Travel Tips

The Fail-Proof Guide To Planning Your Winter Ski-Cation

By Jess Willemse
20th May 2019

Let’s be real, we’re dreaming of travel all year round. So when the chilly season hits, it’s the perfect excuse for a winter getaway (log fire mandatory).

But between endless destinations, packing winter gear and planning snow days—where do we even start? Cue: our eight essential tips for planning your dream ski trip, and avoiding the pitfalls, thanks to 100% Pure New Zealand.

#1 Choose Your Dream Destination

We’ll let you in on a secret—the best winter holiday is only a short flight away. Just over the Tasman, you’ll find fresh powder to shred, idyllic hot pools, gourmet eats and luxury retreats. New Zealand offers four world-class skiing destinations to choose from: Queenstown, Wanaka, Mount Hutt and Mount Ruapehu. There’s something for everyone from the adventure seeker to the aspiring skier. Want to know more? Discover your dream destination here.  

#2 Plan, Plan And Plan

Between accommodation, transport, annual leave, gear and peak season—it’s best to plan your dream ski-cation well in advance. Booking ahead means you can nab your ideal accommodation and score some savings. Ski season in New Zealand kicks off in June and goes through to September, but make sure to check out your resort’s specific opening and closing dates.  

#3 Check Out The Terrain

While the ultimate goal is to freestyle down the Black Diamond trail, make sure to choose terrain that’s suitable for your skill level. If you’re just starting out, most New Zealand ski areas have you covered. Resorts like The Remarkables and Mt Hutt offer jaw-dropping views and dedicated beginner areas on the mountain. Or try Wanaka, where Cardrona Resort features wide-open slopes and a combined gondola meets chair lift for easy access. North Island ski-goers should hit up Happy Valley at Mount Ruapehu, which also has a luxe gondola in the works—due to be completed in time for the 2019 ski season. Most importantly, splurge for a lesson—you’ll be amazed at how quickly you advance with a bit of guidance. We suggest opting for a beginner's package, which includes lessons, lift passes and rentals to kick-start your ski trip.

#4 Book Cosy Accommodation   

Ski accommodation requires a few essentials: cosy heating, a drying space for gear and easy transportation access. Live the luxe life at Eichardts in Queenstown, a private lake-side hotel that offers A-Lister ski packages including transfers by private Land Rover and your very own ski concierge.

For a more cosy stay, indulge in a self-catered chalet on Airbnb, like this romantic log cabin in Ohakune or this private estate near Mount Hutt. We repeat: log fire mandatory. But if you’re needing to save some coin, places like Queenstown have plenty of affordable accommodation options like hostels to choose from. Tahuna Pod Hostel is one-of-a-kind and our pick for a cheap but classy stay.

#5 Gear Up

Spoiler: packing lightly and a ski holiday simply don’t go together. Freezing alpine temperatures call for three kinds of layers: a base of thermals, a comfortable mid-layer and a waterproof outer layer. You'll also need sunscreen, gloves, ski socks, a beanie and a bandana. First-time skiers should borrow where they can or buy second-hand, as gear can quickly add up. Do your research on what you can hire at your destination, like jackets, pants, helmets, goggles, gloves, boots and of course, equipment. Booking ahead at rental shops like Snowrental can even score you a discount (see #2).

#6 Sort The Admin

Deal with those pesky admin tasks pre-holiday so that you can focus on shredding the slopes. We’re talking things like travel insurance and double checking your policy covers skiing and snowboarding. Or when it comes to transport, figure out if you want to roam free with a rental or opt for an easy bus transfer. And lastly the weather—keep an eye on it leading up to your holiday so that you can flex your plans where needed and hit up other winter activities—did someone say hot pools?

#7 Budget Like A Badass

Between lift passes, rentals and transport, the dollars can quickly add up, so be smart about how you can save some coin. Book passes and equipment in advance, or look for package deals that offer a discount. Skip the expensive food on the mountain and stuff your day-pack with high-energy snacks and eat a large meal before or after you hit the slopes. Save on accommodation by booking your trip either side of peak season and avoiding the school holidays—the end of June and end of August are your best bet for a winter trip to New Zealand.  

#8 Suss Out The Après-Ski

French for ‘after skiing,’ après-ski literally means socialising after a day on the slopes—and it’s half the fun of a winter holiday. Luckily all of New Zealand's ski destinations are packed with things to do around the mountain, from mouthwatering restaurants to relaxing hot pools. Queenstown delivers glacier tours by helicopter and pumping winter festivals while Wanaka offers sips of local wine and a UNESCO world heritage national park. Head to Mount Hutt and you'll find the highest-altitude spa in New Zealand and a bustling après-ski bar, where as Mount Ruapehu boasts insane waterfall hikes and adventures around Tongariro National Park. Find your perfect après-ski activity here.

Editor’s note: This article is sponsored by 100% Pure New Zealand and proudly endorsed by Urban List. Thank you for supporting the sponsors who make Urban List possible. Click here for more information on our editorial policy.

Image Credit: Holger Link, Guille Pozzi, Daniel Brubaker

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