First winter snows blanket New Zealand's Southern Alps

Skiers have had a glimpse of the 2016 winter season to come at New Zealand's premier ski destinations, Queenstown and Wanaka.

The first of the winter snows have blanketed New Zealand's Southern Alps as skiers get a glimpse of the winter season to come in the southern hemisphere’s premier ski destinations.

Coronet Peak, above Queenstown, received around 20cm at the summit and up to 15cm at the base of the ski area. The snowstorm couldn’t have been more timely as the ski area iss scheduled to open for the season on Saturday, 11 June.  

Across the valley at The Remarkables ski area, up to a metre of snow has fallen near the summit in the past 24 hours and more than 70cm at the ski area base. 

The Wanaka ski areas of Cardrona and Treble Cone have both received big snowfalls this week. Cardrona has reported a covering of 35-40cm across the entire mountain with drifts of over 2m deep in places. Both mountains are set to open in June with Cardrona already announcing that all trails will be open for the first day of the 2016 season.

Temperatures dropped to minus 8 degrees during the night but were accompanied by strong winds, resulting in wind drifts on the mountain as high as 1.5m.  

The Remarkables is scheduled to open for the 2016 season on Saturday, 18 June.  The trails are starting to take shape and the staff say it’s exciting to see the amount of snow  already on the mountain.

Coronet Peak and The Remarkables are both expected to benefit from sub-zero temperatures and more snow in this week’s forecast. 

The snowfalls have coincided with the first winter evening flights touching down at Queenstown Airport this week. The approach to Queenstown Airport is already renowned as one of the most picturesque in the world after being voted ‘World’s Most Scenic Airport Landing’ in 2015. 

Winter 2016 - ski field opening dates for Queenstown / Wanaka:

  • Coronet Peak, Queenstown - 11 June, 2016
  • Cardrona Alpine Resort, Wanaka - 11 June, 2016
  • The Remarkables, Queenstown - 18 June, 2016
  • Treble Cone, Wanaka - 23 June, 2016

Winter brings the party

Celebrating the start of winter is a local tradition and Queenstown will officially welcome the season on 24 June when the annual American Express Queenstown Winter Festival kicks off. 

The award-winning festival is the southern hemisphere’s biggest and brightest winter celebration and boasts a calendar filled with fireworks, live music, street parades, comedy, quirky races and mountain mayhem. There are nine new events for 2016, and 40 free events in the programme.

The other big winter party comes with the annual Gay Ski Week QT (27 August – 3 September), as visitors and community come together to celebrate gay pride in a winter playground.

A week of light-hearted events including a comedy night, hero and villains dance party, a boat party and cabaret night, ensure the resort gets more than its fair share of colour and fun.

It is never too early to start planning a winter break, and the Audi quattro Winter Games 2017 have just announced next year’s competition dates. From 25 August – 10 September 2017,  some of the world’s best winter athletes will show their stuff on the slopes around Queenstown and Wanaka.

Dates for your calendar

  • American Express Queenstown Winter Festival: 24 June – 3 July, 2016
  • Gay Ski Week NZ:  27 August – 3 September, 2016
  • Audi quattro Winter Games: 25 August – 10 September, 2017

Relax and refuel

A day on the mountain isn’t all fun and games – well, it mostly is, but it can be quite exhausting. All of which means that where to spend your evenings is of the utmost importance. 

The Sherwood – an eco-hotel-cum-restaurant on the main road into Queenstown has spectacular views of the mountains. It also has a dry room and workshop so you can tune your boards and skis and get your gear ready for the next day. The onsite kitchen garden is the chef’s source of produce ensuring guests are well fed, getting all the essentials they need to be ready for the next day on the slopes.

Award-winning ski hotel Crowne Plaza Queenstown has teamed up with Cardrona Alpine Resort and NZSki's The Remarkables and Coronet Peak ski fields to offer guests two superb ski packages for winter 2016. A Cardrona ski package is available for skiers and snowboarders staying at the centrally-located lakeside hotel for a minimum of three nights (11 June -  9 October). The NZSki package combines seven nights’ accommodation at Crowne Plaza with daily complimentary breakfast, and a five-day lift pass for The Remarkables and Coronet Peak ski fields.

For a luxury experience the just-opened Hulbert House has six uniquely designed suites with views overlooking either Lake Wakatipu or the Skyline Hill. Located one block from Queenstown’s central business area, Hulbert House was built in 1887 during the height of the New Zealand gold rush.

Slightly off the beaten track and away from the hustle and bustle of Queenstown, Kinross Cottages are found in the gorgeous Gibbston wine valley, nestled amongst vineyards producing pinot noir, pinot gris and Gerwurtztraminer wines, Kinross Cottages is the perfect base for a lot of skiing and a spot of wine tasting. After a day on the slopes, nothing warms the cockles more than a Central Otago pinot noir.