Summer skiing in North America exists, but the options are few and far between. Take a trip below the Equator, however, and you’ll find something different… the seasons are flipped.
South America may be the best-known Southern Hemisphere skiing spot, but New Zealand and Australia also make worthy destinations.
In the last decade, New Zealand’s tourism has enjoyed a major uptick, much thanks to the Lord of the Rings films that showed off the nation’s spectacular scenery. From June through October, skiers and boarders on a heroic quest for some “Summer” snow generally head to the Southern Alps on the South Island.
The country’s ski areas are smaller in skiable acreage than most major North American resorts and slope-side lodging is a rarity. Nonetheless, the terrain certainly fits in the “legit, big-mountain” category. Open bowls and chutes are abundant. However, due to the fact that these resorts sit above the tree line, tree skiing is basically non-existent.
1. Coronet Peak
Just a 20-minute drive from Queenstown, New Zealand’s liveliest “ski town,” is Coronet Peak. Known for its intermediate terrain, Coronet Peak also offers night skiing, allowing visitors to stay out on the slopes longer than any other ski area in the country.
The Remarkables ski area is a little farther, requiring a 45-minute drive from Queenstown. The Remarkables’ access road has a remarkably scary reputation, but work on the road is part of a $40-million redevelopment project that also includes a new high-speed chairlift. The Remarkables is home to “The Stash” natural terrain park, a concept also found at Killington, Northstar California and Jackson Hole.
3. Treble Cone
Near the town of Wanaka and 90 minutes from Queenstown, Treble Cone attracts advanced skiers. With almost 1,400 skiable acres and 2,300 feet of vertical, Treble Cone is expansive by New Zealand standards.
The ski experience in Australia is mellower than in New Zealand, including the drive to the resorts. The Aussie landscape may not be as spectacular as New Zealand’s, but the access roads are also not as treacherous. Slope-side lodging is also much more common, adding to its convenience factor.
Unlike New Zealand, tree skiing is on the terrain menu in Australia. The resorts are centered between Sydney and Melbourne in the southeast corner of the country. Average snowfall compares to Midwest U.S. ski areas, so snowmaking is essential.
As one of Australia’s leading resorts, Thredbo offers a wide range of terrain for riders of all ability levels. Great coverage is almost always guaranteed as the ski area operates the largest snowmaking system in the Southern Hemisphere. For those looking to kick back after a long day of skiing, the expansive village at the ski area’s base offers plenty of après-ski options. Thredbo also participates in the Mountain Collective program that includes North American partner resorts: Alta, Snowbird, Aspen/Snowmass, Jackson Hole, Mammoth, Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows and Whistler/Blackcomb.
With 3,076 skiable acres, Perisher can claim to be the largest resort in the Southern Hemisphere. A relatively modest vertical of 1,165 feet, however, does temper expectations for the layout.
3. Mt. Hotham
Favored by experts, Mt. Hotham features Mary’s Slide as its signature challenge. With a vertical drop of 1,295 feet, the ski area receives an average annual snowfall of 118 inches, a figure slightly above most other Australian resorts.
A Southern Hemisphere ski trip may be a long haul, but who knows… You might find yourself sharing a lift ride with a hobbit on your snowy quest!