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TNZ

When even the black runs start to pall, get an adrenaline rush with bungy jumping above Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu.

 Experience the delights of a short break in Queenstown and Wanaka

WHY HERE

With mountains to climb, ski, jump off or simply admire from the comfort of a bar stool, the greatest challenge in the South Island adventure capital is finding time for boredom. Four main ski areas vie for the attention of skiers and snowboarders: Coronet Peak and The Remarkables (near Queenstown) and Treble Cone and Cardrona (near Wanaka). With bars set up at the top of ski lifts at Coronet Peak (and free glasses of bubbly handed out at the other end), the atmosphere is convivial and conducive to making friends.


Higher elevations provide Queenstown's ski areas with a more reliable cover than is found in Australia. Coronet Peak has shaken its "Concrete Peak" nickname thanks to hi-tech Italian snow guns dusting its rollercoaster terrain with a generous layer of "Armani powder". The cost of a week's skiing is also 20 to 25 per cent cheaper than Thredbo or Perisher.


The era of the "nutcracker" rope tow, meanwhile, is long gone with a new chairlift and base station at The Remarkables opened for this year's season. The more adventurous can also opt for heli-skiing and boarding, back-country skiing, mountaineering and niche snowfields.

The Treble Cone ski field has spectacular views over Lake Wanaka.

TNZ/MARTYN WILLIAMS

 

The Treble Cone ski field has spectacular views over Lake Wanaka.

HOW LONG

In four days, visitors can ride the powder at each of the main resorts or take the skis off for a day to experience the region's other adrenalin rushes – bungy-jumping, whitewater rafting, canyoning and jet boating.

Renowned for its pinot noir, Central Otago is also home to more than 200 wineries – more reason to lengthen that long weekend. Amisfield (amisfield.co.nz) is on the edge of town and an easy pit stop for picking up a choice drop.

When you tire of speeding down the slopes, rent a cycle and tour the local vineyards

TNZ/MILES HOLDEN

 

When you tire of speeding down the slopes, rent a cycle and tour the local vineyards

DON'T MISS

Making friends. There's no man drought in New Zealand's ski fields, with (fit, healthy) men easily outnumbering women. You also have a captive audience while on a ski lift at any of the region's resorts.

The sentiments expressed on Cardrona's staff shirts – such as "Promoting sick days since 1981" – are indicative of the laid-back​ atmosphere. Cardrona is the only ski area in New Zealand where you can stay on the mountain and ski from your front door. Sporting the name Bradrona, the fence draped with bras at the foot of the mountain gives an insight into the Kiwi sense of humour.

Cardrona instructor Steve Trout says the resort is family-friendly "with this edgy little push-the-envelope thing".

Trout says the roller-coaster terrain caters for all skill levels with "great easy runs, cruisy for everybody, and a lot of intermediate runs". For snow show-offs, there are parks, pipes and "black runs that get your heart racing – the adrenalin going just looking at them – that drop for, y'know, 500 metres."

Early birds can race from Queenstown across the Shotover River to Coronet Peak in 20 minutes and get on the slopes by eight o'clock for the resort's First Tracks sessions. Night owls, meanwhile, can sleep until midday and still get a full day on the snow, with skiing until nine o'clock on Friday and Saturday nights.

Heliskiing is ideal for the thrill seeker who doesn't like sticking to the trails.

TNZ

 

Heliskiing is ideal for the thrill seeker who doesn't like sticking to the trails.

WAIT. THERE'S MORE

You've seen the scenery in The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings movies, but nothing beats stepping into Middle Earth with your own feet. The top of the Crown Range between Queenstown and Wanaka offers jaw-dropping views of Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu and the towering Southern Alps. With no trees to obscure the view, the top of most ski lifts offer lens-worthy scenery too – just make sure you can snap a photo without your fingers freezing.

Queenstown is a culinary hot spot, with top restaurants – Rata (ratadining.co.nz) and Jervois Steak House (jervoisqueenstown.co.nz) headed by judges from New Zealand MasterChef – and a host of other fine eateries offering cuisines from around the world. If queuing in the cold doesn't faze you, a visit to the legendary Fergburger​ (fergburger.com) is a must.

Snow sports are thirsty work, and Queenstown has no end of watering holes to revive spirits, including The Ballarat Trading Co (ballarat.co.nz) and Eichardt's (eichardts.com). Queenstown also has its own laneway culture, with Cow and Searle Lanes lined with gin palaces such as The Bunker and Barmuda.

Fresh powder lures a snowboarder at The Remarkables ski field in Queenstown.

TNZ/MILES HOLDEN

 

Fresh powder lures a snowboarder at The Remarkables ski field in Queenstown.

WHERE TO STAY

The Queenstown Park Boutique Hotel offers designer digs within walking distance of the town centre. Each room has its own kitchen and courtyard or balcony, and pre-dinner drinks and canapés offer a convivial start to the evening. Rooms from $398 a night. See queenstownpark.co.nz.

The boutique Spires Hotel Queenstown has bagged awards for its smart, elegantly furnished rooms. The moreish Mediterranean menu and cocktails dished up at its No 5 Restaurant and Bar are an added enticement to stay. Rooms from $475 a night. See thespirehotel.com.

QUICK TIP Wanaka offers the best of Queenstown in a more tranquil atmosphere.

The writer was a guest of New Zealand Ski Tourism Marketing Network (newzealandski.co.nz).​

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