The complete guide to skiing in New Zealand’s Wanaka, the perfect winter holiday ski destination.
A short drive from the bustling Queenstown lies the serene picture-perfect Wanaka. Known for its turquoise lakes, glistening snow-topped peaks, and natural beauty.
Explore Wanaka’s world-class ski fields the family-friendly Cardrona, and the adventurous Treble Cone.
Skiing in Wanaka creates a holiday in itself, you might be hard pushed to fit any other activities in once you’re on top of the world.
Ski Season Dates for Wanaka
The ski season on New Zealand’s South Island generally runs from mid-June until early October. The exact dates for each ski field vary every winter depending on snow conditions.
Opening and closing dates are often flexible, so when the snow is good, expect to eek out a few extra dates in early season and spring.
Make sure you are aware of peak weeks to make sure you are booking flights, accommodation, ski rentals, and ski lift passes early enough in advance. July is the busiest period during winter as Queenstown and Wanaka buzz with skiers and snowboarders.
If you’re keen to get the most out of your ski trip even during peak weeks then check out our ‘Inside Guide to getting the most out of your ski day’
New Zealand Ski Resorts
One of New Zealand’s most welcoming ski resorts, Cardrona is easily accessible from both Wanaka and Queenstown. The location and modern facilities, including the new Willow Basin chairlift installed for the 2021 season, complete a bustling ski field that makes life simple for beginners. The all-action ski resort enjoys a world-famous reputation becoming the home to international winter sports athletes from June through to October. Wide-open groomers, freestyle pioneers and smiling face, Cardrona has it all. Read more>>
Treble Cone provides eye-catching appeal for riders who like to explore the limit of skiing and snowboarding. The ski field is designed to cater for intermediate and advanced skiers with elongated steep runs. You’ll think you’re on top of the world as you carve the groomers and slash the pow while enjoying lakeside vistas. Freeriders joy at the backcountry terrain made accessible, especially on a powder day.
Wanaka Ski Accommodation
Wanaka has truly grown into its own unique destination, shunning the tag of ‘Queenstown’s little brother’ and emerging as an organic stunning skier and snowboarder hangout. The appeal of Cardrona and Treble Cone ski fields is the big draw for most skiers but the added bonus of Lake Wanaka tops off this dreamy winter town.
As with any ski town, accommodation is in abundance here with the ideal setting for any and every visitor. You’ll find tranquil retreats, optimal locations and hangout lodges to suit.
For a selection of highly recommended options take a look at Lakeside Apartments and Wanaka Luxury Apartments. If you want some comfort but still want to get up to Treble Cone for first tracks then Edgewater Hotel is a winner.
For more information head over to our in-depth ‘Ski and Snowboard Accommodation in Wanaka’ guide.
Ski Hire Wanaka
Gone are the days of trekking into town to be met with long queues and poorly fitted ski and snowboard rental equipment. Pretty much everything is available for delivery in the 21st century thanks to the internet. This includes your ski rental.
Snopro Ski Hire provides a unique ski rental delivery service across Queenstown and Wanaka.
‘Make your ski holiday simple and stress-free with your very own ski concierge to deliver and custom fit the very latest in ski and snowboard gear. All in the comfort of your accommodation, we even return for support and pick up! This is the Snopro difference, and it comes standard!’
Snopro has even developed what we think is the world most advanced ski hire booking engine.
How To Get To the Slopes
So do you need a rental car for your ski holiday in Wanaka? A good question that naturally varies depending on the rest of your trip.
There are a number of transport options for getting to all of the local ski resorts. Wanaka visitors have plentiful bus options for getting to Cardrona and Treble Cone.
Cardrona Wanaka Bus has several pickup points around town to make transport easy. There is also the option to catch the free mountain shuttle from the Pine Trees carpark, located at the 1km mark on the access road.
Treble Cone is also readily accessible from Wanaka via a shuttle bus that delivers you for a full ski day.
While the bus services provide a handy option they can quite quickly restrict the flexibility of your ski day. You might find that you are on the mountain early in the morning until late afternoon. Not ideal if you have more than skiing planned for your winter holiday.
Having a rental car may well be a good choice for freedom and simplicity. Jump in the car when you’re ready in the morning. Don’t worry too much about alarm clocks and bus timetables. However, it may still pay to get an early start in order to get a parking spot near the slopes and avoid queues. Take care when self-driving as weather can often be hazardous and snow chains are required to be carried throughout the season. Plus if you’re planning on visiting Queenstown’s neighbouring mountains Coronet Peak and the Remarkables, a rental car will be handy indeed.
A selection of other transport choices are available to suit including buses or private transfers. It could be well worth paying for private transport if you are a large group. It may well be cheaper than everyone buying individual bus tickets.
Buying a Ski Pass
Starting from the 2023 ski season onwards, Cardrona is putting a limit on day and multi-day pass sales to reduce skier numbers. Passes will now sell out on the busiest days, and prices may increase depending on the demand of the day.
When purchasing a pass, you will now need to select your mountain of choice, Cardrona or Treble Cone, and specify the day(s) that you wish to visit. Locking in a date for single-day passes or a “window,” for multi-day passes.
Keeping all of the above in mind, we have a wee hack for you.
Snopro has a special allocation of Cardrona ski passes available to our guests, outside of Cardrona’s own retail availability. These passes are also not subject to ‘demand’ pricing, hence the best price always! Now you can secure yourself with not just ski rentals, but a spot on the mountain too.
With this advantageous pool available to our customers, comes more opportunity to secure that golden ticket to shorter wait times, clearer runs, and an overall better mountain experience. Did I also mention that you don’t have to queue for these passes either? We can now email you a barcode, and all you have to do is scan this at one of the kiosk machines located at one of the Cardrona offices located in Wanaka, Queenstown, or up Cardrona Mountain.
*Please note unless you want a Flexi-5 Day Pass which allows you to ski at both mountains, we are currently only selling Cardrona Passes. For Treble Cone Passes you can purchase these directly through Cardrona.
To learn more check out Cardrona Pass Update.
Apres Ski and Restaurants
Francesca’s Italian Kitchen – Always busy and a mainstay of Wanaka’s restaurant scene offering delicious Italian food and marvellous service.
Federal Diner – Feeling like a long lazy morning before hitting the slopes? Federal Diner will open their arms and serve up yummy breakfast and a good cup of coffee.
The Spice Room – There’s always time to squeeze a curry in, especially if you need warming up after a long day out in the cold.
Cardrona Hotel – Sitting at the bottom of Cardrona Alpine Resort its the ideal place for a few drinks for apres-ski.
Water Bar – If you just want a hangout spot for a few beers then Water Bar will do just nicely. Beers, snacks and live music, sorted.
Gin & Raspberry – A touch of luxury with stunning views. Sip a cocktail on their balcony, there’s no better sight than New Zealand’s natural beauty.
Looking for some more family-friendly activities? Have a look at these 5 Family Friendly Apres-Ski Choices in Wanaka
Let’s be honest there’s no shortage of things to do in Queenstown and Wanaka. You may even be exhausted from exploring the ski resorts across both lakeside towns. But you only live once right? Adding another lighting rod of colour, fun and excitement are events and festival throughout the winter that locals and visitors love.
Winter Pride – Jam-packed with amazing events, including dance parties, apres ski, cabaret and ski and boarding, the festival is the perfect week for people to show their true selves in an accepting, supportive and fun community.
Mountain Film Festival – The NZ Mountain Film and Book Festival travels to Queenstown and Wanaka presenting a wide range of films, guest speakers, workshops and presentations from inspirational adventurers from within NZ and around the world.
Snow Machine – Head over to Queenstown for a four-day festival like no other. Ski Cardronas neighbouring Coronet Peak and Remarkables and get down to some amazing DJs on the mountain top stages right into the night, for the ultimate après event.
Snopro Ski Hire is delivering ski rental across Queenstown and Wanaka. Our aim is to provide awesome service along with your equipment. We only employ ski tech’s with a passion for the snow, so they know all the ins and outs of skiing in Queenstown and Wanaka. If you’ve still got any more questions after reading this guide then don’t hesitate to ask us!