Snow forecasters are tipping their caps to the world-class resort this year, as a heavenly winter season looks to lie ahead. A moderate chance of an El Nino developing is good news for Queenstown, as colder winds from the south bring about colder winters. And with the gondola doors being kicked open this month, we give a salute to the loveable village by helping you plan this year’s visit.
Your first worthy decision will be buying a window seat on your plane ride into Queenstown. A dropped jaw will be the homage paid to New Zealand’s spectacular peaks and incredible mountain range; and this is before you descend beneath any clouds.
Several mountains are easily reachable from the main township by hire car or shuttle. Each is unique and collectively provides absolutely all that an alpine lover craves.
Coronet Peak – A Favourite for a Reason
A 20-minute drive will have you at the base of New Zealand’s first ski resort, Coronet Peak. The mountain is a popular one, given its compassion to riders of all levels and close proximity to Queenstown, but a first-rate fleet of lifts handles the crowds superbly. Locals and long-time visitors still adore the epic environment in the heart of the south island’s Otago region.
The variety of terrain competes with the variety of après-ski options available at Coronet, where any decision made in the day or evening is guaranteed to be a good one. Night skiing is another draw card for Coronet Peak, in addition to having NZ’s most advanced snowmaking system, which piles an exceptional base early in the season.
[Best run: Back Bowls / Exchange Drop. Reserved for the advanced skiers, who are rewarded with steep, powdered chutes.]
The Remarkables – Spoiling You with Choice
The Remarkables mountain range is Coronet’s clear rival, situated half an hour from Queenstown village, and standing 2,319 metres tall. Even snow junkies and seasoned campaigners will quickly feel the thighs burning, thanks to big mountain offerings, off-piste options, and three outstanding terrain parks.
While 70% of rideable area is dedicated to intermediate and advanced riders, first-timers to the alpine sport should not feel perturbed. A huge purpose-built beginners slope offers smooth and spacious terrain, while Skiwiland Early Learning Centre will have the youngest riders overtaking their parents in no time.
[Best run: Burton’s signature terrain park, The Stash, is the only of it’s kind in the Southern Hemisphere. The free-rider’s playground was designed to make the most of The Remarkables’ organic environment by replacing any metal or plastic obstacles with log jibs, rock-walls, and cliff drops.]
Cardrona – Where the Powder is Waiting
The ski field of family-friendly Cardrona is gleaming with all-rounder options. An hour from Queenstown, it has kicked its reputation for being a beginner-only resort, despite green and blue lines dominating the trail map.
As with The Remarkables, terrain parks and half pipes are easy to find. Longer runs can be discovered on the map’s outer edges. The mountain is also south facing, keeping the snow dry, and powder fluffy.
[Best run: The Aracadia Chutes beneath the Whitestar Express Quad is a choose your own adventure for the audacious rider.]
Backcountry in Style
So you’ve come all this way to the Southern Hemisphere. You’ve admired countless peaks from the plane window on the inward flight, and fantasized about dropping in on all of them. Well, why merely fantasize?
Harris Mountain Heliskihave been delivering extraordinary daily, multi-day and private charters throughout the Southern Alps of NZ since the 70’s. The astonishing scenery, and experience of navigating through untracked snow, is like a VIP Pass from the “Skiwi” gods. The team are notorious for matching terrain with riding ability, meaning nobody needs to be left behind in town.
Although if you do decide to give the legs a rest from downhill activities, Queenstown will fill your day with great things to do.
Bungee jumping, jet boating on the renowned Shotover Jet, an 800-metre fast-paced luge, a ship cruise on the stunning Milford Sound fiord, and a muscle-revitalising session in the Onsen Hot Pools, will all help pile the memories even higher.
Infamous is the nightlife in Queenstown. The funky, multi-level World Bar & Restaurant deserves a stop if you like the upbeat thing, while the mechanical bull at Cowboys Bar compliments the venue’s epic atmosphere.
A range of restaurant options lines the village streets. Botswana Butchery in Queenstown’s historic precinct will treat the meat lover’s palate, while the eyes feast on beautiful lake views. If you’re struggling to stray from the mountain, then the Skyline Restaurant is as much an attraction as it is a sensational dining option (accessed by the Skyline Gondola, 5 minutes from downtown Queenstown).
[Local’s tip: Fergburger is unbeaten as the go-to for a delectable handheld meal. This town favourite is open until 5am, meaning the strongest of après-skiers will be rewarded on their early morning stumble home.]
You’ll be so submerged in the culture, food, atmosphere and mountain ranges that leaving will truly seem irresponsible. Perhaps ensure your outbound ticket is booked first, or you may end up staying the entire season (experienced first hand by yours truly).
Words written by Dave Sonntag at www.luex.com