With just two weeks to go until the first of the ski fields in the Southern Alps open, the area has already been blanketed with a huge dump of snow.
The snowfall has come at the perfect time to give the local Queenstown – Wanaka ski areas a good boost ahead of their scheduled opening days.
Destination Queenstown CEO Graham Budd says there is a real buzz around town now as fresh snowfall signals that the ski season is fast approaching.
“Coronet Peak and Cardrona Alpine Resort are both scheduled to open on 13 June with the other mountains following suit in the weeks after so we are really gearing up for winter now, ” he said.
Paul Anderson, CEO of NZSki, said the snowfall has given Queenstown’s Coronet Peak and The Remarkables the best possible start to winter with up to half a metre of snow blanketing both ski areas.
“This sets us up for a great start to the 2015 season. We’ve got our groomers out working to pack down the snow on piste and, with cold temperatures expected for the rest of the week, we can continue to make more snow on top of a fantastic natural base. The snowfall will help to ensure ideal conditions for guests on opening day.”
2015 ski field opening dates
Coronet Peak - 13 June
The Remarkables - 20 June
Cardrona Alpine Resort - 13 June (beginner facilities) / 20 June (full mountain)
Treble Cone - 25 June
Queenstown Winter Festival
Queenstown will officially welcome the start of the winter season on 19 June when the annual American Express Queenstown Winter Festival kicks off.
The award-winning Festival runs for 10 days and is the southern hemisphere’s biggest and brightest winter celebration.
This year’s event boasts a calendar filled with fireworks, live music, street parades, comedy, quirky races and mountain mayhem.
‘Birdman’, a festival favourite, will return with competitors attempting the longest flight off the Birdman Platform and into the crisp waters of Lake Wakatipu.
Graham Budd says Winter Festival celebrates the start of winter and is a great excuse to plan a trip to Queenstown.
“It’s a short flight to Queenstown from New Zealand’s major centres and only three hours from Australia which makes it very accessible for a winter holiday. The ski areas are world-class and the range of activities in Queenstown itself are second to none.”
Winter Festival is now in its 41st year and has been a highlight of the winter calendar since 1975 when a bunch of locals decided that the start of winter deserved to be celebrated in style.
Over 45,000 people are expected to descend on Queenstown to welcome winter with open arms and get the ski season underway.
Winter Games NZ
A little later in the season, many of the world’s best winter athletes will head to the Southern Alps for the Winter Games NZ – an elite sporting competition that’s also a downtown festival that will be bigger and brighter than ever.
The Audi Quattro Winter Games will run from 21 - 30 August with a jam-packed programme that is entirely free to watch.
Top skiers and snowboarders from all over the world are expected to wow the crowds by pushing themselves to the absolute limit in events such as halfpipe, slopestyle and slalom.
Another hero of the games has to be the Naseby Curling Centre, the only facility in the southern hemisphere dedicated to the lawn bowls of winter sport.
Throughout the festival there will be a vast array of off-piste entertainment on offer.
The Adventure Film Festival, live music, medal ceremonies and daily entertainment is all based at the Winter Games villages in central Queenstown and Wanaka.
Acclaimed New Zealand musician Ladi6 will perform the national anthem at the opening ceremony while one of New Zealand’s best live acts Kora will bring the festival to a close 10 days later.
The Winter Games offers something for everyone and provides another great excuse to visit the Southern Alps.
Central North Island
The snow has also been falling on the Central Plateau region which offers the North Island’s best skiing on Mt Ruapehu in magnificent Tongariro National Park – a dual World Heritage Area.
Mt Ruapehu has two ski fields, Whakapapa and Turoa, and both areas provide terrain for all abilities as well as family areas for those content with a bit of tobogganing and making the odd snowman.
If slippery slopes aren’t your thing, tourism operator Adrift Outdoors runs year-round guided walks of the famed Tongariro Alpine Crossing.
The Crossing is an eight-hour walk across the length of Mt Tongariro (19.4km). In the right conditions, it’s especially beautiful during winter when the snow adds a different dimension to the incredible volcanic landscapes that include the Red Crater, and the Blue and Emerald lakes.
Mt Ruapehu and Tongariro National Park is a four-hour drive from Auckland, an easy couple of hours from Rotorua or a one-hour trip from Lake Taupo.
Turoa and Whakapapa ski fields are scheduled to open on 27 June.
For up-to-the-minute snow reports for The Remarkables, Coronet Peak, Cardrona and Treble Cone, well-known information website Queenstown.com has become a one stop shop.
The locally-based site is the first in the region to offer up-to-the-moment snow reports for all four local ski areas. The Snow Reports page features webcam shots updated every 15 minutes, temperatures, snow levels, road conditions and links to a full report for each mountain.
To view the report page click here.