All things white and won­der­ful

Ski re­sorts in New Zealand have geared up for a bumper sea­son

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Australian & Nz Ski Holidays - ROB WOOD­BURN

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

Hil­ton Queen­stown

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