This post was written for beginners in mind. People who want to try skiing for the first time (ever). Queenstown isn’t the only place you to do skiing in New Zealand but this is where we were during ski season which starts from July until September.
Neither of us had ever tried skiing before. Anywhere. Besides the heli hike in Franz Josef (which got cancelled), we made sure to allocate some dollars for this other activity.
You can see that a few days of skiing really hit our budget from our latest financial report (i.e. cost of living in New Zealand) here. Two days of skiing cost us $286 NZD. Per person.
Places to ski near Queenstown and Wanaka
Some research we did online, we found that most of the ski slopes required quite a drive up to the summit. And the accommodation up at the ski resort (if any) would usually be pricey.
In the Queenstown region (or central Otago) alone, there are three different ski resorts you could go to already.
- Cardrona Peak
- Coronet Peak
- The Remarkables
The prices for the beginner packages were fairly similar. And some packages came with transport (e.g. Cardrona Peak). Your accommodation may offer discounts but when we stayed at a holiday park in Queenstown, we found the prices of the packages were the same as the online prices.
We decided to go to Coronet Peak.
Driving to Coronet Peak Ski Resort for Skiing in New Zealand
Of all the ski resorts near Queenstown, Coronet Peak is the most accessible in terms of road condition and distance from Queenstown.
We liked that there was affordable accommodation nearby in Arrowtown too.
Note: We brought our own snow chains for the few days’ drive up to Coronet Peak but never needed to use them.
Hold up, snow chains?? Are they even necessary?
We didn’t need them around the end of August but we carried them for good measure anyways. Besides, if you’re thinking of self-driving from Te Anau to Milford Sound, there is a law to have snow chains with you during winter. Or be fined a few hundred dollars.
Ok, so where can I get snowchains?
You can ask your car rental company if they have those for rent or you can buy your own at a local automotive store. We got ours from RoofRack for around $100. The bigger your car, the bigger the price. Mind that bigger sizes may run low in stock. Mind the brand of your car tire too, not necessarily the model of your car alone.
For us, it came out to be cheaper to buy our own because we were travelling for more than a few weeks. We would prefer to buy second hand but nobody was selling our tire size on trademe.nz or the backpacker groups on Facebook at the time.
So what else do I need to bring?
What you need to bring on your first ski trip
Besides the snow chains, you need to bring:
- Ski gloves
- Ski goggles
- Waterproof pants
- Waterproof jacket
- Wool socks
Most of these things (except gloves and socks for hygiene purposes) can be rented out either in the town or at the snow center in Queenstown.
You can even rent them on the same day at the visitor center in Coronet Peak. Try to get there before 9am so you can settle all your payments and rentals before the first ski lesson session starts at 10am.
Purchasing lessons and rentals at Coronet Peak Visitor Center
The ski rentals (i.e. skis, ski boots, ski poles) come with the beginner package along with the ski pass.
For additional dollars, you can add insurance for the ski equipment, rent a helmet or rent waterproof pants and jacket together. Updated prices are all on the website. The prices we quote are of August, 2018. The prices are the same whether you get your rentals at the snow center in Queenstown or up at the visitor center on Coronet Peak.
Being overly excited newbies, we purchased the Beginner package, helmets, pants and jackets. Helmet not shown in photo below.
This is the breakdown of what we got on our first day:
- Lessons for 1 day (one session at 10am, another at 2pm) under the Starter package cost us $150 each
- *Included in item #1* Ski standard equipment (i.e. skis, ski poles and ski boots) for $48 per person
- *Included in item #1* Ski pass (only to the beginner section known as the “magic carpet” area) costs $37. Or $119 to access all of the ski slopes.
- Helmets for $12 per person
- Jackets and pants for $39 together or $30 each alone
So, we spent a total of $201 on the first day.
Note: We didn’t actually need some of the items, keep reading to find out why.
Getting fitted at rentals in Coronet Peak Visitor Center
After finding parking (there are at least 3 to 5 carparks so that’s not a problem), and purchasing the beginner packages at the counter in the visitor center, we made our way to the rental station opposite. In the same building.
There are kiosks in front of the rental station. You need to scan the card (that came with your beginner package) and fill out your details like shoe size and height.
The staff will then scan your card and you can proceed to pick up your stuff. There are changing rooms available if you want to try on the jackets and pants. Please wait for the staff to help you get the items (e.g. shoes, skis/boards, helmets, jackets, pants, etc).
We made a mistake:
Make sure you tell the staff whether you are skiing or snowboarding. The shoes are COMPLETELY different, though equally heavy and uncomfortable. We only realized this later and were late for our ski lessons.
And we didn’t need the extra things:
It turned out to be a very warm day up in the slopes. Hardly any wind and lots of sunshine. We never used the helmets (at our own risk) or jackets. The pants were not necessary either.
My jacket is this the Blocktech parka from Uniqlo in beige. Our review on the Uniqlo Bloctech parka jacket.
We also discovered later that many of the locals just bring their shoes and bags with them out to the ski area. They leave their stuff around the doors and on benches. This is to avoid having to pay for a locker to keep their stuff. We followed suit on the second day and our stuff were safe.
Now on to the lessons:
First time ski lessons on Coronet Peak
The instructors are fairly easy to find with their bright red jackets. They will do a count of all the students first. And check how shoes are fitted. We missed the briefing (if there was any).
Around 10am, everybody picks up their skis and exit through the door at the top of the stairs.
Once outside, the instructors then group everyone according to level and whether we are learning in groups or individually.
The first thing we learned was how to put on our shoes correctly. They should be a pretty snug fit. In fact, I feel like I’m going to break my foot when I put on the shoes.
A common mistake is that we all jammed the bottom of our pants into the ski boots too. The instructor told us only the socks should be in the ski boots.
After getting that sorted, we learned to put on our skis and walk in them. And slide a bit. All in a circle around the instructor.
When she thought we were ready (or not), we moved on to a different area with a tiny hint of slope. She showed us how to side step up the slope and how to ski. Slower, faster and most importantly, how to stop.
By the way, snowboarders and skiers of all levels (mostly beginners) might be present at any time.
A few rounds of practice later (and a couple of falls), we split up for lunch.
Tip: You can squeeze in some more practice during lunch hour when the slopes are emptier.
What to eat in Coronet Peak
Choose either to sit outside for lunch at the long benches, or inside the café. Where there’re toilets and drinking fountain are. Coffee costs around $4.5 and there is hot food available too. Or you could pack and bring your own lunch.
Second session of the First-timer package at Coronet Peak
Close to 2pm, we assembled again at the same area. This time, she taught us how to turn. All without using the poles, by the way.
For the last hour, she got us to practice at another slope after making sure we all knew how to use the conveyor belt up the slope.
And falling down isn’t as scary as you think it might be:
It feels like it’s happening in slow motion. And the worst thing I’ve done is bump into a little girl such that we both fell to the ground with our skis coming undone. No bruises or scratches.
Just a knock off your own confidence but don’t let that discourage you. Try again later after getting your head together. Skiing is a combined effort of mental and physical energy. Kids make it look so easy though!
Practice makes perfect, they say.
Skiing without lessons at Coronet Peak
It was only on the second day of skiing, that we were confident enough to start using our poles too. Instead of purchasing another set of lessons (And the price gets higher with your level), we practiced on the baby slopes.
We spent $37 (ski pass to the First Tracks or beginner area) and $48 each for the ski equipment. A total of $85 NZD per person.
We finally got the hang of it before the afternoon and it was so fun! I forgot the number of times we went up and down the slope.
There were other people learning all sorts of things – like jumping while skiing, turning while on a slope, skiing backwards, etc.
By the end of the day, we could move around the ski area comfortably and ski while avoiding other people. Basic stuff but that’s all we really wanted.
Returning Rentals to the Coronet Peak Visitor Center
A fairly straightforward process. Back at the visitor center, look for the sign that says Rental Returns. Put your skis/boards into the stands with the slots. Ski poles should be back on the rack where you took them from. And you can pass your shoes to the attendant at the shoe section.
Do not forget to have the staff scan your card again before you exit.
Note: If it is your last day at the ski resort (and you don’t plan to come back again), head to the ticket counter after your card is scanned. Return the card at the ticket counter and you will get back the $5 you paid for the card initially.
Because we weren’t ready to face the other higher slopes:
Taking the ski lift at Coronet Peak
But we still wanted to try riding the ski lift, so we bought the Coronet express ticket to the summit on another day. The ticket cost $16 per person, if I remember correctly. Couldn’t find the price on the website.
It’s only for visitors and you aren’t allowed to wander on the ski area once up there.
However, you do get to enjoy the view up there for as long as you can stand the cold!
Do dress as warm as you can before you take the ski lift.
Your shoes must be closed-toe and somewhat waterproof too.
And watch the safety video on you to mount and dismount the ski lift before you join the queue with the other snowboarders and skiers.
Make sure the attendant at the lift know that you are a visitor. They will make sure you get on and off safely.
We had a really great time skiing in New Zealand and as ski season is ending now, I don’t think we’ll be going again anytime soon. Maybe next time…in another country, hopefully. From this post, you can see just how easy it was to start learning how to ski or to ski in New Zealand, in general.
Between snowboarding or skiing, which are you more keen to do in New Zealand? Leave a comment below.
Here our other posts for visiting New Zealand in winter:
- Self-driving trip itinerary from North to South island, New Zealand
- New Zealand in winter – what to expect
- Vanlife in New Zealand – A guide for beginners
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