Skiing/boarding, powder days, hot chocolates with marshmallows, world-class winter festivals, heli-skiing, ice-skating, snowmen, mulled wine and lively locals – these are just a few of our favorite Queenstown winter activities.
True, I won’ t lie to you, it’ s cold. But do you know what cold brings? Yes, to some extent flu. But also SNOW!! What happens when you have stunning scenery and you add snow? One word – snowscapes. Everywhere you look in Queenstown you are greeted with stunning vistas,no matter what the season.But add snow to these and it dials up the magic factor. Sunrises turn the white mountains an awe-inspiring orange, sunsets turn them a breathtaking pink. Flying into Queenstown on a clear winter’ s day is an experience you will never forget. So, keep your camera at the ready if you visit Queenstown in Winter because you won’t get tired of taking photos. I’ ve lived here for seven years and I still fall over a lot.
Snow (For reals?)
Yes. Totally for reals. The mountains are covered in it, so make sure you get up in whatever way you possibly can. A quick word of caution – it’ s pretty essential that you carry chains and are used to winter driving if you have a rental, but fear not there are plenty of transport options to get you up there, even if it just to play in the snow (no skis required). There are excellent on-mountain facilities too so you can grab a hot chocolate or mulled wine while the kids have snowball fights, and make snow angels and snowmen! It’ s snow joke!
Mountains (Proper ones)
Yep, mountains that people ski and snowboard on (and various other activities). There’ s four mountains within a half hour to an hour’ s drive from Queenstown, including Coronet Peak, The Remarkables, Treble cone and Cardrona, each unique and offering a wide and varied terrain. Do your research to find out which suits your riding skills the best. If you’re into wide open slopes, Coronet or Cardrona would be the hill for you whereas park riders should look towards The Remarkables and Cardrona. For extreme terrain on a bluebird day, Treble Cone would be a safe bet. If you don’t already ooze snowboarders’ /skiers’ cool factor, you can learn it in no time by taking a lesson. Just don’t learn how to snowblade. No one likes a snowblader.
If you’re thinking: “I’ ve skied before, I can handle myself. This time I want to look cooler than ice cold”, then…dude, heliskiing is for you! Where there are mountains, snow and helicopters, you will find heliskiing, and Queenstown is no exception. Imagine… being dropped off at the top of a mountain, and standing there on the crest of a high peak in complete silence breathing in the mountain air. Deep powder lies beneath you,as you take in 360-degree views. The only sound you then hear is yourself as you clip into your skis or board, heart beating loudly. Your guide will point to your destination and then you all set-off, creating your own fresh tracks on untouched terrain. It’ s hard to resist turning around and gazing at the line you just created. How do you feel? Congratulations, you ARE James Bond. (You’ re not really, Daniel Craig is).
If you're thinking winter is pretty cool, it should be celebrated, don’t worry my friend, it is. For 10 days in late June Queenstown hosts the famous Queenstown winter festival. Wanna know what we call it? Go on, guess? Winterfest! See what we did there? Opening night of Winterfest is a legendary night down by the lake with live music on a huge stage, fireworks, food stalls, and pretty much everyone in town having a blast. Then for the next nine days or so it all goes off with a schedule of random, funny and serious events suited to all ages. The day on the bay is popular thanks to the birdman competition where people build bound-to-fail flying devices and jump off a pier into a lake that’ s one degree away from being actually frozen. There’ s also comedy galas, dog barking comps and dog Derbys, and the local green turns into a Disney-esque pop-up ice skating rink which always makes you think you are living in a Christmas movie. One year they even turned the moon green! I stared at the beautiful green moon in awe as I was driving into town, thinking; ‘ My word, Queenstown can do ANYTHING’ ,until I realised I was looking through the green sun strip at the top of the windscreen.
Yeah that’ s right, skiing at night. Get a whole new perspective of Coronet Peak each Friday and Saturday night through the peak season by skiing the mountain under floodlights. That’ s right,they light it up like a Christmas tree. Ski under the stars with a group of friends, or go solo, dress head to toe in black and try to be a ski ninja, the choice is yours. And if that doesn’ t work for you, hang out on the deck where you will find banging tunes and mulled wine.
That’s like, wine but hot right? And spicy. Mulled wine is sweet, delicious, and really warms you up on a cold winter evening. It’ s pretty much an integral part of Winter. There’ s nothing like walking into one of Queenstown’s awesome bars with a roaring fire and smelling that spicy sweet smell of Winter.
Queenstown has a multitude of bars all year round and in Winter they seem to come alive even more. Every night of the week you will find live music, roaring fires, good people and great banter wherever you go. There is no bad or quiet night to go out in Queenstown during the winter. But take it easy, especially if you are hitting the slopes the next day. Dangling from a chairlift with a massive hangover is only for the foolhardy.
Man, I should totally keep my hangover at bay by eating some food, right boss? But where ? Wow, now you’ re asking. There are tons of restaurants where you can stuff yourself silly, and without a doubt there aren’ t many that are going to serve you a bad meal. Most cuisines and all budgets are catered for. You want my advice? Find me, buy me a beer, and ask me where I would recommend. Not just me actually, any local. We all know where the sweet spots are and will share them with you if you are nice to us….
Just remembered, I’m allergic to snowsports. Brings me out in a rash. No point me coming then, right? Wrong! You don’t have to snowsport if you don’t want to. The majority of activities that make Queenstown the world-class destination that it is,also go ahead during the Winter (barring a few here and there), and some of them are made even betterer by Winter. Think paragliding is cool during the summer – try it from the top of a ski field! Skydiving is thrilling enough, but floating above snow-capped mountains? Something else. Why not take it easy in an outdoor hot pool after hitting the slopes all day? Even if you are here for the snow it’ s worth taking a day or two off to experience other winter activities Queenstown has to offer. I’ ve convinced you right? See you there!
Was that really 10 reasons, chief? It felt like the majority were snow-based.
Quit busting my balls. It’ s Winter. There’ s gonna be snow involved. And if those reasons aren’t reason enough then here’ s one for you, if you don’t visit Queenstown in winter you’ re an idiot. Kapeesh?
Cover picture @traciandersonphoto