On top of the world at Coronet Peak

April 20

Feature photo Source 

New Zealand is an island nation, so its beaches and coastline get a lot of well deserved attention. And they are great. But, being perched atop of two colliding tectonic plates, New Zealand is also a mountainous country, and its alpine playgrounds are just as worthy of a letter home.

The country is filled with incredible ski areas, from Mt Hutt in Canterbury to Coronet Peak and the Remarkables in Queenstown. Whether you ski, snowboard or are just getting curious, New Zealand’s South Island offers southern hemisphere skiing at its best.


Can you ski in Queenstown?

Hell yeah. It’s not the jewel of the South Island for nothing – though the bungy jumping and jet boating may also have something to do with this title. Queenstown, New Zealand is home to both Coronet Peak ski resort and the Remarkables ski field, the latter sitting on the jagged range that gives Queenstown its iconic backdrop.

How far are the ski fields from Queenstown?

Coronet Peak and the Remarkables ski area are in spitting distance from Queenstown. Coronet Peak is the closest ski area, just 16km or 20 minutes away. The Remarkables isn’t much further at 24km away.

The first commercial ski field in New Zealand, Coronet Peak had a revamp a few years ago and the facilities are world class. The lifts are fast and when the weather’s shit (which happens – this is New Zealand, after all) the cafe is humongous with plenty of coffee, hot food, mulled wine and cold beers to go around.


Is Coronet Peak ski resort good for beginners?

With 3 lifts, four surface lifts and 450m of vertical drop, the mountain has plenty of ski areas for first timers as well as seasoned powder hounds – and a whole lot of space in between so nobody’s getting in the way. For first timers, the beginner facilities and wide open piste trails on the mountain make for a gentle entry into the world of snow sports, as does the progressive terrain and assortment of lessons on offer.

For intermediate skiers, hit the M1 Main Run, then work your way up to steeper trails like Million Dollar, Sugar Run and the Hurdle. For advanced ski and snowboard riders, the best off piste runs and terrain are accessed from the top of the Express lift. When there’s fresh snow, the Exchange, Chimney and Back Bowls offer up some epic, quad-burning advanced skiing.

For beginners or intermediate skiers, lessons are a brilliant way to find (or rediscover) your ski legs. Keep your relationship intact and hire a professional rather than your significant other. Trust us. If skiing’s just not your thang but you want to be amongst the action, the facilities at Coronet Peak make it worth while anyway – we’re talking a gondola, two bars, a cafe and relentlessly spectacular views (which are free).

Coronet Peak is also ‘Home of night ski’, lighting up from 4pm until 9pm on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights and offering skiers the country’s longest ski day. A quick word to the wise: night skiing is extra cold. Rug up.


How do I get from Queenstown to Coronet Peak?

Easy, the mountain shuttle. On a powder day, it’ll be packed with skiers and boarders chomping at the bit; there’s no better way to get the juices flowing. If you’ve got wheels, park either at the top of the mountain, or leave your car at the bottom and hitch a ride with the bus or a local to the top.


How much does it cost to ski in Queenstown?

Skiing can be an expensive hobby, but there’s generally a good deal to be found with Coronet or the Remarkables earlybird lift passes, and usually the sale ends around the end of March. Add a First Tracks pass to your lift pass and be one of the first on the mountain to glide through fresh snow.

Day lift passes for either Coronet Peak or the Remarkables will usually set you back around $140, but this gets cheaper as you buy more days (and the earlier you get in). The Coronet Peak web page has all the options laid out. A 3 Peak pass gives unlimited access for the season to the facilities of Coronet Peak ski field, the Remarkables and Mt Hutt in Canterbury. With your pick of resorts, there’s endless terrain and tons of trails to get through – now just to figure out how to free up your weekdays for skiing.

Lessons, which cost up from $100, are a great way to get to know the terrain if you’re new to the mountain, too.

Where should I stay when skiing in Queenstown?

Queenstown is overflowing with fantastic accommodation options for any ski trip, from shoestring budget to high glam. If you’re coming for the season, make like a local and find a rental place – it’s a whole lot cheaper and a great way to get into the groove of the town. Queenstown itself is packed with all the right facilities, from ski and snowboard hire, outdoor gear shops and bars and restaurants to refuel after a big day up the hill.


How cold does it get in Queenstown?

In the middle of winter, it can get down to between -5 and -15°C. If you’re night skiing up at Coronet Peak ski field, shave a couple of degrees off that number and make sure to wear plenty of winter woollies.

Which is better, Remarkables or Coronet Peak?

A contentious local question, and rather like picking a favourite sibling: depends what you’re in the mood for that day, really. The Remarkables in Queenstown has 7 lifts and sunny, north-facing terrain, which means icy days are few and far between. Shredders will be far happiest here – they’ve got an awesome terrain park, while Coronet Peak has only got a few short strips to offer in this department.

Coronet Peak, meanwhile, is a favorite for its rollercoaster terrain and high speed lifts, and is the only place to night ski. Both have heaps of terrain for beginner, intermediate and advanced skiers, and the best thing is, you don’t actually have to choose. Get a 3 peak pass and ski them both.

When did Coronet Peak open?

1947, Coronet Peak was New Zealand’s first commercial ski area.

What is the best time to ski in New Zealand?

The official winter season in New Zealand is from June through August, but most ski resorts open their lifts mid to late June, when there’s a decent covering of snow. For the most consistent good skiing, late July and August are the best times to visit.

For warmer weather and soft, friendly snow, September at Coronet Peak, Mt Hutt and the Remarks makes for great spring skiing. It’s a good idea to check what dates the school holidays fall on (and avoid them), as this is when hoards of Aucklanders make the trip south.

Does Queenstown have snow all year?

It’s not supposed to, but the weather tends to have its own ideas when it comes to the seasons. Generally, it snows on the local mountains and hills around Queenstown between May and September, but it’s not completely unheard of to have a dumping in November or December. Crazier things have happened.

Can you drive to Coronet Peak in summer?

These days, Coronet Peak ain’t just for snow bunnies. As the weather warms and the snow melts, the end of the winter season doesn’t mean the end of the fun up Coronet Peak. Nope, chuck your ski and snowboard gear in the garage and dust off that mountain bike – it’s time to shred dirt. You can drive to the bottom and ride up or drive to the top carpark. Depends how much you want to earn your turns.

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