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10+ Ways to ski on a budget in New Zealand and Australia

Times are tough for travellers. But with the world preparing to reopen in 2021, we're here to keep you dreaming and planning for your next adventure - whether that's a staycation or flying off to parts unknown. Until then, we've got the latest COVID-19 travel advice and updates to keep you up to date and ready to go.

Heading on a New Zealand ski trip? Or planning to stay and ski in Australia? Even with cheap flights and hotels, skiing in New Zealand and Australia can be an expensive adventure. Read on to discover how to ski on a budget at winter wonderlands like Thredbo, Perisher, Coronet Peak, and more.

Please note: While Australia and New Zealand are currently open to one another as part of the Safe Travel Zone, travel restrictions may change at any time. Check the latest Australia travel updates at Smartraveller.gov.au and New Zealand travel updates on the official New Zealand government website before your journey.

Man skiing down slope; how to ski on a budget in Australia and New Zealand

How to ski in New Zealand and Australia on a budget

1. Avoid peak season skiing in New Zealand and Australia

Avoiding peak season is key if you want to save money for any major ski resort in New Zealand and Australia. Almost all major ski resorts plan to open by late June each year, snow conditions permitting.

The peak season for skiing in Australia runs from mid-July to the end of August. Peak ski season in New Zealand also runs from July to late August, depending on snow conditions. Weekends within these months will be the busiest time of all, and you can expect accommodation prices to be higher during this time to cater for the crowds. If you plan your budget ski trip during the months of June, September, or October, you might score less crowded slopes and slashed prices on hotels, lift tickets and flights.

2. Book hotels well ahead

Planning ahead is key to saving money on a ski trip. Many hotels change their room prices based on demand. The further in advance you book, the more likely you’ll score a cheap hotel room. Best of all, more and more hotels are offering free cancellation or date changes made on accommodation bookings, so you can plan your trip with peace of mind.

3. Plan to ski or snowboard mid-week

Mid-week accommodation can work out much cheaper than staying on weekends, and you’re more likely to get a discount or a major room upgrade when a hotel isn’t booked out. The slopes are also less crowded midweek, making for better skiing and snowboarding conditions. With less time waiting in lift lines, this also drives down your price-per-lap on the slopes.

It can also be easier to find hotel rooms in very popular resorts when you don’t have to compete with weekend crowds. In Australia, for example, prime Thredbo accommodation and Perisher accommodation is easier to find if you stay midweek, while in New Zealand, Coronet Peak accommodation is less in demand during weekdays, too.

4. Choose your ski resort wisely

The ski resort you choose in Australia and New Zealand will have a large impact on your overall cost. If you’re a beginner and hoping to take lessons, it might be wise to opt for smaller, less popular ski fields with attractive rental and lesson packages rather than the larger resorts. Features like terrain parks, black diamond runs, and off-piste courses are often factored into the ticket prices of larger ski resorts. If you’re not using these features anyways, it’s best to stick to smaller ski fields that are oftentimes much more affordable. Hotel prices around large resorts also tends to be higher than those found around smaller, lesser-known ski fields.

In New Zealand, some ski resorts are much more expensive than others when it comes to lift tickets. For example, you can find the cheapest adult one-day ski pass in New Zealand at Mt Dobson for NZ$90. An adult day pass at Coronet Peak costs NZ$139 per day. In Australia a one-day adult lift ticket at Thredbo costs $169, whereas at Charlotte Pass a one-day lift pass costs $119.

As a general rule, more lifts mean higher prices, so if you’re looking for the best overall experience, it might be worth shelling out a bit of extra cash. If you’re renting gear and/or taking lessons, factor those prices to get a total cost of each ski resort.

5. The more you ski, the less you pay

As a general rule, one day lift passes cost more than multi-day passes per day. If you plan to ski for more than seven days, it might even be cheaper to get a season pass. Usually, season passes go on sale a few months before the resort’s opening, allowing you to save even more money.

If you want to ski at multiple resorts during the snow season, check out the Epic Australia Pass. The Epic Australia Pass gives you entrance to Perisher, Falls Creek, and Hotham in Australia as well as a handful of ski resorts around the world. This pass also includes discounts for your friends, 20% off lessons and gear rental, and discounts on food and drink.

6. Buy lift tickets online

Some resorts offer discounts if you buy your lift tickets online, especially if you buy them well in advance. For example, you can save up to 15% on three- to seven-day lift passes if you purchase your passes two weeks in advance at Thredbo. Savings at Perisher can be up to 30% if you book early. Savings can be even bigger outside the peak season.

Some online lift tickets also come with perks you won’t get if you buy your ticket in person, like included night skiing, gondola rides, or free skiing in the afternoon prior to your first full day pass! Buying online also means you’ll be able to skip the ticket queue and ski straight to the lift when you arrive.

7. Book a package

Many ski resorts offer money-saving packages that bundle transport, lift passes, gear rental, and meals. For example, the ski resorts of Coronet Peak and The Remarkables, both near Queenstown, New Zealand, offer packages that end up being much cheaper than buying each item on its own.

However, hotels included in ski resort packages don’t always end up being cheaper than finding accommodation on your own. Using a comparison search engine, like our hotels search, might show great value hotel rooms close to the ski resorts.

8. Stay off snow

Finding accommodation on the slopes can be quite romantic (and convenient), but if you’re going to be out and about all day anyways, it’s worth sleeping further afield in a supply town, like Jindabyne in New South Wales.

9. Pack your own lunch

A sandwich made at home can make all the difference to your already overstretched wallet. Food served at ski chalets are often overpriced for what you get, and often taste mediocre. A family of four can easily spend more than $80 per day eating on the slopes, simply because there’s no other options to choose from. Pack a few sandwiches, mixed nuts, and a refillable water bottle to save tens of dollars per day on food alone. A D.I.Y. meal might even be tastier than what you’ll find at the resorts!

10. Bring your own ski gear or rent offsite

Ski resorts charge premium prices on ski clothing and gear rental. The best way to cut down on costs is to take a look at local secondhand shops before your trip, especially if you want to score high-quality kids clothing. Or, buy your set-up in the off season.

If you need to rent your gear, do it in town rather than at the resort itself. There are often ski hire shops in town that offer better gear for just a fraction of the cost of what you’ll at the resort itself.

Ski goggles in the snow

11. Look beyond the day pass

While single day passes are the standard, many ski fields in Australia and New Zealand offer cheaper ticket options. You can often book half-day passes, night passes, morning passes, or passes catered to your demographic, like family tickets or discounts for skiers and snowboarders over 70 years old. Even if a ticket option isn’t listed explicitly, it doesn’t hurt to ask if there’s a discount available when you go to book.

Frequently asked questions about skiing in New Zealand and Australia

When is the New Zealand ski season?

The snow season in New Zealand lasts from mid June to late October, depending on snowfall that year. Most ski resorts like Coronet Peak, the Remarkables, and Cardrona expect to open by late June.

When is Australia’s ski season?

Australia’s ski season lasts from mid June to late October, though this may change depending on snow conditions. Perisher, Thredbo, Mt. Buller and other major resorts plan to open by the end of June.

What are the best ski resorts in New Zealand?

The best ski resort in New Zealand depends on what type of skiing or snowboarding you’re into, as different resorts will appeal to different athletes. The most popular ski resorts in New Zealand are Coronet Peak, Treble Cona, Cardrona, The Remarkables, Turoa, Mount Dobson, and Craigieburn Valley.

What are the best ski resorts in Australia?

The best ski resorts in Australia are Perisher, Thredbo, Hotham, Mount Buller, and Falls Creek. Beginner skiers will love the groomed, family-friendly runs at Fall Creek. More experienced skiers and snowboarders can enjoy the larger resorts of Perisher and Thredbo, where there are terrain parks and advanced runs galore.

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