Hot Take: Summer skiing in NZ is a NO

Charlie Walker July 21, 2023

share close

Summer skiing in NZ is a NO

Before anyone gets their Kiwis in a twist, let me preface this by saying New Zealand is a beautiful and wonderful country, that at some point everyone should visit. But, what I am saying is don’t go there to go skiing. Go there to go there. Hike all of the little Hobbit trails in it’s picturesque middle earth countryside. Sip all of the delicious savvy B and other tasty wines New Zealand produces. Make friends with one of their 25.3 million sheep and get yourself a nice cozy sweater while you’re at it. Just don’t go for the skiing.

I know summer skiing is a pipe dream for most and options are limited as is. But, for you can skip the Land of The Long White Cloud (the most common translation of Aotearoa – the Maori name for New Zealand), for these three reasons: Cost, Culture, and Cuality. That’s how they spell quality down there. Ok, it’s not. But if you didn’t know that hopefully you will learn also few more things here as well!


Unless you are Elon Zuckerberg or Mark Musk, flying down to the southern hemisphere for some summer shred is going to be an extremely costly under taking. At last look the flight alone from New York, Denver, or San Francisco will run you $2k. Not to mention the physical and mental cost of the 20+ hour flight(s), that leave you feeling like Marty McFly.

Air New Zealand
📷 Courtesy Air New Zealand

And while lift tickets are often cheaper outside of the states like in Europe, not really the case down under with daily passes still around a hundred USD. And yes there are a few ski areas like Coronet Peak and The Remarkables on the Ikon pass. But with all due respect those resorts are buns. (like butt cheeks). They stink is what I am saying.

Getting around also going to cost ya and rental cars are pricey in NZ costing close to $500 for a vehicle that can properly handle ski gear and mountain turns or weather (all while driving on the other side of the road. There are ski busses but the resorts aren’t close and will only run at the start and end of the day.

Oh, and everything else is expensive. Even for New Zealanders. It’s the price you pay living on an island country where everything has to be imported. Gas, food, booze, clothes all the essentials have sever upcharges. Add in the touristy ski town screw you tax.  Just like here in America, NZ Ski towns, like Queenstown, know they can rake you over the coals because you’re isolated ,and your wallet really starts to take a pounding.


Look at you, you sophisticated son of a bitch. Not only are you a skier, but you want to be a well rounded world traveler! Well, sorry chief. New Zealand is not that spot for you. At least not on a ski vacation. Yes the scenery is beautiful, and the Kiwis are lovely folk. And I invite you to make a full vacation to explore the wonders of New Zealand, but going there to ski does not do that.

Almost all of the resorts are on the larger south island (Te Waipounamu), but four out of the five million people in New Zealand, live on the north island (Te Ika-a-Māui). This leaves a lot of room for imports. The ski centered tourist towns are filled with Americans, Aussies, Canadians, Brits and other expats chasing endless winter dreams. The Kiwis are a warm, friendly, welcoming people but from my experience you just won’t meet that many.

Snowboarders in NZ
📷 Courtesy of Ski New Zealand

And locals or not the vibe on the hill is a little fratty and bro’y. Oversized tees, chair beers and backpack speakers don’t only thrive in the states. They’re alive and well across ski areas in New Zealand. Resorts also seem to cater to a more boarder centric crowd with emphasis on park and pipe. Which is fine. I am not just travelling across the globe for it.


Just like my spelling, the actual skiing and riding in New Zealand is passable at best. Yes it gets the job done and is fun and playful, but conditions simply aren’t that great. First there isn’t that much snow. Most resorts average 115 in -200 in a season. You will get plenty of bluebird days but with average daily high temps hanging around 40 degrees Fahrenheit most places, you’re going to have some melt off and slushy afternoons.

Flat rides at Cardrona
📷 courtesy of Cardrona

Also, despite what your partner says, size matters. New Zealand’s largest resort, Treble Cone, clocks about 1300 skiable acres. By comparison, Killington is 1500 and Vail is over 5000. And then there’s the elevation and vert. While majestic, the Southern Alps, are dwarfed by their European namesake. Tallest peaks top out at 6,000 ft with vertical drop around 2,000 feet. Sure that puts New England to shame but compared to the Sierras, The Rockies or it’s summer skiing counterparts in South America they are small mountains for riding.

Lo Siento

I don’t take any pleasure in steering people away from adventure, traveling, or skiing. And that’s not what I am trying to do here. You should absolutely go to New Zealand. It’s a special place unlike anywhere I have visited. I just wish I didn’t go for skiing. If you have that summer itch and need to get some turns in, you simply have better options for your time and money. Lo siento (Spanish for I’m sorry), but your better bet is to fly straight down south to Argentina or Chile ski in the Andes. Your dollar simply goes further, with a more immersive cultural experience, and unparalleled conditions & terrain.

But, I am all about second chances and not afraid to admit when I am wrong. So calling all New Zealand Ski Resorts to make me eat my words. Feel free to like the Out of Collective down under and show us what we’re missing. Ethan will take photos and videos. Jaber will interview everyone and butcher local slang and terminology. Michele can provide some serious shred tests. And X can make a whole new country of people uncomfortable. But until that happens, have to rate summer skiing in NZ as a big NO.

RELATED: Summer Skiing’s Shangri La – Portillo, Chile

Tagged as: .

Rate it
Previous episode

Post comments

This post currently has no comments.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *