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Queenstown, New Zealand’s Winter Wonderland

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Ahhhh, Queenstown.

It’s a place that needs no introduction. A place that is a guaranteed good time all year round. The city is always humming, occupied by an endless stream of visitors eager to taste the Adventure Capital of the World. And for good reason too. It has an incredible playground, jaw-dropping scenery and a fun-loving atmosphere.

Kyle and I called Queenstown home for a while. We spent three winter seasons living the dream, working in the ski industry down there. Just like thousands of other people. Queenstown has grown exponentially over the last decade, resulting in an accommodation shortage which is now near crisis point. It forced us to make the tough decision not to return this winter – to live that is. Instead, we teamed up with Macpac and embarked on a South Island winter road trip to get our Queenstown fix.

When in Queenstown

First thing on our agenda was to hit the slopes. Kyle was keen to revisit his old stomping ground, The Remarkables but the accessibility of Coronet Peak was too hard to pass up. It’s the closest ski field to Queenstown and only a 25 minute drive from the city. I’ll be honest, Coronet Peak often cops flack for its snow conditions. You may’ve even heard people refer to it as ‘Concrete Peak’. I can assure you though that when there’s ample snow, like right now, it’s tussock base and undulating terrain make it a super fun mountain to ski.

Coronet Peak is open for Night Ski every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday evening from 5pm-9pm. We were luckily enough to attend the first one of 2017. Skiing down the slopes while overlooking the twinkling lights of Queenstown gives you a new perspective. It actually feels like you’re skiing an entirely different mountain. That view at sunset though. Speechless!

It’s worth checking out the après ski scene at Coronet Peak Night Ski even if you’re not into skiing. They have a DJ spinning tunes from the deck and warm mulled wine to enjoy whilst standing around a brazier.

A trip up the Skyline Gondola for a spin on the Luge track is a must do when visiting Queenstown. Their slogan ‘once is never enough’ is so apt. We were still left wanting more after five rides. It’s that fun! You’re not supposed to race on the track for safety reasons. (It’s a family activity.) But that’s virtually impossible. I was the winner on the day too, in case you were wondering.

Queenstown Winter Festival

Our visit to Queenstown coincided with the 43rd Queenstown Winter Festival. The festival is a four day extravaganza of street parties, fireworks, live entertainment, comedy shows, family activities, and mountain mayhem. It signifies the beginning of winter.

Queenstown’s nightlife scene is already legendary. I don’t know of anywhere else in New Zealand where the bars are full every night of the week… But the party goes into overdrive during Winterfest! An outdoor stage is erected in Earnslaw Park and live music, featuring both local and international artists, plays daily from 12pm-9pm. The coolest thing is that all of the entertainment is free of charge!

Kyle’s favourite Winterfest mountain event is the Dog Derby. The field is split into a ‘townies’ and ‘country’ category to make it a fair competition. ‘Townies’ race downhill with their dogs downhill. The ‘country’ competitors command their dogs (by whistling) uphill, around a flag and down to the finish line. Slippery conditions underfoot combined with dogs running amuck everywhere ensure it’s pure carnage.

Photo Supplied by Queenstown Winter Festival with Photo Credit to Esther Small

Day on the Bay is an iconic event at Winterfest. The Queenstown waterfront becomes a stage for the Birdman, Jet Boat Sprints, Undy 500 and Raft Race antics. It’s the Undy 500 and Birdman events that draw the most crowd support without a doubt. If you’ve been to Queenstown in winter before you’ll know the temperature struggles to reach 6 degrees some days and that Lake Wakatipu is a constant 12 degrees all year round. Nonetheless, competitors strip down to their underwear and race around an obstacle course for the Undy 500 and jump off an elevated platform into the lake for Birdman.

In support of the winter wonderland vibe an outdoor ice skating rink is set up in the Village Green during Winterfest. Kyle was insistent we give it a go, despite my lack of enthusiasm because I had never been ice skating before. He totally expected me be a natural. I was not. Within a minute of being on the ice I lost my balance. My arms windmilled and I fell over. (Yes, it left pretty choice bruises and I was dark with Kyle.) His saving grace was getting me a penguin to skate with. I embraced looking ridiculous with it.

As the saying goes, ‘time flies when you’re having fun’. Unsurprisingly, our five days in Queenstown was over before we knew it. The city lived up to its reputation once again. So much so, in fact, we’re already planning our next trip back there. See you in November, Queenie!

Special Shout Out

I do want to give Macpac a little shout. They supplied us with all of the sweet ski clothing featured in the photos and video. Girls, if you’re anything like me, you’ll dread trying on pants. They never fit perfectly. However, these ski pants fit like a glove and are super comfy. Most importantly, they’re fucshia pink. I couldn’t help but fall in love with them! Because it’s easy to lose your friends on the ski field, with everyone disguised in a helmet, googles and face buff, I didn’t just stop with bright pants. I got a bright blue ski jacket to complete my outfit.

The ski jacket is unreal. It’s insulated, wind proof, water proof and has super cosy linings on the collar and pockets. We sat up the top of Coronet Peak capturing sunset while the wind was whipping off the top of the mountain and I honestly couldn’t feel the wind chill. Thanks Macpac!