We’re counting down to our third ski trip in Queenstown with kids! My husband loves the snow so after a decade of no skiing he was desperate to return to the slopes and teach our boys to ski. I, on the other hand, would prefer lying on a tropical beach sipping a mojito. After debating an island beach holiday versus a snow holiday, we agreed we’d go to Queenstown. New Zealand is home for me and knowing there is plenty to do in Queenstown for non-skiers I was happy to go.
Another family with two boys who had never been skiing before said they’d join us. We ended up sharing a house together which was the best thing we did! More on that later. The trip was then planned by hubby with military precision. A house, flights, ski school were booked overnight, gear was purchased and we had the most amazing time. It was so good we went back a year later with some other friends and did it all again.
Now thanks to the New Zealand-Australia travel bubble opening we await our third trip and know this won’t be the last. A number of people have asked me questions about skiing in Queenstown with kids. Despite usually going for five to seven days there’s a lot of planning involved and it can be overwhelming when it’s your first time. That’s why I’ve decided to write all our tips down and share on my blog. If you’re wanting to go skiing with your kids, we highly recommend Queenstown … our happy place!!
Getting there (the easy part!)
You’ll be pleased to hear that getting to Queenstown from Sydney is super easy as there is a direct 3 hour flight. No getting on and off multiple flights with kids! Now here is a big tip, book a window seat if you can. When the captain says “take a look out your window” you don’t want to be the passengers stuck in the middle of the plane, trying to see what everyone else is madly taking photos of. On a clear day the views from above Queenstown are straight out of Lord of the Rings.
Remember to pack a warm jacket and beanie in your hand luggage. You’ll notice a temperature drop the minute you get off the plane (there’s no fancy tunnel to get to the airport terminal). Once you’re through customs, there’s plenty of options to get from the airport to your accomodation depending on your budget. We get a taxi or share a shuttle bus with friends and it costs approximately NZ$50. Head to www.queenstownairport.co.nz to see all the options available depending on your budget.
Where to stay
To make your trip extra memorable we recommend travelling to Queenstown with friends and sharing a house. Both trips to Queenstown we stayed in the most amazing house with all the home comforts for a reasonable amount per family. The first house we stayed in the boys had their own space to hang out downstairs, a cosy gas fire to sit by each evening and an outdoor spa which the boys went in most days. Another huge benefit is our boys had other kids to play with giving us adults some downtime and there were less fights between siblings. Our family has the best memories of the view we would wake up to each morning and even snow falling on the deck! We book our house accomodation through www.queenstownholidayhomes.co.nz and can highly recommend Manager Pauline as a contact at this company.
When staying up on the hill above Queenstown our boys were able to walk to and from the town without complaints. On the nights where we went out for dinner we got a taxi back up the hill. Taxi drivers were happy to drive us the short five minute drive for NZ$10 each way. Alternatively there’s many other hotels or motels to choose from. When choosing accomodation, we recommend researching the distance to walk/travel into town to the restaurants (priorities!) Also find out where is the closest stop for the ski bus pick-up and drop-off. If you’re staying in a hotel there may be an option for a ski shuttle to pick you up at your hotel door.
Best time to go
You can ski in Queenstown anytime between June and October subject to snow and weather conditions. Our tip is to research when New Zealand school holidays and Australian school holidays are. This will probably lead to busier times on the mountains. We’ve been to Queenstown towards the end of August both times. When we were there the snow conditions were good and it wasn’t too busy on the mountains.
Ski field options
You are spoilt for choice with two amazing ski fields located close to Queenstown. These are the only two ski fields we have been to in New Zealand.
Both ski fields are operated by NZ Ski so amazingly one lift pass will work for both ski fields. They both have a good variety of beginner, intermediate and advanced skiing which all three of my boys can now explore together. Night skiing is also an option at Coronet Peak however we never made it there for this. There are ski schools at both mountains however our boys learnt to ski for the very first time at The Remarkables ski school. More to come on this. We would recommend having a read online about both ski field options to see which suits your family.
My boy’s ski field preference is The Remarkables as when we were there the conditions seemed to be less icy and more powder. They both have all the facilities you need including gear to hire, lockers, restaurants, cafes and a snow shop with gear to purchase. Purchasing food up the mountain everyday can get expensive so take your own snacks and even a sandwich, water bottle if you like. If you prefer the hassle-free option of just taking cash and purchasing lunch and snacks this works well too.
We purchase the majority of ski clothes for our boys prior to traveling to Queenstown. Aldi’s annual ski sale has some fantastic deals. We’ve found the jackets and pants to be fully waterproof and very good quality. Anaconda has had reasonably priced gear and we love their snow boots in particular. The ski clothes we purchase for our boys includes the following:
- Thermals top and leggings
- Lightweight fleece
- Waterproof ski jacket
- Waterproof ski pants
- Long (up to the knees) thermal ski socks
- Waterproof snow boots for wearing to and from the mountain
- Neck/face warmer, balaclava
- Ski goggles
- Waterproof gloves
We hire helmets, skis and ski boots once we’re up the mountain. Hiring your gear on the mountain means you can use the free overnight storage. This is a huge benefit as you don’t have to lug your gear up and down the mountain each day. The ski fields hire everything from clothing to skis, boots, snowboards and helmets. They cannot rent gloves, hats or goggles due to hygiene reasons but these are available to purchase at the snow shop if you need to.
Ski passes are electronically coded and can be used on both of the above ski fields. The pass is scanned to access the ski lifts. We zip the pass into our boy’s sleeve jacket pocket so they can scan without taking the card out. This is the best way to make sure it doesn’t get lost. You can purchase the ski pass online or from the Snow Centre when you get to Queenstown. When we researched there wasn’t a significant price difference between purchasing your ski pass online and when you arrive.
Getting up and down the mountain
Our boys were excited to travel on the big 4WD ski bus to get up and down the mountain. A cross between Monster Jam, a truck and a bus! The ski bus leaves from the Snow Centre in Central Queenstown every 30 minutes throughout the morning and returns from 1.30pm onwards as buses fill. Purchase your pass online or from the Snow Centre the day you arrive. If you purchase online be sure to collect your MyPass Card before you get on the bus.
Spectators can pay approximately NZ$20 per day to ride up and down the mountain. I did this on day one when my boys were learning to ski at the ski school and it worked well. At the end of the day the last few buses towards 4pm can be extra busy so allow for this. Our boys walked to and from the bus each morning which is why leaving the ski equipment up the mountain worked well for us.
There is an option to hire a car and drive the steep and potentially slippery slope up to the ski field. This allows for more flexibility but check the weather page on the ski field website for road conditions before you leave and take snow chains. I’ve also had a friend tell me during peak season they drove up the mountain to the top carpark to find there were no car parks left. Check carpark availability on the website before you go.
Our boys learnt to ski at The Remarkables ski school. They have a large impressive learners area and surface conveyor lifts (named the magic carpet!) replacing ski lifts for beginners. Full day or half day lessons are available and kids are grouped together according to their ability. Each child has a card with their ability level recorded on it which can be used for future ski trips. The cost includes morning, afternoon tea and lunch. I was jealous of my boys eating proper cooked gourmet meals most days.
Parents who are non-skiers like me can sit in the restaurant with windows floor to ceiling and watch your kids in the ski school. The ski school staff were very impressive assisting with meals, toilet stops and lessons. Our boys came away very happy at the end of the day. They progressed from not being able to stand or walk in skis to doing french fry and pizza moves down the slope. By end of day two they were able to progress to the bigger slopes and use the ski lift. If only us adults learnt that quickly!! We would highly recommend this ski school.
Off the slopes
Where to purchase food in Queenstown
As far as food goes Queenstown has got you covered and this town is a foodie’s dream. First up, groceries can be purchased in the town centre at the small FreshChoice Supermarket. They have a good range of everything but not as extensive as the bigger supermarkets on the outskirts of Queenstown. These supermarkets include New World in the Remarkables Park, Frankton and Countdown supermarket located in the Five Mile Shopping Centre. If you’re on a self-catering holiday going to Countdown or New World is your best option. Consider ordering online from Countdown before you go and get your groceries delivered to your accomodation the day you arrive.
Both trips we arrived later in the day, so we ordered delivery pizza from Fat Badgers Pizza Bar for dinner. As well as being home to the mighty 20-inch pizzas, their pizzas are delicious and freshly made. There are a few bakeries located on Shotover Street where you can grab a pie or freshly made sandwich. The food and coffee pretty much everywhere is amazing and you are spoilt for choice. Following our last trip I put all our favourite restaurants in a blog which you can find here. Due to COVID some of the restaurants may not be open now so please research before you visit.
What to do in Queenstown
As I mentioned there is loads to do in Queenstown when you’re not on the slopes. Queenstown is known for its adventure activities such as zip lining and the Shotover Jet ride. There’s also many other cheaper and low-key things to do with kids. Our favourite is to get the iconic Skyline gondola 450 metres above Queenstown for magnificent views. There’s also an amazing adventure playground on the shores of Lake Wakatipu at the entrance to the Botanical Gardens. This is a lovely spot to wander, eat and play. For more ideas head to this blog I wrote a few years back. Again due to COVID some of the businesses may not be open now so please research before you visit.
I hope these tips will help with planning your ski trip to Queenstown. Any questions, feedback or tips you may have please comment below. Please share with friends or family who are planning their first trip to Queenstown skiing. Safe travels x