If you are thinking about going to the snow, New Zealand is the place to go. In the South Island, Queenstown and Wanaka have all the action. Queenstown has been dubbed as the adventure capital of the world. And it’s not surprising considering all the crazy activities you can get up to; white water rafting, sky diving, bungy jumping (yes it’s free if you go naked) and of course snowboarding. To make sense of it all, check out this guide to snowboarding in Wanaka and Queenstown.
In Otago there are a four main ski fields around Queenstown and Wanaka to choose from. Coronet Peaks, The Remarkables, Treble Cone and Cardrona. Coronet Peak and Remarkables are closer to Queenstown, while Cardrona and Treble Cone are found just outside of Wanaka. The Remarkables is on a higher elevation than Coronet Peak so there is often more fresh snow there. Cardrona is slightly easier to ride than Treble Cone, but on a powder day, Treble Cone is the bomb. The views are absolutely amazing here and on a blue bird day after a big dump, you could swear you have died and gone to heaven.
Like all mountains in New Zealand, the fields are laden with tussocks and there isn’t a tree in sight. Legend has it the Maori’s burnt all the trees ages ago. Whether that’s true or not is up to you to decide, but the lack of trees make for killer powder sessions after a big snow fall.
Starting off at the Remarkables
This place caters for beginners, right up to the experienced. It has a number of trails to choose from so you are sure to have a different ride each time. There are cross-country trails that are quite relaxing to ride on and have great views of the surrounding mountains and lakes.
It has three terrain parks and a number of black diamond runs for the more adventurous riders. The black diamond runs are quite steep and it can get a bit icy as there are generally few snow machines up there. There are terrain parks for all levels of riders. It also features The Stash, which is the only terrain park of its kind in the southern hemisphere. With a number of jumps, concrete slabs and logs to ride on, this park is sure to satisfy the extreme snowboarders. This park is perfect for those who want to do more extreme riding.
Carving it up at Coronet Peak
This mountain can either be a blessing or an absolute nightmare. If it hasn’t snowed in a while (Coronet Peak receives the least amount of snow out of all four mountains), which is highly likely, then you best sharpen your edges because you’ll face some serious ice. There is one main beginner tow and like most of NZ mountains, it has its own snowmaking machines. Night Skiing and First Tracks make Coronet Peak famous for offering longer opening hours than any other mountain in the country.
Traversing Treble Cone
In recent years this advanced mountain has taken the lives of dozens of skiers and snowboarders due to avalanches cracking off its sheer cliff faces. It has two terrain parks and four main lifts. This place is usually reserved for intermediate to advanced riders, so if you’re starting out then it’s advised to stay away from the higher peak areas that are avalanche prone. That said, this place is kickass, it has some amazing runs and incredible chutes down rocky outcrop ridges that can create natural kickers and excellent jibs.
Shredding in Cardrona
Known as the party mountain to riders across the globe. This place is great for beginners to advanced riders and has terrific basin runs. It has seven terrain parks with two half pipes. In total the resort has four chairlifts, two rope tow style lifts. Get there early, as it can get very busy on weekends. Powder Keg is a must, if you get there real early when the lifts are just opening you can see the morning sunrise peak its head above the mountains in the distant, making the snow look like sand. This is a phenomenal site to see as you drop into Powder Keg and carve up some fresh tracks.
Staying in Queenstown
There are a number of great places to stay in the nearby towns, most of which offer pristine views of the nearby mountains. During winter Queenstown is absolutely bustling, so I would suggest staying just outside of Queenstown so you will also be closer to the ski fields. The Goldridge Resort is a great option and it offers cheap rooms. It also has outdoor storage rooms for all ski equipment.
There are some great places to grab a meal. Joe’s Garage – named after the Frank Zappa tune – is one of New Zealand’s best cafés. It has outstanding coffee and a laid-back vibe to it. Winnie’s Gourmet Pizza Bar is a great place to have some fun at night. It is an extremely popular night spot. It has excellent pizza, pool tables and an amazing opening roof, so you can see the stars while you eat.
While you are in Queenstown you should also take a ride on the Shotover Jet. It is located only 10 minutes drive from Queenstown. It is quite an exhilarating experience as the boat reaches speeds of over 85 kilometres per hour racing down narrow river canyons, so close to the walls you could almost reach out and touch them. The jet also does high-speed full 360 degree spins and can go in water as little depth as 10 centimetres. It is quite a heart-pumping experience.
Wanaka has exploded over the last two decades and is now a bustling ski village that has wicked restaurants and an awesome nightlife party scene. The Lake Wanaka is beautiful and on a clear day you can see Treble Cone in the distance. For a good drop of beer check out the Wanaka Ale House where you can sit back relax and take in the views.
If you’re thinking of staying the night or longer, there are a number of hotels and lodges that offer short term and long term stays.