While Queenstown may attract the most hype among seasonal workers each winter, it may well be that Treble Cone is New Zealand’s best ski resort.
Located on New Zealand’s South Island, and with a stunning vista over Lake Wanaka, Treble Cone forms part of the lengthy Southern Alps mountain range that bisects the island. The nearest city is Wanaka, a 35-minute drive away (26km), while the party town of Queenstown is a 1.5-hour drive away (90km) further south.
The season usually runs from late June until late September, snow dependent.
Photo: Saddle Basin Quad Chair - Treble Cone, Wanaka NZ
The terrain at Treble Cone is among the steepest in New Zealand and it therefore attracts a large number of seasonal workers who are very decent riders, and keen to ride hard in the back country. Cardrona, near Wanaka, is a more family friendly resort. Because of this, Treble Cone sometimes gets accused of having an aloof vibe which is not as friendly towards beginners.
Treble Cone does not have much in the way of a base village, with only a few shops and places to eat. There is no long term accommodation at the base. All seasonal workers live in nearby towns.
As the nearest town, Wanaka is generally the best place to stay if you work a season at Treble Cone. Located on the shores of Lake Wanaka and with the Southern Alps looming over it, Wanaka is a beautiful and lively city.
Wanaka is probably the second liveliest ski resort town in New Zealand after Queenstown, though it still has a small town feel to it – you are likely to bump into people you know at the shop, for example. You can party in Wanaka, it is just not as intense as Queenstown.
Despite being primarily a resort town, Wanaka has recently experienced significant population growth and its permanent population is now around 7,000. The busiest period is during the school holidays (around the first two weeks of July).
Although smaller and quieter than Queenstown, it is also trendier and has less of a commercialised vibe while still offering interesting nightlife and recreational activities.
Outside work, there are plenty of staff parties and social events among workers at Treble Cone, while the culture and nightlife in Wanaka is worth checking out.
Make sure to visit the Federal Diner for great food and good coffee, as well as stunning mountain views.
Also worth visiting is Cinema Paradiso, a quaint movie theatre that also offers delicious meals and homemade ice cream. If you are interested in organic food then Soulfood Organic Store & Café is the place for you. Trout Bar, Lalaland Lounge Bar and La Rumbla will set you up for your nights out.
Barluga is the classiest bar in Wanaka with a nice fireplace with leather chairs and retro wallpaper.
Photo: Snowboarding at Treble Cone - Treble Cone, Wanaka NZ
Queenstown is around an hour's drive from Wanaka so no seasonal workers at Treble Cone live in Queenstown. However, Queenstown is a larger and more vibrant city than Wanaka and offers something new to check out as the season unfolds. It is situated on Lake Wakatipu and, similar to Wanaka, offers spectacular views of the mountain ranges.
As a resort town, Queenstown is largely built around the wide range of adventure tourism activities it offers; however, it also has deep historical roots and neighbours a well-regarded wine-producing region.
See Queenstown – Seasonal Worker’s Guide for more information on Queenstown.
Aside from spectacular views of Lake Wanaka and the surrounding mountain ranges, Treble Cone offers some of the best riding in New Zealand – a fact confirmed by its two consecutive wins in 2013 and 2014 for 'New Zealand's Best Ski Area’ at the World Ski Awards.
Treble Cone is probably New Zealand’s steepest and most technical resort.
In addition, it has the largest ski area on the South Island of New Zealand at 550 hectares, the biggest vertical drop at 700 metres, and the highest recorded average annual snowfall at 5.5 metres.
As you would expect, it is geared heavily towards intermediate and advanced skiers: 45% of the terrain is advanced or expert, 45% is intermediate, leaving only 10% rated for beginners.
Moreover, the black runs at Treble Cone seem to be gnarlier and more difficult than similarly rated runs at other New Zealand and Australian resorts.
Other resorts in the region are much better for beginners.
There is relatively little grooming at Treble Cone compared to other New Zealand resorts.
The Saddle Quad chair takes you to Tim’s Table and opens up some pretty enticing backcountry options. The top of the Treble Cone summit also provides the chance to dive into some awesome backcountry while Montatapu chutes are wild and steep.
There are just four lifts at Treble Cone, which includes a 6-seater express. However, outside the school holidays, the crowds are consistently quiet, which is a large bonus of working at Treble Cone. In addition, the advanced terrain means there are fewer beginners and you share the slopes with powder hounds.
Photo: Jazz Terrain Park - Treble Cone, Wanaka NZ
There is one intermediate terrain park and a kid’s park. Park is not Treble Cone’s strong point – you come to work a season here to get into the backcountry and tackle the steep terrain.
If arriving internationally, Christchurch on the South Island is the closest major international terminal.
The bus from Christchurch to Wanaka takes around 5 hours and you can pick up a ticket for as little as $30 if you book in advance.
Naked Bus is a bus service that runs from all the major towns on the South Island to Wanaka and may offer a cheaper price if you compare in advance. See nakedbus.com
InterCity Coachlines runs buses around New Zealand and can take you from any of the major cities in New Zealand to Wanaka. See www.intercity.co.nz
You can either drive or take the bus to Treble Cone. A car is handy if you are working a season at Treble Cone as it gives you more flexibility on your days off.
If you decide to drive to Treble Cone you will have to bring chains as they are necessary to make it up the unsealed and somewhat treacherous 7km access road. Watch out for the large queues that sometimes back all the way up to the T-junction at Lake Wanaka.
Once you make it up, however, free parking is offered at the Base Lodge.
If you decide not to drive, daily shuttles are available from Wanaka, Queenstown or the base of the access road – where free parking is also offered. A lot of people also hitch a ride up the hill which adds to the friendly vibe.
If you are working at the ski fields, the staff shuttle leaves Wanaka at 7:15am for general staff and 7:50 for Snow Sports School staff. On days off you will need to catch the ordinary shuttle.
Buses leave the base at intervals from 3.15pm to 4.30pm.
Photo: Tackling a rocky line at Treble Cone - Tony Harrington
Treble Cone hires around 160 seasonal staff each season.
Applications for ski and snowboard instructors open online in early February and close in mid-February.
Applications for snow groomers and snowmakers open late February and close mid- March.
Applications for other, non-specialist positions usually open late March and close mid-April.
Opening and closing dates vary for each job and you must make sure you get your application in during this window or it won’t be considered. To get a full list of dates, visit the Treble Cone employment page at www.treblecone.com/mountain-info/about-treble-cone/employment/.
You need to submit a CV and covering letter with your application. You can only apply for one job so choose well. See Jobs Available at Mountain Resorts for a list of ski resort jobs.
If they like your application, you will be invited to attend an interview held in Wanaka usually in late May. If you cannot make an interview, it is at the manager’s discretion whether to hold one over the phone but this is usually only for returning staff or experienced roles such as snow groomers.
In any case, it is highly recommended you travel to Wanaka before the start of the season to attend your interview and find accommodation.
Employment generally starts mid-June, with the resort opening in late June and closing late September. Remember to save enough money to keep you going between the interview date and the date of your first pay cheque.
Most jobs are five days a week. Some jobs start at 6am, some at 7am but the majority at 8am each morning.
Staff get a free season pass to Treble Cone and discounts on rentals and lessons.
A season pass for adults would otherwise cost around $1,500 to buy if you are not working at Treble Cone (half price for students). There are early bird prices if you buy before May and even cheaper if you buy before March.
There are staff parties and other social events, $5 medical care at the mountain medical centre and pretty good discounts at shops in Wanaka.
You get discounts at other ski fields including Ohau, Coronet Peak, Cardrona and The Remarkables.
They try and give ride breaks during the day where possible. Treble Cone also organises trips to other ski areas during the season such as Ohau and night riding at Coronet Peak.
Up to a third of the seasonal workers each season at Treble Cone are foreigners.
If you are not a New Zealand or Australian resident, you will need a valid work permit to work at Treble Cone. A working holiday visa is generally the most flexible for this purpose.
See Work a Season in New Zealand for further information on getting a working holiday visa to New Zealand.
Treble Cone will not sponsor international applicants, even for specialised roles such as ski and snowboard instructing.
Minimum wage in New Zealand is currently $NZ14.25 an hour. Entry level jobs at Treble Cone will pay minimum wage.
Photo: Skiing at Treble Cone - Treble Cone, Wanaka NZ
You need minimum qualifications in order to apply
If you do not meet these qualifications, you can apply for the hiring clinic. This is a three day course held before the season starts. Typically 15-20 applicants are hired from this process to work as trainee instructors. You still need a Level 1 Snow Sports qualification to apply for this though.
Similarly to other New Zealand ski fields, Treble Cone does not arrange or provide accommodation for staff. As a result, you should try to make arrangements before you get to Wanaka and start looking online if you plan to arrive just before the season starts.
If you can get over by early May, you will have an easier time finding a place and can probably look for a place once you arrive.
Given there is only one staff bus each morning at 7.15am, it is well worth getting to Wanaka early to secure a well-located place. It is not fun to have to trek to the bus after a big night out the previous night!
If you are planning to arrive early, you should set aside enough money to stay in either a hostel or a campground while looking. The best way to find a place is by checking advertising and noticeboards everyday or by checking out the online resources.
A popular place to advertise is The Messenger, distributed throughout the town for free on Wednesdays, in which you can also place an ad very cheaply. Other places to look include:
When you find a place, you will be required to pay a bond, sign a rental agreement, and provide references.
If you are having difficulty finding accommodation before you start work, Treble Cone human resources usually has a few contacts to assist you.
Rent will set you back roughly $NZ100 - $150 per week per person if you are in a share house.
Some of the caravan parks rent out caravans for the season if you want a cheaper place. While it is cheap, for sure, you will want a car otherwise it becomes a hassle to get in and out of town.
The only supermarket in town is the New World. It's expensive unfortunately. The Mediterranean Food Market up on Anderson Rd is cheaper for the fruit and veg.
Photo: Flying over New Zealand's South Island