Queenstown does not hibernate during the freezing cold season. On the opposite. Although the only ever world cup races in alpine skiing held in New Zealand have taken place at Mt. Hutt near Methven (Christchurch) and more international ski stars have their training camps at Treble Cone near Wanaka, Queenstown surely is the country's wintersport capital.
This does not mean that Queenstown has fantastic skifields as the Remarkables and Coronet Peak but also the Après Ski party atmosphere which surely is not everybody's cup of tea, and celebrates the Lindauer Winter Festival. Started in 1975, it incorporates open air parties and concerts, on slopße competitons and events, art, ice-hockey, jazz and boogie nights etc. Let's say it like this: It is not the greatest time for peace loving people ;-)
Coronet Peak is only 18kms from Queenstown on the Gorge Road to the Shotover and has a fully sealed access road to the lifts. For those who do not want to drive there are regular shuttle services.
Across the valley is the Remarkables Mountain Range. Towering peaks shelter three bowls with huge areas for skiing and snowboarding. Three quad-chains, one magic carpet and a beginner tow transport the skiers up the slopes. As the Remarkables are north-facing the ski areas are sunnier than on Coronet Peak.
Winter in Queenstown officially runs from 1 June until 30 August. The traditional opening of the ski fields is Queen's Birthday in June, and often the ski fields are open until early October. So the safest months are July and August.
In 2007, for example, Coronet Peak opened on 11 June because there were no early snowfalls and snowmaking could not start; the Remarkables followed later. You never know the exact dates. Check the nzski website for dates and snow conditions.
The Queenstown Winter Festival 2011 will be from 24 June until 3 July.
River Boarding is similar to boogie boarding in the sea except you go down a "white-water" river. In Queestown, the best place to try this is with Mad Dog River Boarding who run their river boarding at "Roaring Megs" (see picture) which is a scenic stretch of rapids on the Kawerau River.
I didn't actually do this but stopped to take a look at Roaring Megs on my way through. It really is an impressive stretch of river if you like that kind of thing!
Equipment: You should use their equipment for this activity.
Snowboarding or Skiing is a popular passtime in the Queenstown area as there are a few skiifields to choose from. The Remarkables and Coronet Peak are the closest skiifields.
Equipment: There are many places in Queenstown itself to buy or hire gear. You can also get gear ont he mountains but it will probably cost you more money.
We went skiing at Coronet Peak and whilst it was fun, it was really busy and overcrowded. Also, they hadn't had much snow so one of the lifts was closed and snow cannons were used elsewhere.
Equipment: There are many hire shops in the town.
The shotover jet is one thing you can consider doing while in Queenstown. It is fun for both kids and adults.
The boats moved really fast and spins around several times on water as low as 20cms. A bit of advice, in winter, dress warmly.
Also how to avoid the splashes? Stay close to the driver in the middle of the boat. Those who sit at the ends always end up wet.
In winter, there was a discount so instead of $95, they charge us $85 and close at around 6pm (dark). However in summer, it is very popular and you need to book 1 day in advance to get a place. It also closes late in summer at close to 9pm.
The company will also provide free pick-ups from Queenstown.
Not being one for hard out adventure sports I have to admit that I haven't tried this but I had plenty of fun watching others! Paragliding is a sport whereby you run off a hill/cliff with a parachute on your back and paraglide to the ground.
In Queenstown there is more than one place that offers this however probably the easiest one to access is Queenstown Commercial Parapenters located at the top of the Skyline Gondola. They offer tandem jumps and heli-jumps also.
Equipment: They will supply all the equipment. $185 is the cost and that will get you a tandem jump plus some pictures of the jump.
Then of course you've got to climb back up the 143 feet to the top. When I looked at it from the top, I never thought I'd make it back up again - I was sure my knees would still be shaking too much.
But when I am actually there, I am so full full of energy from the adrenalin, endorphins and seratonin or whatever the enzymes are called that the brain produces under such circumstances, that I run most of the way up!
I very relieved mother is there to welcome me, along with David ofcourse, and I get a cheer and a round of applause when I reach the top. Complete strangers come up to speak to me and congratulate me - there are two other buses stopped here now.
When I stop bouncing and am lowered into the boat, I am quite disappointed that it is all over, I want to continue to bounce around for a bit.
The inflatable raft holds out a long pole for you to grab, then they take your hand and them men on the bridge lower the rope so that you land in the boat.
Once I am over the edge, it is all plain sailing from there. In fact, there is only one way to go - down! The best bit is at the bottom when you stretch the elastic and bounce back up again, the worse is when you reach the top again, the leastic goes slack and you start going down again.
5-4-3-2-1-Bungy! I look around. Isn't something meant to happen at this stage? Oh, yes, I was meant to jump. No way!
A soothing pep talk follows, and then another countdown. 5-4-3-2-1-Bungy! I take a large step backwards! (as much as you can when your feet are tied together). I have never been so frightened in my life! I would gladly have changed my mind at this stage if I could!
The lads are very good. They calm me down and get me over to the edge on the third countdown, and 5-4-3-2-1-Push!
Of course, I am only delaying the jump to build up the tension for the onlookers. I am not frightened at all!
By the time we wake up this morning, David has changed his mind abou the bungy jump. He woke up about two in the morning with palpitations and developed a yellow rash down his back! Brent said he was pleased that it proved that at least there was some sanity in the family!
We stop at a 143 foot high bridge to watch some idiot jump off attached to a rubber band.
I am left waiting and waiting building up the anxiety on the bridge while they have a break. Even Brent has deserted me. The rest of the bus are down at the viewing platform, cameras at the ready. From a bus load of 44 passengers, there is one person jumping, 42 people wathcing and one person turning the other way (my mother).
My feet are wrapped in towels and secured by luggage straps after I've climbed through the bridge safaety railings and on to the platform. Next the elastic is attached, then I waddle to the edge of the platform (which is not easy when your feet are tied together and your knees are rattling). I pose for a photo with the company newsletter, and then for the countdown.
The instructor does a 360 degree turn and something he calls a wind-tip tuern. That is very exciting, especially spiralling downwards at speed!
We seem to be up there for an eternity. It is amazing how much control he has over this piece of cloth. He steers it right towards the landing strip, and touches the ground gently and smoothly - what can I say? ("Can I do it again please?")
You catch a wind and walk forward until the ground disapperas underneath you - and you are airborne! Noemally, from the Gondola, the flight lasts 7-8 minutes, we are up for over 20 minutes! What an incredible experience! We cathc a thermal, drift up and slightly across, just hanging around, cicling aove the ridge - wow!
Back into town for the pick up for the parapenting. By this afternoon, the wins has built up quite a bit, and it is too much to fly from the Gondola, so we end up paying a supplement to go from Coronet Peak. Wow!
The view from the top isabsolutely unbelievable.
In just a few minutes we are strapped into a baby-seat-type harness, and the instructor, who is behind you, hooks you up to the banana-shaped parachute.
At the end of the Jetboat ride, Danes are there to take us up to the helipad. A brilliant little flight, at 90 degrees to the horizon through the narrow canyon, shimmering the tops of the hills and then landing on a tiny little "beach" alongside the river.
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