, Central North Island)
The Smaller, ‘Boutique’ Commercial Fields - with
more basic facilities and a family friendly approach:
Ohau (South Canterbury) Roundhill (Lake Tekapo, South Canterbury) Mt Dobson (South Canterbury) Mt Cheeseman (North Canterbury) Porters (North Canterbury) Mt Lyford (Hanmer Springs, North Canterbury)
The Club Fields - non-profit, run by ski clubs, basic
facilities, low skier density, ‘backcountry’ feel:
Mt Olympus (North Canterbury) Broken River (North Canterbury)
Craigieburn (North Canterbury) Temple Basin (North Canterbury / West Coast)
Hanmer Springs (North Canterbury)
NZ Commercial Resorts: Fast lifts and big terrain.
Heli & Cat-skiing Operations – catering to those with
a penchant for powder and the backcountry.
Alpine Heliski (Queenstown, Otago) Harris Mountains Heliski (Queenstown, Otago) Helipark (Mid-Canterbury) Southern Lakes Heliski (Queenstown, Otago) Wilderness Heliskiing (Mt Cook National Park) Methven Heliski (Methven, Canterbury) Mt Hutt Helicopters (Methven, Canterbury) Ski The Tasman (Mt Cook National Park) Queenstown Snowcats (Queenstown, Otago) Alpure Peaks (South Canterbury)
Welcome to some of the world’s best heliskiing, at the most accessible prices.
Places to Stay As mentioned earlier, New Zealand doesn’t really do ski-in / ski-out accommodation in the ‘villageat-the-base-of-the-mountain’ style available in North America and Europe (yet – the team at Porters in Canterbury are working on that). Generally, skiers will stay in nearby towns – with the exception being some ski clubs with private lodges either located on a commercial mountain (such as those on Whakapapa) or the Canterbury Club Fields, which offer bunkroom-style lodge accommodation right on the mountain.
Southern Lakes Region The Southern Lakes Region, encompassing the resort towns of Queenstown and Wanaka, is New Zealand’s equivalent of an Aspen, a Verbier, or a Whistler. It is a truly spectacular place with lots of the following: mountains, lakes, ski resorts, tourists, skiers and boarders of all shapes, ages and dispositions, places to eat, places to stay, places to drink, things to do, shopping, money, and development. Served by an international airport, it’s definitely the place where the cool kids hang out and if you have the disposable income, it is seriously hard to get bored here. The five main ski resorts are large commercial operations and things can get pretty busy in peak season…unless you’ve got the cash to partake in one of the excellent heliski or cat-skiing operations on offer.
South Canterbury & Tekapo The area around and near Tekapo, about 2.5 hours drive from Christchurch or Queenstown airports, is an up-andcoming destination for skiing families looking for somewhere a little quieter and perhaps more family friendly than the socool-it-hurts Southern Lakes region. Located at the top of the spectacular Mackenzie basin, the neat village of Tekapo is close to the boutique resorts of Roundhill, Mt Dobson and a bit further south, Ohau. Each offers a great mix of terrain, facilities and friendliness at prices significantly easier to swallow than their bigger Southern neighbours. Alpure Peaks offers cat-skiing nearby for powderhounds. Plus, it is only a short drive from Tekapo to the Mt Cook region, with true big mountain heliskiing and the opportunity to ski the vast Tasman glacier via skiplane…just awesome.
Tasman Glacier ski planes - awesome..
Methven & Mount Hutt When combined with the adjacent Canterbury Club Fields (see below), this region offers arguably the widest range of possibilities to the avid snow rider, at least as far as big mountains and skiable terrain goes. The resort town of Methven nestles at the base of the main ski resort of the region, Mt Hutt, a true high-country ski mecca known as ‘the capital of speed’ and for having the longest season in the country. An hour’s drive from Christchurch airport, Methven is also an hour from Helipark – New Zealand’s only patrolled heli-accessed terrain…meaning no limits on where to go for the wild ones amongst us. Mt Hutt Helicopters offers the country’s only ski-resort based heliski service (which has to be the world’s most accessible heliskiing) while Methven Heliski, with exclusive access to the mighty Arrowsmiths, offers with New Zealand’s best heliski terrain.
The Canterbury Club Fields With the city of Christchurch and it’s 400,000 inhabitants just over an hour away, it is no wonder that the mountains in Canterbury harbour that most unique of New Zealand ski experiences – the Club Fields. These places are a heady mix of wild, big-mountain terrain, rudimentary but effective lift systems, cosy on-mountain huts and a pioneering breed of locals, known as ‘clubbies’ who keep the places not only alive, but going from strength to strength as people discover the magic of the back country. The six fields (if we include boutique commercial resort Porters) in the region west of Christchurch offer skiers and boarders the chance to experience NZ ski culture as it was 50 years ago…but with modern equipment, skills and attitudes. Words simply can’t do it justice.
Hanmer Springs Region Tucked into an alpine basin 90 minutes north-west of Christchurch lies the picturesque thermal resort town of Hanmer Springs. Like Tekapo, Hanmer is a family-friendly place with a couple of great skiing options. The Hanmer Springs Ski Club is a friendly club field offering a great on-mountain lodge and accessible terrain for beginners and intermediates, whilst not much further away in the opposite direction lies the boutique family-orientated Mt Lyford resort complete with world class terrain, killer views and its very own alpine log cabin village. With freshly revamped thermal hot pools and spa facilities to soak away the day’s exertion, Hanmer is a winter escape with a whole lot going for it.
Mt Ruapehu Region Fancy skiing on a 9,000 foot active stratovolcano? Plenty do, and that is why the Central North Island’s mighty Mt Ruapehu is home to New Zealand’s two largest ski areas. Roughly four hours equidistant from Wellington or Auckland airports, the twin resorts of Whakapapa and Turoa offer distinctly different experiences to skiers and boarders. Whakapapa is more about fast lifts, terrain parks, cafes on the mountain and probably caters to a younger crowd, while Turoa is about varied terrain, powder stashes and backcountry skiing. The towns of Ohakune, National Park and Turangi provide nearby accommodation, whilst the resort town of Taupo is about an hour from the slopes. All of this lies in the heart of a spectacular geothermal region on the edge of New Zealand’s biggest lake steeped in Maori culture and history…a proper New Zealand winter holiday.
Skiing on a volcano, anyone?
7 Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make. The 7 Mistakes listed below are for those of you who take on the often thankless task of organising stuff. They also pertain specifically to skiing in New Zealand. They acknowledge the fact that our climate, our mountains and our ski destinations are unique, with their own pros and cons. Some may be applicable elsewhere, but if you’ve never skied in New Zealand, or wish to expand your horizons here, then you’d do well to heed some of the advice below. 1. Going for the Cheap Deal We’re all the same – no-one likes paying too much for something. But by the same token, people around the world constantly rue their decision to go for a cheap deal. The pitfalls of a cheap deal can manifest themselves in many ways… such as rubbish accommodation, a tinny rental vehicle, wrong time of the year, awful flight times, and some others which will be apparent in the other mistakes below. But always remember – if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is, so walk away. 2. Limiting your Options The ability to make a daily choice on where you ski (or what you do when you’re not skiing) should never be underrated. Limiting yourself to one ski area can be restrictive, especially if the conditions aren’t ideal, the place crowded or non-skiing activities too few, too expensive or simply not available. Cheap deals are notorious for this…you feel compelled to go back to the same place in order to get ‘value’, whether you want to go there or not…wistfully looking over your shoulder at those enjoying the good stuff….those who gave themselves a choice. 3. Failing to think about Non-Skiing Days As explained earlier in the Guide, inclement weather (especially that which brings the lovely powder snow) is a fact of life when skiing in NZ. You should plan on one, maybe two days per week falling into this category. And some days you may just not feel like hitting the slopes regardless of weather. So – what are you going to do on those days if your accommodation is shared, all the restaurants are full, and other activities are either booked or super-expensive? You’ll have to suck it up – make sure you remind yourself of this when deciding on your next ski holiday.
4. Forgetting Group Dynamics This is especially important if you’re travelling as many of us love to do – with good friends or family. It is rare that all members of a group will be at the same level in their snow-riding ability, or rate of progression – so any decision about where to go will need to be a ‘compromise by consensus’ (a smartass way of saying everyone needs to be looked after to some degree). It goes hand in hand with Limiting your Options – if you’re just restricted to a crowded commercial resort, the powderhounds in your group will be hating it. Likewise, if skiing at an off-piste only club field is your lot for the week, the beginners won’t thank you. Make sure you consider everyone’s needs and cater for them. 5. Taking the Wrong Gear We see it all the time – someone gets sold a new pair of skis suited to a specific set of conditions (e.g. the blue groomer at the local commercial resort) then finds them totally unsuitable for the conditions they have to deal with on their holiday. What they should have done is wait until they get to their destination and hire the right stuff for the conditions and their ability. The right ski shop or resort will have experts who want you to get the maximum enjoyment out of your time on the hill, regardless of the conditions. Also makes mucking around with airlines’ stingy baggage policies a non-issue. 6. Ignoring the Experts Goes hand in hand with the Cheap Deal. If you’re serious about getting better, or expanding your horizons on the mountain – then you should seriously consider hiring a guide or instructor. These guys aren’t cheap (the good ones at least) and can take the edge off that sharp price. However, expert assistance is important at all stages of the progression process – it’s obvious that a beginner will benefit hugely from coaching, but equally important is the other end of the spectrum where you’re pushing the boundaries of where and how you ski. Out there, the right technique, equipment and guidance can literally be a matter of life and death…something you may want to think about. 7. Not thinking about Other People This is not about asking you to consider the well being of other mountain users – although we’d strongly advise that you do – but more about how other mountain users can affect you. Other people can have a massive influence on the outcome of your ski trip – whether it’s the 100kg beginner wiping you out on the crowded learner slope, the group of twenty-two year olds staying next door getting up to all kinds of shenanigans your grandmother may not approve of, or the restaurant manager with the indifferent attitude. If, like us, you subscribe to the adage that ‘the only person you can rely on is yourself’ then we’d advise eliminating the ‘Other People’ variables wherever you can by going private.
11 Things You Need to Think About. In the 7 Mistakes, we’ve tried to impart our best knowledge about what to avoid when booking a New Zealand ski Holiday. Now it’s time to think about what you should consider. Here are 10 handy hints that will make your ski holiday way better, guaranteed. Think About When You Want to Go. If you are fixed to certain dates, such as school holidays, then you may not have much choice on this one. But if you have flexibility with work and leave, you might want to consider when the best time for you to hit the slopes will be. It’s a juggle between price, crowds, snow and weather - and as we have explained above, each stage of the season has its pros and cons. Work out what your priority is and plan around that. Plan Your Leave. Get in nice and early when requesting leave for your ski trip – a good time to think about when to you might want to go on a ski trip is when everyone else is thinking about sun, sand and barbecues. Plus the boss or your staff will appreciate the advance warning and make it easier for you to get away from the winter work scene. Check Out the Skiing Options .Wherever you go, make sure you do some research on the skiing options. Read independent reviews from skiers and boarders similar to yourself and decide if you’re going to be overly limited, overly challenged or just happy at the resort of your choice. If there are a number of options at your disposal, then you’ve got a better chance of everyone enjoying themselves. Consider the needs of your entire group – the last thing you need is someone to be put out or even worse, opt out of the trip altogether. Check Out the Non-Skiing Options. We’ve already talked about bad weather options, but if some people in your group aren’t that fussed about spending every day on the slopes, then what are they going to do if everyone else has gone up the hill and taken the transport with them? Having some handy activities that people in your group can enjoy is a good way to ensure you cover every eventuality. Ask the Locals. A lot can be gained by calling or emailing the local ski shop, tour organiser or guiding company about the suitability of an area of resort for your groups’ needs. They’ll generally point you in the right direction. A well-skied friend can do the same – just make sure the source is reliable, trustworthy, and actually knows what they are talking about.
Buy What You Need. You don’t want to go out and buy expensive designer jackets and pants only to have no money left for super-important items like boots and goggles. Having the right functional gear can make or break your ski trip – ever suffered rental-boot foot pain? Likewise, there’s little point in going for that 5-day all-lifts deal if you’re a beginner – you’ll be paying for stuff you don’t need, when that money could go toward a valuable lesson instead. Know the Real Cost. Before you opt for that too-good-to-be-true combination deal, make sure you work out the real cost, both in terms of money and sanity. Is your accommodation adequate for your group’s size? Is it handy to the stuff you want to do? Will your rental car actually get up the mountains you want to ski? Is it insured to do so? Will the flight get in at 1am? What do you need to budget for lunch and dinner each day? Are there self-catering and catered dining options handy? Do you have flexibility to ski where the conditions are best? There are a lot of questions to ask, all worth asking. Go Mid-Week. It’s a simple one – mid week means less people, more mountain to ski and more fresh tracks to be made than during the weekends when all the locals swarm their favourite mountain. Going for a few days as opposed to just a weekend also increases your chances of some quality snow in the event of changeable weather, and lets you ‘warm into your work’. Give Yourself Time. Skiing and boarding are preparation-intensive sports. You should get yourself in shape prior to leaving, while it’s always a good idea to give yourself a day to get everything together, check your gear and make sure you have all you need before departing for the snow. And it’s nice to have a day in hand to rest up before you go back to work. Check with Your Airline. Make sure the airline in that cheap deal isn’t going to sting you for carting your ski gear over. Make sure they can actually take your skis, if you intend to bring your own. And always carry critical stuff like your boots and helmet in the cabin if you can – that way, if they drop the ball on the baggage handling, you won’t be forced to use nasty hire stuff or go without. Insurance Boring, yes, but critical. In NZ, all accidents and related costs are covered by ACC (part of our free healthcare) but this isn’t a replacement for travel insurance. You need to make sure you are not only insured for skiing and / or boarding, but also the type of skiing you intend to do. For example, some policies may cover in-bounds on-the-groom, but not off-piste. Others may cover off-piste but not backcountry / heli. Then there are airlines losing bags, theft in the larger towns / resorts, gear breakages etc…all headaches you don’t need when you should be concentrating on having fun.
4 Simple Steps for an Epic Ski Trip. Right, now you know some mistakes to avoid making when planning your NZ ski trip, along with some things you should give some solid thought to. This bit is about bringing all the above together into a quick step-by-step process to ensure you have an epic ski trip. As trip organiser, investing your time in admin and organisation is hard enough without being hassled by your friends for overlooking certain ‘minor’ details. Step 1: Write Down your Priorities Actually grab a pen or keyboard and write down the elements most critical to a successful ski trip. Do you require private accommodation? Is backcountry skiing important? Are you happy to selfcater? Consider the needs of everyone in your group and use this list as a checklist for any ski resort, accommodation provider or any other key component of the trip. Step 2: Create a Shortlist of Options You may already have a fair idea of where you might want to ski in NZ. This could be based on prior experience, friend’s recommendations, your research or a ‘great deal’. Regardless, you should create a shortlist of options, with some alternatives to your initial preference. Then check each place against the priorities suggested in Step 1. In short – don’t jump to a hasty decision. Step 3: Apply the 11 Things You Need to Think About So you’ve decided on a few potential destinations. Now you need to work out with of the 10 Things is relevant to your group and apply them. This way you’ll cover all the potential issues, or at least identify any things you may need to take care of prior to departure. Don’t forget to check them off against the 7 mistakes either. Your family or friends will thank you for it. Step 4: Book It! You’ve done the hard work, asked the hard questions and hopefully received the hard answers. So now you can go ahead, book your flights, your accommodation, your ski passes, your rental gear, your hire vehicle and all that other stuff – or alternatively, get someone to take care of all that for you (if this sounds like you, then click here). Then you can sit back, relax and dream of the good times to come.
The Neon PomPom Guarantee. If you thought this was an impartial, independent guide to booking and NZ ski trip, you’d be right – until now. This is where we make a shameless plug for our ski chalet and guiding service, The Neon PomPom. And we start by making a promise to you in the form of a guarantee.
If you are dissatisfied with any part of your Neon PomPom experience under our direct control, we will refund 100% of the cost of that part - right up to 100% of the trip’s cost. All we ask is that you give us the chance to get it right first. There you go – someone willing to organise your ski trip, deliver the experience and accept total financial responsibility in doing so. Surely that’s at least worth an email?
A well-organised ski or board trip can be the ultimate group holiday.
The NZ Ski Trip Checklist. 1. Are the dates suitable for both the snow you want and work / time restrictions? 2. Have you given your group sufficient time on the snow? 3. Are there enough skiing / boarding options to keep everyone happy? 4. Are there sufficient non-skiing options to keep everyone happy if they canâ€™t ski? 5. Have you organised all the accommodation, transport and skiing components of your trip? 6. If you havenâ€™t done the above, have you arranged for someone to do it for you? 7. Is the total cost transparent? Are you sure there are no hidden costs? 8. Have you asked a ski holiday expert what they think of your plans? 9. Have you checked with your airline? 10. Have you arranged the appropriate travel insurance? Nice work. Now you can go enjoy your Epic NZ Ski Trip.
For More Information... Right now, you have two choices: 1. You can take the information in this guide and embark upon the mission that is organising your own New Zealand ski trip, We wish you the best of luck!
Orâ€Ś 2. You can come and stay at The Neon PomPom a call and let us take care of it all for you, leaving you to explore a range of options that youâ€™d be hard pressed to do on your own whilst enjoying the company of your friends or family. If Option 2 sounds like you, you can reach us via the following means: Web: visit www.neonpompom.co.nz and fill out our enquiry form Email: Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: Give us a tinkle on +64 3 3186 575
Published on May 14, 2012
A short guidebook that contains almost everything you need to know in order to ensure a successful NZ ski holiday.