Ultimate guide to skiing in Wanaka + how to choose the best Wanaka ski fields  

Last Updated on May 15, 2022 by ashleighsatlas

Are you going skiing in Wanaka and wondering what the best Wanaka ski fields are for you?

I quit my job as a lawyer and moved to Wanaka last year to work at the Wanaka ski resorts. I went skiing almost every day in Wanaka over Winter last year. 

So I know everything there is possibly to know about skiing in Wanaka – and how to choose the right Wanaka ski resorts for you. (The perfect ski field for me won’t be the perfect ski field for you – it depends on your ability and what you want to do).  

Read my ultimate guide about skiing in Wanaka for:

  • All my top tips and FAQ about skiing in Wanaka. 
  • A detailed and honest comparison of the Wanaka ski fields – including the pros and cons, so you can work out which Wanaka ski resort is best for you
  • Tips for getting there. 
  • The best Wanaka ski accommodation

RELATED: 33 Best Things to Do in Wanaka in Winter

Wanaka-Travel-Guide

Skiing in Wanaka FAQs

What ski fields are in Wanaka?

There are four Wanaka ski fields:

  1. Cardona Alpine Resort
  2. Treble Cone
  3. Snow Farm
  4. Soho Basin

There are also two Queenstown ski resorts which you can visit from Wanaka:

  1. The Remarkables
  2. Trebles Cone 

Read my detailed guides below comparing the Wanaka ski resorts. 

Is Wanaka or Queenstown better?

Trying to decide if you should go skiing in Wanaka or Queenstown?

Both Queenstown and Wanaka have excellent skiing, so I would split your time between the two e.g. spend 4 days skiing in Queenstown and 3 days skiing at the Wanaka ski fields. This will give you an opportunity to try all of the different ski resorts. It also saves long commutes over the Crown Range. 

You could also base yourself in either Queenstown or Wanaka and do day trips e.g. if you were staying in Queenstown you could do a day trip to Cardrona. Where you base yourself will depend on your personal preference of what town you prefer:

  • Queenstown is bigger, busier, more touristy, has more nightlife, and has lots of other activities to do. 
  • Wanaka is smaller, quieter, more laid back, and doesn’t have as many other activities to do. 

Both Queenstown and Wanaka have excellent restaurants and cafes. 

Wondering what else to do in Queenstown and Wanaka? Read my posts:

Is Queenstown or Wanaka closer to Cardrona?

Wanaka is closer to the Cardrona ski field. It’s 58km from Queenstown (around an hour drive) and 34km from Wanaka (around 40 minutes). This may not seem like a big difference, but I highly recommend coming from Wanaka because the drive is much easier.  

If you drive from Queenstown, you will drive over the Crown Range which is very windy. The Crown Range can also be icy and closed over Winter. The drive from Wanaka is at much lower altitude so doesn’t close. 

While you can definitely do a day trip to Cardrona from Queenstown (lots of people do), I recommend staying in Wanaka instead. If you want to ski in Queenstown too you can split your time over both ie. 4 days in Queenstown and 3 days in Wanaka. 

RELATED: 33 Best Things to Do in Wanaka in Winter

Does Wanaka get snow?

The Wanaka township gets snow occasionally over Winter (June to August), but not regularly. Wanaka gets snow maybe a few times over Winter. It is usually a light snow fall and the snow rarely settles on the ground. 

Wanaka gets snow on the surrounding mountains, and you can see the beautiful snow-capped mountains from Wanaka. You can also go skiing in Wanaka. There are four Wanaka ski fields – Cardona, Treble Cone, Snow Farm and Soho Basin. 

Does it snow in Wanaka in June?

Wanaka usually gets snow in the township a few times over Winter (June to August). It is more likely to snow later in the season. It is usually not cold enough in June, although it is possible.

If you’re trying to decide the best time to go skiing in Wanaka, I would avoid June. The ski fields are technically supposed to open mid-June, but the last few years this has been pushed out to the end of June because there wasn’t enough snow. Even though, the mountains opened with very little snow and only one or two beginner slopes were open. 

Does it snow in Wanaka in July?

It doesn’t snow regularly in the Wanaka township. Wanaka only gets snow a couple of times over Winter (June to August). It could snow over July, although it’s probably more likely later in the Winter season.

If you’re trying to decide when to go skiing in Wanaka, I would recommend avoiding July and wait until August or September. There probably won’t be much snow at the ski fields in early July. The school holidays are in July which are extremely busy and should be avoided. 

How cold does Wanaka get in Winter?

Although there is skiing in Wanaka, it is surprisingly mild in Winter. The coldest month is July with an average maximum temperature of 8.0°C (46.4°F). It occasionally snows in the Wanaka township over Winter, but only a few times a year. 

I love the weather in Wanaka in Winter. Wanaka usually has crisp but sunny Winter days. I find it much more pleasant than other places I’ve lived like Wellington, Melbourne and Scotland which had rainy, windy and dreary Winters. 

Is Cardrona good for beginners?

Yes, Cardrona is the best place to go skiing in Wanaka for beginners. I was a beginner skier when I moved to Wanaka last year and Cardrona is the best ski field I’ve ever been to for beginners: 

  • There is a big learners’ area with different runs progressing from first timer to more advanced beginners. 
  • There is an excellent ski school with small group lessons for beginners. 
  • There is a gondola, which is easier to use than a chairlift for beginners and children. 
  • There is a beginner park area – with small jumps and rails. 
  • There are lots of easy intermediate runs which are good for beginners to progress to.

If it’s your first time, I highly recommend doing the first timer’s package which gives you lift passes, ski rental and two lessons. It’s really good valuable for money and you will have a much better day if you do the lessons.

Can I drive up to Cardrona?

Yes, you can drive up to Cardrona. Be aware it is a mountain road so it is unsealed, very windy, has lots of tight corners, and cliffs on the side. It can also be icy and snowy in Winter, so make sure to always have chains with you.

It takes about 25 minutes to drive from the turnoff on the main road to the carpark at the top. 

If you don’t feel confident driving up, Cardrona offer a free shuttle bus. The bus leaves from the Pine Trees Carpark which is at the bottom of the mountain (search “Pine Trees – Cardona” on Google maps).

You can also book a private transfer to Cardrona.

What is the best month to ski in NZ?

The New Zealand ski season usually goes from roughly mid-June to mid-October. This will differ depending on each mountain e.g. the ski season at Cardrona is longer (starts earlier and finishes later) than Treble Cone. 

The best month to ski in New Zealand is August or early September. This has the best snow conditions – there is good snow coverage, the most powder days, and it’s before the slushy Spring conditions start. 

I would avoid June and July. There is usually not much snow and the whole mountain may not be open yet. The mountains are also extremely busy in the July school holidays so make sure you avoid them.

From mid-September to mid-October, there be Spring conditions. The snow will be very icy in the morning and extremely slushy in the afternoons. It gets progressively worse towards the end of the season. If you’re not an experienced skier, Spring conditions can be very hard to ski in (can you tell I hate them!?). 

RELATED: 33 Best Things to Do in Wanaka in Winter

Should you get a ski lesson?

I would 100% recommend getting a ski lesson. I spent years trying to teach myself to ski and it was a disaster. After years I finally did a lesson and progressed more in a couple of hours than years of trying to figure it out myself.

It may seem expensive, but it is completely worth it. If you’re spent that much on skiing, you want to make the most of it. My biggest regret is not getting lessons from the start.

If it’s your first time, I highly recommend going to Cardrona (it’s the best Wanaka ski field for beginners) and doing the first timers package. It’s good value for money and includes two lessons, as well as your rentals and lift ticket.

Comparison of Wanaka ski resorts 

Trying to decide between the Wanaka ski fields? Read my detailed description below comparing the Wanaka ski resorts to help you decide which one is best for you.  

Cardrona Best for families, beginners + intermediates
Treble Cone Best for advanced 
Snow FarmBest for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and tubing 
Soho Basin Best for luxury backcountry 

Wanaka ski fields map

1. Cardrona

PROS:

  • Best for families, beginners and intermediates. 
  • Excellent park, especially for beginners and experts. 
  • Lots of good cafes/restaurants spread out over mountain with wide variety of food.  
  • Free shuttle from bottom of mountain. 
  • Shuttle buses from Queenstown and Wanaka (paid). 
  • Gondolas (enclosed so good for families).
  • Nice views of Lake Hawea and Queenstown. 
  • Olympic athletes train here (fun to watch their big jumps). 
  • Ski concierge (can leave your rentals overnight if you rent on the mountain). 
  • Excellent ski school for all levels and instructor training. 
  • Excellent ski shop with really cool and fashionable ski gear. 

CONS:

  • Not that many advanced/off-piste runs. Treble Cone is better for experts. 
  • Mountain road is unsealed and can be scary to drive (but you can get a free shuttle). 
  • Quite busy. Avoid school holidays which have extremely long lines. 
  • Tubing/sledding not allowed (go to Snow Farm if this is all you want to do). 

Getting there 

Cardrona is around 40 minutes from Wanaka and one hour from Queenstown. There are a few transport options:

  • Drive to the top yourself
  • Drive to the Pine Trees Carpark at the bottom of the mountain and get a free shuttle to the top 
  • Get a shuttle from Queenstown or Wanaka (paid) 
  • Arrange private transport

Prices

There are a lot of options and it can feel quite overwhelming. If it’s your first time, I’d recommend:

My biggest tip is to book your tickets in advance since the lines can be very long at the mountain. You can buy them using the links below.

Lift pass only:

Lift pass and rentals:

Packages (both include rentals and 2 x lessons. The only difference is whether your lift pass gives you access to the whole mountain or only the learners area):

2. Treble Cone

PROS: 

  • Best for advanced-intermediates (confident skiing parallel on all blue runs) + experts.  
  • Place to be on powder days (if you know how to ski powder). 
  • Incredible views of Lake Wanaka. Similar views to Roys Peak. 
  • Quieter than Cardrona.
  • Free shuttle from bottom of mountain.  

CONS:

  • Wouldn’t recommend for beginners (very few beginners runs) and lower-intermediates (not many easy blue runs). Go to Cardrona instead. 
  • No park (jumps/rails). 
  • Only one café (but still good) and small ski shop. 
  • Unsealed alpine road (but free shuttles). 

Getting there 

Treble Cone is around 40 minutes from Wanaka and 1 hour 40 minutes from Queenstown. There are a few transport options:

Prices

Under 5s are free.

I strongly recommend buying tickets in advance to save time when you get to the mountain. You can buy them online here.

The lift passes don’t need to be used consecutively so if you’re planning to go multiple times over the season, it’s worth buying a multi-day pass.

3. Snow Farm

PROS:

  • Best for cross-country skiing, snoeshowing and tubing. 
  • Popular for cross-country skiing to a hut (1-3 hours away) and staying overnight. 
  • Café/restaurant/bar.

CONS:

  • No chairlifts or downhill skiing (i.e. normal skiing). 
  • Unsealed alpine road (but can book private shuttle yourself). 
  • Can’t bring your own toboggan (but can rent them there). 

Getting there 

Snow Farm is around 40 minutes from Wanaka or 60 minutes from Queenstown. There are a few options for getting there:

Prices

Cross-country skiing package (lesson, rentals, trail pass):

  • Full day – adult $99, student $88, child $50
  • Half day – adult $88, student $77, child $44

Cross-country skiing combo (rentals, trail pass):

  • Full day – adult $88, student $77, child $50
  • Half day – adult $77, student $66, child $39

Cross-country skiing (trail pass only):

  • Full day – adult $50, student $44, child $28
  • Half day – adult $44, student $39, child $22

Season pass

  • Child – $49 (no rentals), $99 (rentals)
  • Adult – $149 (no rentals), $359 (rentals)
  • Various family season passes available too

4. Soho Basin

PROS:

  • Best for backcountry skiing (like heli-skiing but they drive you around in a snow cat). 
  • Best for intermediate to advanced skiers and boarders. 
  • Large private ski area so no crowds.
  • Gourmet food and wine experience (breakfast, three course lunch, and apres BBQ dinner).
  • Luxury ski experience. 

CONS:

  • Not suitable for beginners. 
  • No facilities (chairlifts, cafes, rentals etc – but you have a private luxury experience with private snow cat transport and all meals). 
  • Mountain road is unsealed and can be scary to drive (same road as Cardrona – but you can arrange private transport or a heli-transfer). 

Getting there 

Soho basin is around 40 minutes from Wanaka or 60 minutes from Queenstown. There are a few options for getting there:

Prices

  • $12,000 for 9 people for full day private charter
Wanaka-Travel-Guide

Queenstown ski fields

Looking for a Queenstown ski resort? There are two ski fields in Queenstown: The Remarkables and Coronet Peak. 

You can fairly easily do a day trip from Wanaka to either, but I would recommend splitting your time between Queenstown and Wanaka e.g. spend half the way in Queenstown and the other half in Wanaka. Otherwise it’s a really long and tiring day trip.

You will also get to experience the apres ski in both towns, which have really different vibes. Read my guides to find out the best things to do in Queenstown and Wanaka (and where to skip).

Wanaka ski accommodation

Looking for Wanaka ski accommodation? These are the best luxury boutique hotels and bnbs in Wanaka:

  1. Cardrona Hotel
  2. Mahu Whenua
  3. Wanaka Homestead Lodge & Cottages
  4. Distinction Wanaka Serviced Apartments
  5. Wanaka Haven
  6. Cross Hill Glamping

Want other New Zealand tips and inspiration?

Looking for other things to do in Wanaka, Queenstown and New Zealand? Read my travel guides to help you plan your trip: 

Wanaka-top-tips

Disclaimer: Some of the links on this page may be affiliate links. This means that – at no extra cost to you – I earn a small commission if you make a purchase. I only recommend things I love. It helps support my dreams of becoming a fulltime travel blogger. Thanks for the support!

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