Where to go skiing in the Southern Hemisphere

When the ski season in the Alps, North America, Japan and other ski resorts in the Northern Hemisphere is over and summer is approaching, do you have to wait until next winter to go skiing? Of course not! When spring and summer arrive up on the northern side, autumn and winter arrive in the Southern Hemisphere, and now is the perfect time to plan your trip for those who want to explore skiing there.

There's no doubt that skiing is better in the Alps and other great ski resorts where we live. And indeed, one must travel far to reach the ski resorts in the Southern Hemisphere, but one can conveniently combine a long vacation there with some great skiing.

Most ski resorts in the southern hemisphere open sometime in June, and some in early July, and typically close in October, depending on snow conditions of course. Normally, July and the first half of August have the best snow conditions, so it is preferable to plan your trip during this period.

So where can you go and what is there to discover in the Southern Hemisphere? Let's explore the countries and their best ski resorts.

Best Ski Resorts in the Southern Hemisphere

When it comes to skiing in the Southern Hemisphere, there are primarily four different countries to consider: Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, and Chile. There are also ski resorts in southern Africa in South Africa and Lesotho, but these are primarily visited for the novelty factor, hardly for experiencing great skiing, and moreover, snow conditions are notoriously unreliable, with them often being closed for the entire season.

We begin our journey by having a look at the ski resorts in Australia and New Zealand, then take a closer look at the best ski resorts in South America.

Best Ski Resorts in Australia

Australia is home to some of the largest ski areas with the most slopes and lifts. All ski resorts here are located in the southeast, which is an advantage as they all have (relative) proximity to the major cities of Melbourne and Canberra. If you start from Sydney, flying to Melbourne and Canberra is recommended, as distances are always long in Australia.
Skiers hanging around in Perisher
Skiers hanging around in Perisher

The largest ski resort in Australia, and also in the entire southern hemisphere, is Perisher Blue (or simply Perisher). Here, you'll find a total of 48 lifts and around 65 kilometres of groomed slopes. Perisher is also considered a relatively snow-sure ski resort, often having over 100 centimetres of snow. The nearest major city is Canberra, which is about a 2.5-hour drive away.

Another ski resort easily accessible from Canberra within 2.5 hours is Thredbo. Although it has significantly fewer lifts compared to Perisher, specifically 15, it offers over 50 kilometres of slopes, so there is plenty of skiing to discover here as well. Thredbo also boasts the highest skiing in Australia, at 2037 meters above sea level, as well as the highest vertical drop at 672 meters.

Mount Buller is another popular ski resort that has the great advantage of being "only" a 3.5-hour drive from Melbourne. Here, you'll find 21 lifts and nearly 50 kilometres of slopes, and it's also the ski resort in Australia with the most kilometres of black runs and a good amount of red runs as well.

Mount Hotham is also relatively close to Melbourne, about a 4.5-hour drive away, and is known for having the most challenging skiing in Australia. With 30 kilometres of slopes and 14 lifts, Mount Hotham is special because the village itself is located above the slopes, offering spectacular views from the village down to the mountain and ski slopes.

Finally, Falls Creek should also be mentioned as one of the ski resorts to visit in Australia. This ski resort is also best reached best from Melbourne, although it takes almost 5 hours to drive from there. In total, there are nearly 50 kilometres of slopes and 15 ski lifts. This ski resort is also the best for cross-country skiing in Australia, with around 70 kilometres of trails.

Best Ski Resorts in New Zealand

Traveling to New Zealand is usually a long journey, but the advantage here is that skiing is somewhat cheaper compared to Australia, and you'll find better off-piste skiing here as well. The South Island, or Te Waipounamu in Maori, has the most ski resorts, but the North Island also has a couple of good options.

North Island

On the North Island, you'll find the ski resort with the most lifts and the most skiing in New Zealand, Whakapapa on Mount Ruapehu, which has 44 kilometres of slopes and 12 lifts. This is considered a very family-friendly ski resort and is also well-known for large parts of the filming of the Lord of the Rings being done here. It takes about 4.5 hours by car from Auckland.

Very close as the crow flies from Whakapapa, you'll find the ski resort Turoa, also located on Mount Ruapehu. Despite being only a few kilometres apart, it takes over an hour by car to travel between them because you have to drive down the mountain and up another road. Turoa has the highest vertical drop in New Zealand among all major ski resorts, at 722 meters, although it's only marginally higher than Whakapapa's 720 meters. In total, there are 30 kilometres of skiing here and 8 lifts.

South Island

On the South Island, there are more ski resorts of larger size, and the three largest are quite similar in size.

On the northern side of the island, you'll find the ski resort Mount Hutt, which has the highest skiing on the southern island at 2086 meters. Another major advantage of this ski resort is that it's only a 1.5-hour drive from the southern island's largest city, Christchurch. The high elevation makes Mount Hutt a relatively snow-sure ski resort. In addition to 40 kilometres of slopes, it's also the only major ski resort in New Zealand that offers heli-skiing, and it also has excellent off-piste opportunities.

Further south on the island, you'll find Cardrona, which is a very family-friendly ski resort with 40 kilometres of slopes and 8 lifts. Although it's family-friendly, there's suitable skiing here for everyone, as there are plenty of both red and black runs.
View over empty lifts in Coronet Peak
View over empty lifts in the slopes in Coronet Peak

Just under an hour's drive south of Cardrona is the ski resort Coronet Peak, and here too there are around 40 kilometres of slopes and 8 lifts. This ski resort is generally considered the most popular ski resort on the southern island, so this ski resort may be quite crowded sometimes.

And if we continue another half hour south by car, we find the ski resort The Remarkables. Although it's smaller than the previous two, it still has 20 kilometres of slopes of various levels and seven lifts. This ski resort is especially known for its fantastic views.

All three of the latter ski resorts are located near the small town of Queenstown, which is world-famous as an adventure mecca. It was here that bungee jumping was invented, and as it is located by Lake Wakatipu with fantastic surrounding mountains, there are both water and mountain adventure sports to be found here. As this small town is a major tourist attraction because of this, it has plenty of hotels and its own airport, making it easy to fly here and then reach both Coronet Peak and The Remarkables in 20 minutes by car, and Cardrona in under an hour. In other words, Queenstown is a perfect base for exploring all these ski resorts, and there are also plenty of other activities to enjoy for those who don't want to ski.

Best Ski Resorts in Argentina

In Argentina, you'll find all ski resorts in the western part of the country, in the Andes mountain range, more or less on the border with Chile. Skiing here is cheapest on the Sothern Hemisphere; for example, a one-day lift pass costs only between 20 and 40 euros.

The largest ski resort in Argentina is called Cerro Catedral, but is also known as Catedral Alta Patagonia, which is what the ski area itself is called. With its 29 lifts and a whopping 120 kilometres of slopes, the ski resort is not only the largest in Argentina but in all of South America. This is a very modern ski resort and is very popular, which means it can get a bit crowded with long lift lines at times.

Another well-known and very popular ski resort is Las Leñas. This ski resort has the highest skiing in Argentina (of all major ski resorts anyway), with slopes reaching up to 3430 meters, and it boasts an impressive vertical drop of 1230 meters. Here you'll find the best off-piste and freeride skiing, and it's also famous for its lively après-ski. In total, there are 15 lifts and over 50 kilometres of groomed slopes, as well as plenty of great off-piste runs.
Skier casually passing signs in Chapelco
Skier casually passing signs in Chapelco

The Chapelco ski area is also very popular, and we say ski area rather than ski resort because there is no village here; instead, you have to stay in the town of San Martín de los Andes, which is about a half-hour drive away. The facility has recently been modernized and therefore has the most expensive lift ticket in Argentina, although around 40 euro per day may not scare off most people.

The last ski resort we want to mention is Cerro Castor, which is actually the southernmost ski resort in the world. It's a relatively young ski resort, created as late as 1999, and it's also considered very modern. Although the highest point at 958 meters isn't very impressive, its southern location usually means plenty of snow. Today, there are 13 lifts and nearly 30 kilometres of slopes.

Best Ski Resorts in Chile

Even in Chile, not so surprisingly perhaps, all ski resorts are found in the Andes, and in Chile's case, on the eastern side towards the border with Argentina. Lift tickets in Chile are more expensive than in Argentina and but slightly less than European and North American prices. Several ski resorts offer heli-skiing here, and several of the ski resorts have skiing at well over 3000 meters.

Chile's largest ski resort is called El Colorado, and here you'll find 23 lifts and around 50 kilometres of slopes with varied difficulty. El Colorado is only a 1.5-hour drive from the capital Santiago and is therefore well-visited, especially because there are plenty of easier slopes here, making it popular also for beginners and families. The village itself is located at an altitude of 2350 meters, and the highest slope is almost 3500 meters.
View over ski area in Valle Nevado
View over ski area in Valle Nevado

Two other ski resorts that are only 1.5 hours from Santiago are Valle Nevado and La Parva. Valle Nevado is the larger of the two and has 17 lifts and 40 kilometres of trails. Like El Colorado, both of these ski resorts are located at very high altitudes, but the difference compared to El Colorado is that both of these have more advanced runs, and both offer heli-skiing opportunities.

The largest ski resort not located in the Santiago area, but further south is Nevados de Chillán. What's special about this ski resort is that it's located on the active volcano Chillán. There are plenty of off-piste opportunities here, but also 35 kilometres of groomed terrain, and there are a total of 14 lifts. Although there are opportunities to stay at the ski area, many choose to stay in the town of Las Trancas, which is only just over five kilometres away from the ski area.

Final words

Although the southern hemisphere may not offer skiing as good as what we are accustomed to in the Northern Hemisphere, there are plenty of excellent ski resorts here as well. Sure, the journey is long, but you get the opportunity to explore different environments, new mountain ranges, and a different culture, and of course, the fact that there is skiing available here even when it's summer in the Northern Hemisphere is a major plus. So, for those of you who have withdrawal symptoms from skiing during the summer months, and the time required to travel far, book a trip and discover what the ski resorts of the Southern Hemisphere have to offer.
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