Most of my snowboarding experiences take place north of Southland in Canterbury at Mt Hutt, towering over the Canterbury plains. After a few years of study and heading to the snow almost as much as I studied it was time to move onto bigger hills.
In Canada. So far, I haven’t ridden powder quite like it but now that I’ve returned to the land of the long white cloud the views and pure beauty of both club fields and bigger commercial fields in the south of the South Island are second to none.
The main fields include The Remarkables and its sister field Coronet Peak, both based around the busy hub of Queenstown. The south of New Zealand’s South Island has a perfect climate for a long season on the snow, usually operating from June to October. I haven’t made it around all of these exquisite ski fields just yet but for any of you ski bunnies out there I’ll share a bit of local knowledge and a few tips for getting the best out of your trip to this stunning part of the country during this colder part of the year. Firstly, a breakdown of Queenstown’s main ski fields.
Perhaps Queenstown’s most well-known field, only a short 40 minute drive from the town center. It’s all in the name, it is truly remarkable. Standing 2319 meters at its highest point, the mountain range can generate a decent amount of natural snow with a top up from over 100 snow guns to help cover around 385 ha. Whether you’re a novice, intermediate or looking for something a little more challenging, there is something here for you. They offer a variety of different lift passes ranging in price to suit your needs whether that be day passes, family passes or season passes with plenty of other packages that include transport to and from the mountain, rentals and lessons.
The local’s choice. Only 20 minutes from Queenstown it’s New Zealand’s first commercial ski field. You cannot beat these views. If hitting the slopes isn’t really your thing that doesn’t matter at all! The views from the base facilities cover Wakatipu Basin at one end, the mountain on the other. The outdoor heated deck will ensure your outdoor dining experience is one to be enjoyed. This will blow your mind… try NIGHT RIDING! Fridays and Saturday nights (June to September) are for skiing on the flood lit snow. Such a crazy, awe-inspiring experience you can’t miss. They also offer early bird skiing starting at 8am so you can beat the crowds and have the mountain (almost) to yourself.
Both winter and summer can be a thriving metropolis in the Queenstown area. They are lucky to have an abundance of attractions with the lake in the summer and the snow in the winter. If you have some time on your hands take the risk and pray for early or late snow and come at the beginning or end of the season. Accommodation can be a lot more affordable before the crowds start rolling in or after everyone has left.
You can hit the slopes and not have to que for the chair lift after each run. The same applies as you take a few days and head south to Fiordland. Beat the crowds and head down during the shoulder season. Accommodation is discounted, you can head out to Milford and cruise the sound with a small intimate group on vessels that can be packed during summer. Southland, although cold, can be so underrated during winter but as the hills get a light dusting of snow, nothing can beat when the sun rises on a cool bluebird day.
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