Queenstown - A Skiing and Snowboarding Utopia
Bustling with energy and surrounded by breathtaking terrain, Queenstown is a place where skiers, snowboarders, adrenaline junkies and tourists converge to experience their slice of heaven. Since the 1950's the region has been attracting national and international visitors, and it responded to the demand by building bigger, better and more diverse ski fields. Join the guys from Wild Weekend as they carve up the snow at Coronet Peak and Cardrona.
Your next adventure: Snow sports at Coronet Peak and Cardrona
Where in the world? Queenstown, New Zealand
Activity: Snowboarding, Skiing
Difficulty: Trail difficulty ranges from beginner to intermediate and advanced. If you're deciding which ski field to visit, you can check their trail maps online to scope it out before you go.
Wrap up: Whether you're a backpacker, snow sports enthusiast, athlete, adrenaline junkie or explorer - there is plenty to do in Queenstown. The slopes at the major ski fields are well maintained and offer a great variety for different skill levels.
Wild Weekend Suggested Itinerary
Day 1: Arrived in Queenstown and drove to Coronet Peak to test hire boards and do some warm up runs. We stayed the night in Arrowtown (close to Cardrona and Coronet Peak).
Day 2 (morning): Early morning start at Cardrona Ski Field. The first part of the day was spent on-piste riding (marked snow path) and we went snow park riding later in the day.
Day 2 (afternoon): Experienced a different kind of heart pumping action at the local ice hockey game -Queenstown's home team Stampede versus the Canterbury Devils. After the game we had a beer with fellow skiers and snowboarders at a few apres ski bars.
Day 3: Left early again for Cardrona Ski Field for some off-piste riding (unprepared areas off the trail). This is only suitable for people with snowboard and ski experience.
Day 4: Spent half the day snowboarding at Coronet Peak (close to airport) and finished the trip with some speedy runs down the main piste.
Travelling to Queenstown is picturesque no matter which route you choose. By air you soar over snow-capped mountains, looking down on their grandeur, vast valleys and icy ridges. Travelling by road you'll see snow-capped mountains towering over the landscape along the way - a breathtaking sight that never ceases to impress and only makes you more eager to hit the ski slopes.
Queenstown is located on the South Island of New Zealand and is easy to get to by air or road. You can catch a domestic or international flight into Queenstown airport on most major airlines, or take one of the highways if you're travelling the South Island. To make sure you can get the most out of your exploration and experience, make sure you have a set of wheels ready - whether it's a hire car, bus or coach tour.
Places to Stay
If you're booking accommodation in Queenstown you might be overwhelmed by the amount of hotels, motels and hostels located in the area. Although it looks like you're spoilt for choice, the demand is high in peak season (usually June-October and Late December-March), so it's not the best idea to leave it to the last minute.
Our accommodation of choice was Arrowtown - a historic gold mining town located close to Coronet Peak and Queenstown.
- Arrowtown to Queenstown: 21 minute drive (20.5 km)
- Arrowtown to Coronet Peak: 24 minute drive (21.4 km)
- Arrowtown to Cardrona: 57 minute drive (45.1 km)
After spending a day in Auckland due to snow chaos at Queenstown airport, we were eager to head straight for the slopes as soon as we arrived. Once we had two feet firmly planted on the ground, we made haste through customs, jumped in the car and went to Coronet Peak for the last 2 hours of ski lift operation.
Snow fall may have delayed our flight, but it set us up for great quality snow cover at the slopes. Even though we had limited time left of the day, we had a good time testing the hire boards and doing some warm up runs before heading to Arrowtown.
On day 3 of our stay in Queenstown we had a little slice of heaven at Cardrona. The sun was shining, the snow was perfect and not many people were on the slopes which meant more room for tricks! We started off with some on-piste riding (snowboarding on the prepared trails) and later in the day took to the snow park for some tricks and fun.
The next day we were back again, taking it up a level with some off-piste riding (backcountry skiing). We found a few sections next to the prepared pistes where we could go for some rougher runs and explore.
Important note: Off-piste skiing should only be attempted by experienced skiers and snowboarders. Avalanches and other hazards are high risk in unmarked areas.
Heading into Town
On our third night in Queenstown we went to a local ice hockey game of the Queenstown Stampede versus the Canterbury Devils. It was on. The atmosphere was buzzing as we cheered with the locals and watched as the Stampede defeated the devils 2-1 in high speed, fierce and action packed match. Post-game we headed out to some apres ski bars in Queenstown for some drinks with fellow skiers and snowboarders - the perfect end to the day.
Continue the Adventure Nearby
The Remarkables: With a relaxed atmosphere and wide slopes, The Remarkables is known as a great place to find your feet as a beginner but also has intermediate and advanced trails.
Treble Cone: Boasting over 550 hectares of terrain, Treble Cone is the largest ski resort in the South Island and appeals to intermediate and advanced riders.
Bungy: What better place to take the leap than the town Bungy Jumping was pioneered in. We experienced the adrenaline rush last time we were in town (take a look here) and would highly recommend it to anyone brave enough to have a go.
Tips and Hints from Wild Weekend
- If you're hiring a car make sure you hire chains and know how to put them on properly, or you can catch the NZ ski's official bus service if you're not keen on the idea of navigating the icy roads.
- Take a well-padded jacket with good ventilation and protection.
- Layer your clothing - wear a thermal layer next to your skin, with a fleece jacket over the top and a ski jacket on the outside.
- Wear goggles with sun protection.
- Make sure you wear waterproof pants.
- Make sure your travel insurance covers snow sports!
What we packed
When you're on the slopes you'll want a jacket that will keep you dry and comfortable so you can stay out there as long as possible! Our Obermeyer Bravo and Foundation 15 Jackets were warm, breathable and waterproof, and also came with a snow scarf which was handy when the snow blew in over the piste.
Warm and Durable Pants
When you're skiing or snowboarding, taking a fall is all part of the experience. We took a few tumbles off-piste without any tears or wet patches and also got plenty of movement with Obermeyer's Axiom Suspender Pant.
A comfy and warm beanie will go a long way in Queenstown and you'll be very grateful you packed one. We wore Mammut's Eisberg Beanie and loved the way it covered our ears - the shape is kind of like an old school motorcycle helmet!
Goggles that Fit Well and Stay On
If you're planning on picking up speed on the slopes you'll need a good pair of goggles that protect your eyes from the sun and the cold air. Our Smith Cascade RC36 Goggles were a great fit and gave us great visibility, even when it started snow on the piste.
Warm Gloves that Allow Movement
Your hands will get very cold, very quickly, so make sure you've got a pair of good quality and cosy gloves. Mammut and Berghaus both do well in this department - we took Mammut's Expert Tour Glove.
Watch with Altitude and Temperature Functionality
Having a weather forecast at the ready is invaluable for skiers and snowboarders. The SUUNTO Ambit 3 Peak is a tough piece of machinery that makes it easy to see the conditions at a glance and can also be used to track your activity.