Skiing in the Southern Hemisphere

Skiing in the Southern Hemisphere

If someone was to ask you where you could find snow in the Southern Hemisphere, your first thought would probably be Antarctica, and then maybe jump to the South Island of New Zealand. The likes of Australia, and South Africa though probably wouldn't cross most people's minds. However, not only is there snow, but there's ski resorts! Here we're going to have a look at what skiing is like across the Southern Hemisphere, with a few resorts that are in their own right household names, to some obscure slopes in places you might not expect. So lets have a look at what Argentina, Australia, Chile, Lesotho, New Zealand, and South Africa have to offer.

 Africa - South Africa and Lesotho

We'll start with the more obscure, and it's safe to say that the last place people think of when talking about skiing is the African continent. The few glimpses of snow in Africa that most will think of is the snow capped peak of Mount Killamanjaro, but there are a couple of places in Southern Africa where you can ski. These are Afriski in Lesotho, and Tiffindell in South Africa, which is near to the Lesotho border. Both resorts are essentially a lift and a main run down which only comprise of around 2Km of slopes each, but it does let you tick skiing in Africa off your bucket list. If you do look at visiting, our Alpine Helmets and Goggles recommendation would be Afriski, which is around a 6 hour drive from Durban which is the closest major city you'd be able to fly into. Much of this drive however is through the majestic mountain Kingdom of Lesotho, which is am adventure in itself. 

The Americas - Chile

Whilst skiing in Chile isn't a secret, for us it's the hidden gem of this list. New Zealand, and Australia have a number of very credible resorts that many of us have heard of, and are probably more known to an international audience, but the Chilean resorts go toe to toe with these. To top this off, our pick for you is on the doorstep of Chile's amazing capital Santiago, bringing so much more to a trip's offering. 

Our pick for you is actually 3 resorts that have become known as the Three Valleys of the Andes, and is now the largest ski area in the Southern Hemisphere. They are; Valle Nevado, La Parva, and El Colorado. Between them they offer over 100km of pistes and have 40 lifts that are only 60km from Santiago, with a transfer from the airport taking just an hour and a half. 

Other resorts in Chile worth mentioning are Portillo, Corralco, Nevados de Chillan, Villlarrica, and Antillanca, with a few more smaller resorts dotted along the eastern Andean spine of the country. 

 The Americas - Argentina

 Home to South America's top rated ski resorts on skiresort.info, you may wonder why we've put Chile as the hidden gem on our list and not Argentina. The answer as we've given above is for the whole package, taking into account transfer times, accessibility, and the magnificent city of Santiago which swings it for us in the Chileans favor. This is due to the bulk of Argentina's population living in the North East of the country, whereas the Andean ski resorts straddle the Western spine of the country along its border with Chile. 

If you're up for an adventure, and don't mind a drive though Argentina could well be the South American adventure you're looking for. Within Argentina there are 8 resorts of note. In order of size they are; Catedral Alta Patagonia, Las Lenas, Chapelco, Cerro Castor, Los Penitentes, Caviahue, La Hoya, and Cerro Bayo. Our recomendatons are the first two on that list, but Las Lenas tops it for us as our top pick.

Las Lenas although not easy to get to, is easier to get to than some of the other resorts listed. It's a good 14 hour, but pretty direct drive from Buenos Aires, or alternatively 8.5 hours from Santiago de Chile. The architecture in particular is something that you probably recognise if you've ever looked at skiing in Argentina, but there of course is much more that this resort offers. Las Lenas has the best lift serviced big mountain terrain in the country, and has a great slopes for intermediate skiers, whilst offering lots for freeriders.  

Our other pick is Catedral Alta Patagonia. Whilst Las Lenas offers the best big mountain experience, Catedral offers the most skiable terrain, and gives a better offering to all levels of skiers. The lift system has also been heavily invested in, with a large modernisation process, and isn't quite the remote outpost that you get with Las Lenas due to the village it's home to, and close by town offering more amenities. 

 Oceana - Australia

Now if you'd mentioned summer (northern hemisphere) skiing to me prior to working in the ski industry, the first places that would spring to mind other than a few glaciers in Europe would be Australia and New Zealand. However it wasn't until an American friend who regularly skis in South America during the summer months expressed shock that Australia had ski resorts, did it occur to me that I know these resorts better due to the fact that I'm writing this from the UK. I have friends and family that have worked in, live near, and regularly ski these resorts. So for those reading this in the Americas, or anywhere outside of the Anglosphere, yes Australia does have ski resorts, and we're not talking a couple of short runs with a few cannons!

Depending on your interpretation of what a ski resort is, we would say there's really 7 resorts in Australia, discounting a few other hills and lifts that we won't quite categorise. From largest to smallest, these are; Perisher, Thredbo, Falls Creek, Mt Buller, Mount Hotham, and 2 smaller resorts; Charlotte Pass, and Mount Baw Baw. Across Australia there's 284km of slopes, with 136 ski lifts servicing them. When I say across Australia though, these resorts above are all in the mountains down in the South Eastern corner of the country, straddling Victoria, and New South Wales. 

Onto our resort picks from Australia, we're rather unimaginatively picking 2 of the biggest. First off its Thredbo, and this one is our top pick. It's Australia's second biggest resort in terms of skiable piste at 52km, and is mainly compromising of red runs with around half of the resort dedicated to them, with a quarter equally shared each between Blacks and Blues. It's Australia's highest resort, situated on Australia's highest mountain, and subsequently gets the longest season and best snow.
Next up it's Perisher. Now Perisher is not only Australia's biggest ski resort with 65km of skiable piste, but its taken inspiration from elsewhere to set up an epic pass. Perisher was purchased a few years ago by Vail resorts, and the epic pass gets you benefits in a number of resorts around the world, whilst also alowing you to not only ski and snowboard in Perisher, but also includes Falls Creek, and Hotham. The reason we picked Thredbo over Perisher is down to it being a more inclusive resort for all types of skier. Perisher is a decent beginner, and intermediate resort, but we think you'd qant to move on fairly quickly if you're quite a experienced skier that likes a challenge.
Oceana - New Zealand
We've probably saved the best till last here. Even with bigger resorts elsewhere, and ski areas easier to access, New Zealand is arguably the most famous for skiing in the Southern Hemisphere. It has 23 areas that we would class as resorts. These vary in size, but there's 6 notable areas, with 4 of these all around the same size with 40km of skiable pistes each. You won't go far wrong with any of the 6; Coronet Peak, Mt Hutt, Cardrona, Whakapapa (Best resort name ever), Treble Cone, and Turoa. 
Our top pick for New Zealand though is Mt Hutt. Just 80km from Christchurch, it's the most accessible of New Zealand's resorts. It has a good variety of runs for all levels, as well as some Heli-skiing if it interests you. Comparable with other resorts in the southern hemisphere, it has steeper runs available for a greater challenge, and the chance to hit some speed. The price of the lift pass is similar to that of other resorts in New Zealand, but staying locally in Methven is much cheaper than staying near other resorts in the country. 
Our second pick is Coronet Peak. Although Christchurch is easier to access if you're flying into New Zealand, if you're a lover of the outdoors, then you need to visit Queenstown. It's hyped as the adventure capital of the world, and guess what's sat on its doorstep. Coronet is just 25mins outside of Queenstown, but that's not all it's got going for it. Coronet, like Mt Hutt, stands out on its own. With a number of interconnected bowls, and good mix of runs, it's got something for everyone. 
Let us know where your favourite resort in the Southern Hemisphere is, or where you're looking at visiting in the comments below. 

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