The reason that winter happens is so people can slide down cold white stuff on planks of wood. Right?
Yes – the whole reason for snow falling on mountains is so that us humans can pursue two of the most fun sports around – skiing and snowboarding.
Recently, we spent a glorious week in one of our favourite parts of New Zealand – Queenstown and Wanaka. This part of the country is stunning – lakes encircled by mountain ranges, lots of wineries, towns with great restaurants, and multitudes of outdoor activities. We’ve already written about our fantastic scenic flight experience which we highly recommend any visitor to the region tick off, as well as our 36 hour itinerary for Queenstown (excluding skiing).
In winter, of course, the most popular outdoor activities are snow-related. 2015 has been the best ski season in years – global warming huh? Lucky us getting to spend a week amongst the slopes!
We had a day at each of the four main ski fields in the Queenstown-Wanaka region: The Remarkables, Coronet Peak, Treble Cone, and Cardrona.
So what’s our verdict? Here we tell you the good and bad about our experience at each field. Of course, snow conditions and crowds vary, so this is just based on when we were there. We hope it’s useful to you though!
The Remarkables Ski Area
The Remarkables was the first stop of the week. We had never been there before and so didn’t know what to expect, and we were pleasantly surprised. The Remarkables isn’t a huge field, but the runs are pretty good. We especially liked the ice bar off the Curvey Basin Express chairlift – we may or may not have had a sneaky Corona there!
The snow conditions were good, although the main trails got a bit chopped up towards the end of the day. Being close to Queenstown, it’s a good alternative to Coronet Peak, but as a result it can get pretty busy.
Favourite run: Calypso, off the Shadow Basin chairlift
Treble Cone is the least accessible of the four fields – it’s the furthest from a town and the access road is quite long and windy (with sheer drops off the side!). TC is also the steepest of the four fields. However, this means that there are fewer learners – i.e. less people that might crash into you! The snow base at Treble Cone on the day we were there was about 3.8m in the Saddle Basin – absolutely nuts! We had a gorgeous bluebird day at Treble, and with that came lots of people – the lift queues at times were about 20 minutes, which is quite lengthy for TC.
However, we really enjoyed our day there. The pizza at the Alfresco Cafe at the top of the Home Basin chairlift was delicious, and the snow was pretty damn good. We love the smaller, less commercial feel of TC compared with The Remarkables and Coronet Peak.
Favourite run: Saddle Back and Side Saddle, off the Saddle Basin chairlift
Cardrona Alpine Resort
Cardrona has traditionally been our favourite field, with nice wide runs, good snow, and a friendly atmosphere. This visit was no different. Although it was pretty busy due to the excellent weather and the Winter Games on too. The lift queues were long at times, but we didn’t mind all that much because the runs were so good.
The snow was nice, although with the warm weather it got a bit thick towards the end of the day. We had another good pizza at Captain’s Cafe (skiing + pizza = best thing ever!) and a cheeky beer too. A highlight was watching the slope style qualifiers for the Winter Games – 17 of the world’s top 20 slope style skiers were there!
Favourite run: Paradise, off the Captain’s Express chairlift
Coronet Peak Ski Area
I said before that Cardrona is traditionally our favourite ski field in the area, and unfortunately Coronet Peak has been our least favourite. This is partially due to the memory of being stuck on a chairlift for 45 minutes in a blizzard there, but also because of the crowds from Queenstown – Coronet is the closest field to Queenstown, only 20 minutes away. I was interested to see if our perception changed with another visit.
Unfortunately, out of the four fields, Coronet was our least favourite. We had crappy weather – very overcast and flat light, meaning that it’s very hard to see the bumps of snow, thereby making it easier to wipe out. Also, because it had been quite a warm week, the snow wasn’t in a great condition. We still got in a heap of runs because, due to the weather, the numbers of people were low – we left the mountain at 2pm having done the same amount of runs as the full day before at Cardrona!
Favourite run: Arnold’s Way and Shirt Front, off Coronet Express chairlift
So there we go. Cardrona still comes out tops!
We have read that a new ski field, Soho Basin, has resource consent for a chairlift to be built – this field is next to Cardrona. We’re waiting with bated breath to see when this happens – wouldn’t it be great to have another field to choose from!
Thanks to Cardrona Alpine Resort for hosting us on the mountain. As always, you’ll receive our honest opinion regardless of who foots the bill.
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What’s your favourite ski field? Where would you recommend we go skiing, anywhere in the world?