How to plan the perfect family ski trip

A family ski trip in New Zealand can be the experience of a lifetime, with exhilarating days on the slopes followed by cozy evenings sharing stories over dinner.

However, a family ski trip requires careful planning to ensure all ages and abilities have an equally good experience.

Your off-slope time should be arranged to maximize enjoyment as well, with plenty of options for rest days and minimal transportation hassle.

When you plan a family ski trip, make sure you consider these details.

On-mountain arrangements

1. Childcare or lesson programs

The most important consideration for any family ski holiday is the programs available for children. Unless your children are advanced skiers and you plan to ski together as a family for the duration of your holiday, you will want to select a ski field with plenty of programs available for children and teens.

Many ski fields offer full-day lesson programs for children ages 5 and up, but flexible morning or afternoon programs are even better, especially for less advanced skiers who are likely to tire after a solid morning on the slopes.

If your children are under 5, not all ski fields offer childcare or age-appropriate lessons, so choosing a ski field catering to your children is crucial.

Cardrona Alpine Resort has the most comprehensive and flexible lesson and childcare programs of any New Zealand ski field.

Kids' ski lessons at Cardrona Alpine Resort

Kids’ ski lessons at Cardrona Alpine Resort

2. Terrain

Depending on your family’s skill level, choose a ski field with a wide range of suitable terrain to help both children and adults progress.

Cardrona Alpine Resort has the most extensive beginner terrain in New Zealand, while Mt Hutt and Coronet Peak offer a wide range of beginner through advanced runs. Active teens will enjoy the challenge of advanced lessons on the remote runs at Treble Cone.

The family-friendly McDougall's Chondola at Cardrona Alpine Resort

The family-friendly McDougall’s Chondola at Cardrona Alpine Resort

3. Rental equipment

If your children are growing fast, you will likely need to rent most—if not all—of their ski gear. And if you are traveling from a warm climate, snow clothes such as a jacket, pants, and gloves might be added to the list.

To save your family the hassle of scrambling to find gear, look for a ski field where as many of the required items as possible are available for hire. Most New Zealand ski fields now offer both on-mountain and in-town rental offices for convenient pick-up and drop-off.

Off-mountain arrangements

1. Activities in town

If your children are not experienced skiers, your ski holiday schedule will likely include several rest days and afternoons off. To make the most of your stay in New Zealand—and keep active children from growing bored—choose a destination with plenty of off-slope options.

Queenstown and Wanaka each offer a wide range of activities, enough to keep families busy for weeks. Wanaka is a quieter destination, perfect for families with young children who want to avoid crowds and traffic, while Queenstown is exciting for adventure-seeking teens.

Downtown Queenstown in winter

Downtown Queenstown in winter

2. Driving times

To minimize hassle, choose a family ski destination with the shortest possible driving times between airport and accommodation, and between accommodation and ski field.

Most ski fields in New Zealand do not offer on-mountain accommodation, but if you want to spend your full holiday skiing and don’t mind a bit of isolation, the on-mountain apartments at Cardrona Alpine Resort are a fantastic option (though they book out far in advance).

Queenstown offers the shortest driving times—just 15 minutes from airport to town, and 25 minutes from town to the nearest ski field—but Wanaka is only an hour from Queenstown Airport.

3. Apartment-style accommodation

For maximum comfort and convenience during your ski holiday, be sure to book far in advance to secure an apartment-style family room. Two- or three-bedroom apartments offer full kitchen facilities (perfect for putting together a quick breakfast before hitting the slopes) and a living area to relax in once you return.

As an added bonus, these are often cheaper and more spacious than booking two (or three) separate hotel rooms for your family.

4. Transportation

When you travel as a family of four or more, renting a private 4WD vehicle can be even cheaper than taking mountain coach transport—be sure to book through New Zealand Ski Packages for excellent savings and package deals that include snow chains, a ski rack, and insurance that covers you for driving on ski roads.

If you are not comfortable with driving on narrow, winding, icy mountain roads, mountain coach transport is a good alternative. Look for flexible options that include multiple departures throughout the day (in case your children grow tired and wish to return early) and pick-up locations near your accommodation.

Mt Hutt Ski Field