Let the journey begin...
Waiting for our flight to Queenstown, the anticipation was building. It had been a while since we had last skied the South Island, so we were eager to get going and let the trip begin.
The first stop was to Wellington to pick up a close friend and fellow skier. Together we would be on the road, and our skis for two weeks around the South Island of New Zealand, something we hadn’t done for many years. All this was, of course, subject to the snow gods and the fickle New Zealand weather.
At Wellington Airport, we were treated to models of the eagles from the Lord of the Rings, with Gandalf sitting on its back.
Welcome to Queenstown
Every time you arrive, you are reminded of how picturesque Queenstown is. You are surprised every time that you forget its natural beauty. But Queenstown indeed reminds you every time to revisit.
Queenstown is, without any doubt, one of the most scenic places to visit in New Zealand. And this was to be our home for the next four days.
First stop The Remarkables
On our first day, it dawned overcast with slight touches of blue. The forecast for the day was fine in the morning, with snow in the afternoon.
So we hit the road up to the ski field, along the winding Remarkables access road; like all ski fields in New Zealand, you feel you need to race up the mountain to get a good carpark – close to the base facilities. Carpark three, it turns out, was the one for us.
When you view The Remarkables, you are impressed with the natural bowl that helps collect snow and sharp jagged peaks that provide the more adventurous skier with shutes and steep terrain; The four main ski lifts leave from the centre travelling left (Sugar Bowl), the two middle (Curvey Basin & Alta) and to the right (Shadow Basin).
Shadow Basin’s snow coverage was too thin on this trip. However, we got to do one run – I’m sure the base of my skis thanked me for that. So we focused on Sugar Bowl, with excellent varied terrain and Curvey Basin, a nice long run finishing down at the base building – we didn’t go off trail due to the snow coverage.
As it was our first day, lunch was a relief and a way to rest, reminding us we hadn’t skied for a while. The base building is architecturally designed to look like a rocky outcrop, and the large glass windows provide an impressive view of the skifield while you are dining.
We were off to a great start, and it was great to be skiing down South again.
Ski Coronet Peak
Coronet Peak is undoubtedly the most professional commercial ski field in New Zealand, from the layout of the main building, the positioning of the cafe to the skifield and the spectacular view from the restaurant.
The next part of our adventure was north to Wanaka for skiing at Cardrona Alpine Resort & Treble Cone.
A bluebird day at Cardrona Alpine Resort
Next stop the mountain, with a short walk from the bus drop off point you arrive at the base lifts. A bit of a wait later we were skiing our first run of the day. The snow conditions were a combination of man-made snow with winter packed powder, which made for some good skiing. The runs to be medium/long, especially if you ski from the White Star chair to the base of the Valley view chair – a run of about 10 minutes. We skied this several times.
The skiing was good/very good due to limited snow conditions, we didn’t see Cardona at its best today, the snow limited lifts operating which is needed to open the mountain up. Today was best experience we have had on Cardrona Alpine Resort, the weather was bluebird all day.
Just a note: Once you have purchased your daily ski pass online you will need to have it printed at one of their ticketing machines. These are located at the bus pickup point (Pines) and on the mountain.
Simply scan your barcode (it was sent to your email address when you purchased your pass online). The ticket printer creates your daily ski pass immediately.
The best ticketing system we have seen so far. Also take the bus up, it is free.
Lake Tekapo, a winter wonderland
Upon hearing the news that some ski fields further north had received new snow, we decided to cut our trip short in Wanaka. Unfortunately, this meant no skiing at Treble Cone. That will have to wait until next year. However, Tekapo was simply a winter wonderland as we drove in. The mountains seemed to glow white against the turquoise water. It was a magical scene.
We got ourselves sorted with our accommodation for the next few days, it was time to put our feet up after travelling most of the day. Our AirBNB accommodation was our best on the trip so far: warm and cozy with a deck out the front to capture the beautiful vista of the lake and surrounding mountains.
An unexpected surprise at Roundhill
Now this is where it gets exciting; it’s human to create a picture of how you expect something to look. Roundhill was one of those ski fields I had done just so. So when we drove up to Roundhill, I saw far more than I had read. Roundhill was a surprise not only for its ski terrain but the picturesque beauty of its surroundings.
Located on the shores of Lake Tekapo, the view from Roundhill is a total 3D experience. You are immersed in the surroundings, from the vast snow-covered hill on one side to the glistening emerald lake on the other. I don’t say this lightly, but it must be one of the most spectacular views in New Zealand – it’s staggeringly good.
Then there was the skiing for the day of days; We rank this as one of the most epic days skiing in New Zealand. The skiing was not technically challenging or the steepest, most dangerous or best powder. But the combination of fresh winter snow and the view was so enjoyable you just kept on skiing. The memory was perfect.
Now for the cool part it is not every day you can go to the ski field and they will take your order for a toasted sandwich and they will make it fresh for you; in my books, that was one of the true highlights of the day.
We left with a massive smile from an unforgettable day.
If you want to read more information on Roundhill please click here to be taken to the profile we have done on Roundhill ski area.
Mt Cook and the Tasman Glacier
It was time for a day off, so we decided to do some sightseeing and visit Mount Cook. However, the weather wasn’t playing ball because it was overcast and raining, as a front was coming through, which is good news because that means snow. When we arrived at Mount Cook National Park, we stopped for lunch, and the Hermitage seemed the right place. We stopped there for lunch, which in this case, for me, was a pie and a sandwich and a cuppa tea. Sit by the large glass windows you can see the landscape before you. You can generally see Mount Cook, but it was covered in clouds today.
Mount Cook always surprises; it’s such a beautiful place. The landscape is hard to describe; it combines classic low bushes and huge snow-covered mountains. See, you get the contrast of the browns, greens and white snow on the tops of the mountains and on a day with a blue sky, it makes a beautiful picture. The Hooker Valley is huge on the way to Mount Cook and the Tasman Glacier – you get a sense of the scale when you fly a drone (see our video). An ancient glacier formed the valleys, and the mountains rise from the valley floor at an acute angle.
Through Lindas Pass to Methven
No mucking around at Porters
On our final day of skiing, we weren’t sure whether to ski Mt Hutt again or to try one of the smaller Canterbury ski fields. As we couldn’t catch the early bus to Mount Hutt due to the number of people going, we decided to ski porters. What a good decision that was…
If you don’t like steep, don’t ski at Porter’s.
Porter’s ski field sits in a valley with two steep sides helping it capture the snow. On one side is big mama on the other is.
Ski Mt Hutt, we arrived just after a July snowstorm
Arriving in Methven days after a significant snowfall. Mt Hutt had received 70cm of snow, and we thought it would make for an epic day’s skiing. However, the clouds had closed in, making it a pretty misty and windy day on the mountain. We had limited success battling the weather conditions and limited visibility, and with many skiers on the single-run open, it made for, shall we say, an interesting day. Despite this, the snow was fresh, chalky, and light. Regrettably, due to the weather, only the eight-seater was operating.
But then came the last two runs of the day; the six-seater had been closed for the morning due to high winds. At 3 pm, we decided to try our luck to see if the weather had improved. As we reached the top of the chair, we thought it was going to be yet another misty run down; little did we know that 30 metres in, the weather had cleared, and wow, what a run it was… the snow was fresh, we had the run to ourselves – it was terrific! We were whooping and hollering like five-year-old kids.
It was so good that we managed to catch the six-seater again for the final run, this time with only two people. That was the highlight of the day. I finished the day with a huge adrenaline rush. When you get snow like that, you are always keen to return. See you next time Mt Hutt. The point is, you can’t guarantee the weather, so make the most of the conditions and enjoy yourself.
What we like about Mt Hutt, besides consistent good snow conditions, is the layout; the ski field is located in an upper mountain valley that forms a central bowl with high valley walls. The main lifts are straight ahead of you from the base cafe, so it’s easy to access the eight-seater; if you see a large crowd, don’t worry. It’s a crowd muncher – the line moves rapidly, the six-seater and Towers Triple Chair (to the left). This opens up the whole bowl to see where you want to ski or snowboard.
We are not talking about the off-terrain skiing or South Face; they are hidden from view; you can explore these yourself – these runs are all expert (Black diamond). But not today for us with no visibility!