In the winter, the Southern Lakes region of the South Island is transformed into a magical wonderland with perfect powder snow covering the slopes of the surrounding mountain ranges. Ski fields open and skiers and snowboarders from far and wide dust off their snowboards, wax their skis, and come out to play. Planning a ski or snowboard holiday in this region is stress free as New Zealand provides accommodation and transport to suit every budget and there are four ski fields located close to Queenstown and Wanaka: Coronet Peak, Cardrona, Treble Cone, and the Remarkables. Each provides the skier and boarder with a range of terrain, facilities and scenery. Heli-skiing, popular in these parts, provides the opportunity to escape the crowds and traverse unmarked snow. It’s a sport more suited to intermediate and advanced skiers and there’s thousands of square kilometres of private terrain to choose from.
Nestled on the shores of Lake Wakatipu and completely surrounded by breathtaking snowcapped mountains, Queenstown celebrates the snowy season with its annual Winter Festival. It’s an event that is well known as the Southern Hemisphere’s ultimate winter party and it provides more than 70 events in town and on the slopes which range from wild and wacky to glamorous and cultural. To complement your winter ski holiday there’s a wide range of adventure activities also on offer and with over 100 bars, cafés and restaurants as well as a multitude of other relaxing après ski options, Queenstown is the place to be during the winter.
The Queenstown ski season kicks off in June with the opening of Coronet Peak Ski Resort, which offers a variety of terrain to suit all levels of ability and boasts the Southern Hemisphere’s largest snowmaking capacity, ensuring optimum conditions throughout the season.
Across town the gentle slopes of The Remarkables ski area, which hosts the annual Remarkables Spring Festival, provides stunning views of Queenstown. Family-oriented, there’s plenty of challenge for even the most advanced skier and rider, with powder bowls and off-piste mountain riding complemented by the Xbox Terrain Park and Superpipe.
Less than an hour’s drive away is Wanaka, a relaxed alpine town with two major ski areas plus The Snowfarm, NZ’s only Nordic area, and the Snowpark, a dedicated freestyle area. Additionally there are several heli-ski runs. Cardrona, the ‘snowboarders’ capital’ provides four boarding parks and has 100 per cent natural snow and undulating trails that span across 320 hectares of land.
Treble Cone, dubbed TC by the locals, is a steep mountain providing a range of exciting terrain for intermediate to advanced skiers and boarders.
Coronet Peak is Queenstown’s original ski resort and is situated a mere 25 minute drive from town. It has a reputation for some of the most varied ski landscapes in Australasia with a range of open slopes and wide rolling terrain.
Coronet Peak hosts high profile events such as The Queenstown Winter Festival and the 50K of Coronet Peak. Night skiing, currently exclusive to Coronet Peak, allows skiers and riders to make the most of each day. Coronet Peak’s extensive snowmaking facilities guarantee a long season and its award winning ski and snowboard school provides lessons for learners and assistance for those wanting to hone rusty skills.
On the other side of the valley lies The Remarkables, a friendly and relaxed ski field well suited to families. Children have the use of Skiwiland, and those ten years and under get a free day lift pass. Surrounded by towering peaks, The Remarkables offers three sunny sheltered bowls and is a great place to learn to ski as there is easy access to the learner runs. There’s also a variety of challenging terrain on offer as well as long off-piste runs.
Cardrona, rated after extensive research by the Ski Areas Association of NZ (SANZ) as New Zealand’s leading ski area, offers varied terrain and reliable natural snow which attracts all levels of skiers and boarders from beginners to advanced.
It is home to New Zealand’s longest terrain park, which provides some 25 features set over a 1.3 kilometre course, and it has the Southern Hemisphere’s largest pipe park with four half and super pipes. The half pipes have reinforced Cardrona’s position as an internationally recognised freestyle destination.
High profile events held at Cardrona include the Burton New Zealand Open, when the world’s top professional snowboarders put on a spectacular display of competitive riding in the superpipe and terrain park; the New Zealand National Ski Championships; and the National Snowboard Championships.
Cardrona is also popular with families as it provides a comprehensive range of children’s programmes and facilities catering for children aged from three months to 12 years of age.
Treble Cone, the Southern Hemisphere’s training ground of choice for European and US World Cup national teams, is the South Island’s largest ski area. Its slopes are uncrowded and it provides reliable snow conditions with a variety of runs, including Australasia’s longest groomed trail at seven kilometres in length. The ski field is set on 550 hectares of terrain and offers a premium winter snow experience with world-famous views across Lake Wanaka and Mt Aspiring.
The installation of a new quad chairlift, which transports visitors to ‘Tim’s Table’ at 1950 metres in the popular saddle basin area, has expanded intermediate terrain by a further 45 hectares. In the latest survey by SANZ, Treble Cone was rated tops for its alpine cuisine, snow school and mountain hire equipment.
If the thought of escaping the crowds and carving unmarked snow sounds appealing, then heli-skiing, the ultimate alpine adventure, is for you! From glaciers to gentle runs there’s a diverse range of terrain on offer for the keen heli-skier or rider in the Southern Lakes region. Using the helicopter as a chairlift, groups consisting of four to five plus a guide are dropped on exclusive mountain ranges at altitudes of between 1400 and 2200 metres where they traverse unadulterated snow before they’re picked up by helicopter and transported to another unique location.