All things white and wonderful
Ski resorts in New Zealand have geared up for a bumper season
COLD is the new hot on New Zealand’s South Island. The first signs of steady snowflakes see the town of Queenstown at its bonfire best. Stoking everyone’s fire is the annual Winter Festival, a celebration of all things white and wonderful.
Figures bandied about the slopes say as many as 60,000 happy punters will likely splurge more than $NZ55 million ($42.3m) during the 10-day party from this weekend to Sunday, July 3. The festival sets the tone of the ski season ahead with much merriment on the mountains and plenty of apres-ski fun downtown.
Entertainment includes fun days for families, live music in the snow, dawn skiing and night skiing, Slopestyle boarders striving for ‘ ‘ big tricks and big air’’ and daredevil downhill races with dog sleds and on mountain bikes.
Queenstown sparkles with street parties, a masquerade ball, jazz and comedy, food stalls and plenty of conviviality.
Ski shuttles link the town to Coronet Peak and The Remarkables, with pick-up at key points along the route. But a car is essential if you want to roam the region at leisure.
Hotel bookings are best bedded down soon. There’s no ski-season accommodation on the slopes but abundant choice at all levels in and around the town. The flash new hotel on the block is the 178-room Hilton Queenstown at the Kawarau Village complex on the shores of Lake Wakatipu near Queenstown airport and about 10km from Queenstown’s centre.
A slow snow start to the season across both islands has led to some resorts delaying openings slated for early to late June, stretching at some resorts to mid-July.
Technology first seen last year will continue to be rolled out across the New Zealand snow- fields. The world’s first fully integrated stored-value radiofrequency ID pass was introduced last year at Coronet Peak, The Remarkables and Mt Hutt (close to Methven in the South Island’s Canterbury region). Similar passes are nowin use at other resorts such as Treble Cone, as well as Whakapapa and Turoa on the North Island. Cardrona will likely introduce this system next year.
These cards can be linked to your credit card and used year after year. They can be scanned swiftly at each lift, which means queues move more quickly; and your electronic ‘‘snow cash’’ can be topped up online or at resort kiosks and used for rental hire and ski lessons.
An NZSki MyPass bought at the Coronet Peak rate ($NZ95 adult; $NZ52 youth/ senior) is good for all three mountains (Coronet Peak, The Remarkables and Mt Hutt). ‘‘It’s ideal for visitors on a short ski holiday. They buy as many days as they wish and use them how and when they want,’’ says NZSki’s Craig Douglas.
Treble Cone now has the TCPass which, like the Mypass, can store daily data on vertical metres skied, number of runs and days spent on mountain; the stats can be downloaded or viewed on a website. One card covers both Whakapapa and Turoa on the North Island’s mighty Mt Ruapehu, with a 15 per cent saving on multi-day tickets purchased this month.
The NZSuperPass gives lift access at all three NZSki resorts as well as Treble Cone, Cardrona, Snow Park NZ and eight club snowfields. It can also be used for non-snow activities such as hotair ballooning, bungy jumping, jet boating and dining out.
Some skiers set off with the bare essentials but this season there is seductive gadgetry available for those who like to shoot every run, record every stack and post everything online: there are helmets with 3-D camera housing, and hi-tech goggles now have an inside-lens LCD display showing temperature, altitude and coordinates. Just don’t take your eyes off those trees. A GPS watch linked to Google Earth means you should never get lost, and with Bluetooth your mobile is easy to answer and music is always in your ears.
Skifields don’t sleep during summer. The High Noon Express chairlift at Turoa has undergone significant structural change to fix last year’s issues of ice build-up and cable derailment. These changes mean the High Flyer chairlift won’t run this year but should be back next season.
The focus on Turoa also means there’ll be no Terrain Park at Whakapapa this year.
The buzz for boarders at Cardrona is a platter-tow relocated to service the half pipes. According to the resort’s Nadia Ellis, this will mean super-fast laps of the 22ft and 18ft half pipe, as well as reduced queues on McDougall and the Whitestar chairlifts.
Treble Cone will have doubleshift grooming on its slopes for the first time in years.
At The Remarkables,
the advanced Waterfalls run will be groomed this year for the first time while new signage should improve navigation on the mountain.
Coronet Peak has a new novice trail from the top of the Meadows chairlift and five new snow guns for lower trails. New barriers are part of safety improvements on the access road to Mt Hutt, which now has its first automated snowmaking line with 16 more guns on the International Trail.
More: nzski.com; queenstownnz.co.nz; newzealand.com. Air New Zealand boosts flights to Queenstown in July and August with a daily service from Sydney, an additional flight each week from Melbourne and four flights a week from Brisbane; $279 seat only or $299 seat and bag. More: airnz.co.nz. Emirates flies daily to Christchurch from Sydney and to Auckland from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane with a ski-friendly check-in bag allowance of 30kg economy and 40kg in business class. $219. More: emirates.com/au. Jetstar flies to Christchurch ($189), Auckland ($199) and twice a week to Queenstown from Melbourne and the Gold Coast ($239). More: jetstar.com.au. Virgin Australia flies to Auckland ($219), Christchurch ($189) and has three flights a week to Queenstown from Sydney and Melbourne ($289). More: virginaustralia.com. Qantas flies to Auckland or Christchurch ($209), Queenstown ($349 ex Sydney, $449 ex Melbourne, $437 ex Brisbane) More: qantas.com.au. Rugby World Cup 2011 pool matches start on September 9. Queenstown is about 31/ hours
2 by road from Dunedin and Hilton Queenstown has just set its Rugby World Cup season rates from $NZ325 ($248) a night. Dunedin’s Otago Stadium will host four matches between September 10 and October 2. More: queenstown.hilton.com. Airfares quoted are one-way, including taxes.
An advanced ski run on The Remarkables, which this year features improved signage
Coronet Peak features a new novice trail