Most months throughout the year, the highlight of a trip to Queenstown is centered around hiking Great Walks like the Routeburn track, jumping off bridges, out of planes or barreling down rivers in New Zealand-invented jet boats.
Come winter when the White Gold arrives, Queenstown goes from being a bustling summer resort to an alpine ski village.
See, the thing with Queenstown – as compared with most Northern Hemisphere ski towns – is that it very, very rarely snows in town.
The village sits on the shores of Lake Wakatipu at just about 340 meters above sea level. All but two or three times throughout the winter, this isn’t high enough for precipitation to fall as snow.
Skiing & Snowboarding in New Zealand…
The New Zealand skiing and snowboarding experience is characterized by trips from town ‘up the hill’ to the ski fields. Forget ski-in ski-out like you’d find in a Colorado mountain town. At the very best, a trip to one of the ski fields near Queenstown will take you 30 minutes – this is assuming:
- A) You have your own transportation and aren’t relying on NZSki’s unreliable bus services
- B) It isn’t snowing as this often results in the ski field access road becoming a big traffic jam (as NZSki bus drivers very often can’t drive in the snow), and
- C) You don’t stop along the way to take in the epic views
While the 30 minute trip to the mountain is tough to get used at first, the trip up from Queenstown to one of the ski fields is a pretty epic experience. Twisting mountain roads, steep drop-offs and stunning views back over Lake Wakatipu and Queenstown are on offer all the way up to The Remarkables or Coronet Peak. And surprisingly … the snowboarding is pretty bloody good.
Later on in the winter, I’ll put together a post with some practical tips for your experience snowboarding on New Zealand’s South Island – for the time being, enjoy these photos from The Remarkables and Coronoet Peak just outside of beautiful Queenstown.
Sunrise at Coronet Peak
This photo was taken early one morning as the sun was just rising at Coronet Peak. The clouds cleared to reveal a Wakatipu Basin completely covered in snow – a once or twice a year event in Queenstown.
After a solid week of snow, a high pressure system rolled across the South Island and we’ve been granted bluebird clear days.
When the clouds do roll in, you’re very very often above them – a surreal experience. Driving up The Remarks recently, it looked as if it was going to be a cloudy day – until we broke through the clouds and were greeted with clear blue skies.
On Top of the World…
This might possibly be the most spectacular view I’ve seen anywhere in New Zealand … or for that matter the world.
After riding the Shadow Basin chair at The Remarkables ski field, a thirty minute hike up to the ridgeline of The Remarkables moutain range leaves you with this this view.
On the right day, clear blue skies, some low clouds over Lake Wakatipu and snow capped mountains remind you that New Zealand might possibly be the most beautiful place in the world.
Have you been skiing or snowboarding in Queenstown? Leave your experiences in the comments section below.