In June Wanaka gets geared up for winter, mountain-bike rental shops switch to ski rental (see Scenic flights), watersports instructors don baggy snowboarder pants and frequent shuttle buses run up to the ski-fields. If you plan to drive up to the ski-fields, you’ll need tyre chains, which can be rented at petrol stations in Wanaka.
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Downhill and cross-country skiing
Cardrona Alpine Resort Reached by a 12km unsealed toll-free access road branching off 24km south of Wanaka, near Cardrona t 03 443 7411, w cardrona.com. Predominantly family-oriented field sprawled over three basins on the southeastern slopes of the 1934m Mount Cardrona. Expect dry snow and an abundance of gentle runs (five beginner, thirteen intermediate, nine advanced). There are quads and several learner tows, and a maximum vertical descent of 390m and everyone has the run of three terrain parks. You’ll need snow chains to negotiate the access road to the base facilities halfway up the field.
Treble Cone 22km west of Wanaka, accessed by a 7km toll-free road t 03 443 7443, w treblecone.co.nz. More experienced skiers tend to frequent the steep slopes here. Its appeal lies in open uncrowded runs (four beginner, sixteen intermediate, nineteen advanced) spectacularly located high above Lake Wanaka, and a full 700 vertical metres of skiing with moguls, powder runs, gully runs and plenty of natural and created half-pipes. Three new groomed trails make it much better for beginners than previously and snowboarders will have a ball.
Snow Farm Across the valley from Cardrona, 24km south of Wanaka, then 13km up a winding dirt road t 03 443 7542, w snowfarmnz.com. With so many Kiwi skiers committed to downhill, it comes as a surprise to discover a cross-country ski area. It’s an inexpensive way to get on the snow, negotiating the 55km of marked Nordic trails. July–Sept.
Heli-skiing is not cheap, but there’s no other way of getting to runs of up to 1200 vertical metres across virgin snow on any of six mountain ranges.
Harris Mountains Heli-Ski t 03 442 6722, w heliski.co.nz. Offers almost 400 different runs on 150 peaks – mainly in the Harris Mountains between Queenstown’s Crown Range and Wanaka’s Mount Aspiring National Park. Strong intermediate and advanced skiers get the most out of the experience, where conditions are more critical than at the ski-fields, but on average there’s heli-skiing seventy percent of the time, typically in four- to five-day weather windows. Of the multitude of packages, the most popular is “The Classic”, a four-run day.