Rise above the fray

Trans-Tasman rivalries melt faster in the mountains, writes Rachael Oakes-Ash.

Australians and Kiwis share a "friendly" rivalry until it comes to the snow.

More than one-third of the skiers and snowboarders taking to the slopes in New Zealand are Australian and that presence is growing.

But is New Zealand really a better place to ski than Australia?

Who has the best terrain?

Terrain is really about the skier or snowboarder's ability. If you're a beginner then all you really need to know is how much of a mountain resort is dedicated to your level.

For the record, the Remarkables in Queenstown has dedicated 30 per cent of its resort to beginners. However, the terrain there is only 220 hectares.

Snowboarders obviously prefer a mountain that doesn't flatten out, or they will have to bunny-hop to reach the next pitch. Then there's piste versus off-piste, tree runs versus open bowls (Australian fields offer snow-gum tree skiing, New Zealand's resorts are above the tree line) and length of runs.

Australia can claim the longest run, with Thredbo's 5.9-kilometre Supertrail. We also take out the largest resort thanks to Perisher's 1245 hectares of skiable terrain.

However, New Zealand has the longest vertical, a whopping 722 metres at Turoa ski field on Mount Ruapehu on the North Island, and the steepest pitch, at Treble Cone's Motatapu Chutes, which require an avalanche transceiver and a notification to ski patrol that you are skiing them.

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Who has more terrain parks?

New Zealand has to win this one thanks to Snow Park NZ, a dedicated lift-accessed giant terrain park including quarter-pipe, half-pipe, bag jumps, rails, boxes and more. Cardrona is also up there, with three terrain parks, two half-pipes and a 6.7-metre superpipe.

Perisher in Australia wins on this side of the ditch. Perisher offers five terrain parks and a superpipe named after Torah Bright.

Who is cheaper?

It is impossible to compete against New Zealand's lift-pass prices with the current exchange rate.

A day lift pass at Coronet Peak is $NZ95 ($73) versus $112 for Perisher, but then you are comparing the cost to access 280 hectares against 1245 hectares.

The clubfields of New Zealand are even cheaper.

A lift pass at Porters is $NZ82 and if you are willing to wrestle with a nutcracker rope tow then Craigieburn is even cheaper, coming in at a very reasonable $NZ70.

The OnePassNZ multi-mountain pass costs $NZ95 a day and can be used at eight New Zealand fields, including Ohau, Mt Dobson, Porters, Cardrona, Snow Park and Treble Cone.

Who is the most convenient to get to?

For Sydneysiders, Hotham wins hands down with a direct flight to Hotham Airport and a 20-minute shuttle to the top of the chairlift at Hotham Village.

Fly in, ski out, no customs and a lift pass that can be used at Hotham and at Falls Creek, with a chopper offering day transfers.

If you prefer ski-in, ski-out convenience then Australia is your snow destination.

If you like to mix it up on down days with wine tours, adventure activities and shopping, then Queenstown or Wanaka is your place to stay in New Zealand.

Be warned, though: you will have to drive to the ski slopes of New Zealand, which could entail anything from 20 minutes on an easy tarred road to Turoa from Ohakune at Mount Ruapehu to between 45 minutes and 60 minutes (plus an untarred access road) from Queenstown to The Remarkables and Cardrona.

Where can I stay?

No one does southern hemisphere ski luxury better than New Zealand. Matakauri Lodge, near Queenstown, raised the already-high luxury bar with new owners and a total refurbishment two years ago.

Whare Kea Lodge in Wanaka comes with a helipad and a mountain-top chalet for mid-heli-ski lunching. Australian ski accommodation doesn't make a dent at this level of luxury.

Queenstown has more accommodation levels and options than Australian ski fields simply by being a year-round tourist resort and a town of 20,000. But staying in Australian on-slope ski accommodation means you can ski in and ski out, and you don't get better than a few drinks in your ski boots at the end of a ski day.

Apres-ski

Almost 200 licensed establishments in one square kilometre means Queenstown is the clear apres leader with back-lane bars, lakeside pubs and swanky cocktail bars.

But apres is what you make it, and Donna at Bernti's Mountain Inn in Thredbo makes apres drinking count.

Falls Creek deserves a mention, with 30 ski-in bars and restaurants in a pedestrian-only village.

Heli-skiing

New Zealand really comes into its own when you get out of the ski resorts and into the back country, preferably in a chopper. Australia doesn't offer it, thanks to rigid national park laws but, even if we did, we don't have a spine of impressive 2000-metre to 3000-metre alps - otherwise known as the Kiwis' Southern Alps - running down the centre of our island.

The tribe has spoken

Ski with your type of people this winter in Australia and New Zealand with a mix of ski improvement programs, race meets and party weeks.

Whip it in Thredbo
The Women's High Intensity Program (WHIP) is for intermediate to advanced female skiers looking to improve their skills in a fun and supportive environment. The program focuses on confidence with female instructors and video analysis and a social dinner.thredbo.com.au.

Chicks with Sticks freeride sessions - Thredbo, Mount Buller, Hotham, Perisher
For girls who like the terrain park, free riding, moguls, jumps and pipe. Australia's leading female freeride and freestyle champions offer a day's coaching in four resorts around Australia. chickswithstix.com.au.

Board ABC for Breast Cancer - Thredbo

Are you a chick who snowboards? Join this event on August 18 and help raise funds for the McGrath Foundation. Entry $50, plus receive a gift bag of goodies. thredbo.com.au.

Frosty Fruits Gay Ski Week - Mount Hotham

Five nights and six days of Frosty Fruits fun featuring welcome lunch, welcome drinks, a half-day spa afternoon, fine dining, farewell party and champagne lunch. Oh, and you get to ski or snowboard all week as well. The event runs from August 19 to 24.pointsofdifference.com.

Gay Ski Week - Queenstown, NZ

You can channel your inner Frankenfurter at the Rocky Horror Night, start the day on a winery tour, dress up for the casino gala, belt out karaoke and hit the Gaydar dance party on the last night. Add singles' night skiing plus free mountain hosting at Cardrona and discount ski hire from Browns, and more discounted heli-skiing from Southern Lakes Heli Ski. Phew, exhausted already. August 25 to September 1. gayskiweekqt.com.

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