new Zealand

Snow, scenery and a sen­sa­tional se­lec­tion of lux­ury op­tions make new Zealand an un­beat­able cold-weather des­ti­na­tion. Hilary dol­ing ex­plores Queen­stown and Wanaka in win­ter.

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A win­ter won­der­land of snow-blan­keted chalets awaits across the Tas­man.

The he­li­copter cir­cles and hov­ers like an in­sect over the aptly named dragon­fly Peak. Be­low us – a tiny toblerone tri­an­gle on a vast table­cloth of white – is Whare Kea Chalet, perched a dizzy­ing 1750 me­tres up on the edge of Mount as­pir­ing na­tional Park.

to get here the chop­per has flown over end­less snowy sad­dles and im­pos­si­bly jagged icy peaks. We’re only a 20-minute ride from Wanaka, but this is true moun­tain wilder­ness. We land in a swirl of flakes and whirling blades and i step out into si­lence. the moun­tains are sleep­ing un­der a doona of deep snow. i feel as if we’re bal­anced on the edge of the world in a pri­vate, frozen par­adise.

and in the mid­dle of nowhere – lux­ury. the chalet is owned by louise and Mar­tyn My­ers (of de­part­ment store fame), and build­ing in this in­ac­ces­si­ble spot with min­i­mal en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact was a two-year labour of love. as­pir­ing He­li­copters man­ages stays and day trips to this ea­gle’s eyrie of a chalet which pro­vides ac­com­mo­da­tion for up to six guests in sim­ple rooms with spec­tac­u­lar views. ap­par­ently ski­ing down from here is a life-chang­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for se­ri­ous pow­der-hounds, but as i peer over the edge at the dra­matic de­scent i’m not in­clined to try. the view is heart­stop­ping enough for me.

in new Zealand, com­fort and the out­doors come to­gether in a way you find al­most nowhere else in the world; it’s a mar­riage made in lux­ury heaven and Queen­stown and Wanaka ex­cel at it.

the Chalet’s sis­ter prop­erty, Whare Kea lodge, be­low us on the rim of the lake, is now only avail­able for pri­vate hire.

its ac­claimed ex­ec­u­tive chef, James Sta­p­ley, now has his own restau­rant, Bistro Gen­til, just out­side Wanaka.

i stayed at the lodge when James was in situ so i’m not go­ing to miss an op­por­tu­nity to taste his food again. Bistro Gen­til serves mod­ern French cui­sine fea­tur­ing sea­sonal pro­duce from Cen­tral otago and its own kitchen gar­den. the lit­tle town­ship of Wanaka has a new gourmet vibe with Francesca’s ital­ian Kitchen and the view from the lake Bar also at­tract­ing lo­cals and vis­i­tors alike.

All the rivers run

i am sleep­ing in Prince Harry’s bed, although not, i has­ten to add, at the same time. the Bri­tish royal stayed here at river­run on a day of r&r dur­ing a re­cent trip to new Zealand and by all ac­counts fell in love with the pri­vacy and the land­scape.

the lodge was cre­ated by Meg tay­lor Paw­son and the late John Paw­son, co-founder of out­door spe­cial­ists Kath­mandu, so it is not sur­pris­ing that it is set in spec­tac­u­lar scenery with views of the moun­tains be­yond. Paw­son made much of the fur­ni­ture him­self and the lodge mixes re­laxed, rus­tic charm with style and ser­vice.

each evening guests re­lax on leather so­fas in front of a glow­ing fire with canapés and red wine and swap ski sto­ries. Fel­low guests might be celebri­ties or Ceos, but what mat­ters here are the con­ver­sa­tion and the food.

the lodge can or­gan­ise heli-ski­ing, pri­vate guides, horse rid­ing or (Prince Harry’s favourite) fly fish­ing. Most peo­ple who stay here are self-drive but pri­vate trans­port can be or­gan­ised to the nearby Cardrona ski fields and the steeps of tre­ble Cone.

Lake­side leisure

a drive over the Crown ranges takes me to Queen­stown. the sun has come out and the frost on the hills has a di­a­mond sparkle but noth­ing beats the views of lake Wakatipu from my suite at the rees Ho­tel & lux­ury apart­ments.

Wide glass bal­cony doors frame the lake, its green depths al­most lap my win­dow and be­yond i can see the snows-mudged peaks of the re­mark­ables. noth­ing breaks the si­lence ex­cept the odd jet boat from Queen­stown’s ac­tion cen­tral buzzing like a red mos­quito across the pol­ished jade of the lake.

at the rees you can stay in a ho­tel­style room or an apart­ment. the con­cept works be­cause those who choose apart­ments still get the fives­tar ser­vice. this year new pri­vate res­i­dences will be opened on the edge of the lake for an even more lux­u­ri­ous lake­side ex­pe­ri­ence.

Coronet Peak is the clos­est ski re­sort to Queen­stown which means you can ski the day you ar­rive or the day you leave and still catch your plane home. So de­spite the fact that i was fly­ing out i couldn’t re­sist the siren call of sun on snow. lux­ury lovers can be­come day mem­bers of the Peak Club, or pay for a sea­son’s mem­ber­ship which al­lows ac­cess to the exclusive club room with gourmet din­ing, snow-white leather chairs and ex­pan­sive moun­tain views.

a per­fect fin­ish to a ski­ing day.

Pri­vate lux­ury

if you’re plan­ning to linger in Queen­stown, opt for a pri­vate villa. new Zealand’s top travel cu­ra­tors, touch of Spice, count some of the coun­try’s finest prop­er­ties among its col­lec­tion, in­clud­ing the Cop­per House. this sixbed­room mas­ter­piece gets its name from the cop­per sheet­ing that lines its ex­te­rior, com­ple­mented with open-plan liv­ing and large bal­conies per­fect for en­ter­tain­ing on a tremen­dous scale.

if you’d rather es­cape to the coun­try­side, Wyuna House in the heart of Glenorchy (recog­nised the world over as Mid­dle-earth) of­fers a warm lodge feel­ing, sleep­ing up to eight. each of its rooms is in a sep­a­rate pav­il­ion, all an­chored around a court­yard with a crack­ling out­door fire­place.

For those who would like to work on their swing as much as their schuss­ing, Jack’s Point lake House is lo­cated in the ‘Pre­serve’ ter­ri­tory of a world-renowned golf course. the four-bed­room house fea­tures floor-to-ceil­ing win­dows and open fires for a cosy stay sur­rounded by the majesty of the moun­tains.

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01 Whare Kea Chalet by dusk 02 tran­quil lake views at the rees Ho­tel & lux­ury apart­ments 03 lux­ury in the mid­dle of nowhere at Whare Kea Chalet 04 Cosy liv­ing at Wyuna House 05 at home in Queen­stown at the Cop­per House

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