With her daredevil children
leading the way (kind of), Tracey
Spicer braves Queenstown’s snow
quartet and discovers that variety
is the key to a winter escape.
he last time I drove up The
Remarkables, I thought I was
going to die. The car started
sliding towards the vertiginous
drop. Traffic barriers were few
and far between.
Well, that’s changed. More barriers have
been built, the road is sealed and Ski NZ
staff are on hand to put your chains on when
necessary. (Make sure you give them a tip.
The poor guys are there seven days a week
during the ski season.)
Almost a third of the runs here are for
beginners. You’re surrounded by snow,
giving new meaning to the phrase ‘winter
With its shiny new base building, the
resort has the best eating areas, with healthy
and tasty choices like green chicken curry,
chilli beans and noodles. Our visit coincides
with a snowstorm, so we spend a lot of time
scoffing and not much skiing. However, with
Ski NZ tickets (for Coronet Peak, The
Remarkables or Mt Hutt), you can exchange
a day’s pass for one of the attractions in
town. This is ideal if the weather is
Flexibility for families
Queenstown is the perfect base for
multigenerational families, especially if some
of you don’t ski or snowboard. Go jet
boating, bungee jumping, gold panning or
try the delicious dumplings at Madame
Woo. The Lord of the Rings tour with
Nomad Safaris is our pick, with a riproaring
jeep trip through ice-cold creeks.
I Have Confidence
The next day we build our confidence at
Coronet Peak, just a 20-minute drive on
paved roads from central Queenstown.
Here 25 per cent of the terrain is devoted to
beginners. The green runs are easy. But it’s
also easy to be distracted by the spectacular
views of Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu and
The Remarkables: like crumpled lunch bags
dusted with icing sugar.
There’s a lovely pizza restaurant, Heidi’s
Hut, at the bottom of Rocky Gully. Just
make sure the kids know how to ride a T-bar
to get back to the top. We almost left one of
them down there (and I noticed we weren’t
the only forgetful parents).
Try the terrific tubing park, through
rollercoaster terrain, or brave the night-time
skiing, which is always a thrill.
“First one down without a broken leg is the
winner!” the kids cry.
We’re at the top of a terrain park at
Cardrona, a marshmallow mountain half an
hour from Wanaka. The snow looks so soft
you could eat it. (Avoiding the yellow
patches, of course.)I agree to the race on one condition: no
one ends up in hospital. A little bit of
confidence can cause a lot of problems.
There’s a huge variety of runs at Cardrona,
from wide and gentle greens to fast and fun
blues. (I believe there are blacks, but it gives
me heart palpitations to think about them.)
This relaxed resort is family-friendly, but
the main chairlift can be slow; head for the
Whitestar or Captain’s Express Quads
instead. Tip: the ‘singles’ queues are
quicker, if your kids are older than 10.
You can load money onto the electronic
lift passes to swipe at the register for lunch
in the food court. The systems in the hire
area are equally efficient.
My skiing, however, is not so smooth.
Taj and I tear down Big Bucks Park
towards one of the jumps, but I veer off at
the last minute.
Grace makes chicken noises: “Buk, buk,
bugerk! You’re a big baby, Mum!”
I point to Taj, who’s also skidded aside.
“Oh, Mum, I SO want to get some air, but it’s
a bit scary,” he says.
Our final ski is at Treble Cone; at 550
hectares, it’s the biggest resort on the South
Island. This is best for experienced types,
with 90 per cent intermediate or advanced
terrain, and the new Cardrona and Treble
Cone Flexi Pass is perfect if your family has
different degrees of ability. The Saddle area
is a lovely big bowl with everything from
groomed runs to chutes, while Home Basin
has something for everyone.
High speed Thrills
Later, we break the speed limit at the
Highlands Motorsport Park near Cromwell.
A gorgeous young driver makes my heart
race on a Lamborghini hot lap: I can’t wipe
the smile off my face. We pile into a Porsche
for a family ride around the circuit, before
battling it out in the go karts. While I score a
big fat zero for avoiding the ski jump at
Cardrona, I get 10 out of 10 for winning the
We celebrate over a local Pinot at The
Moorings Restaurant & Bar, at the ultramodern
Heritage Boutique Lake Resort.
There’s a healthy platter for the kids, while
we enjoy salmon coated in furikake on
During dinner, we ask the kids about their
favourite part of the holiday. Usually it’s “the
pool!”, “the beach!” or “ice-cream!” But, this
time, it’s different.
“Spending time skiing with Mum and
Dad,” Grace says, shyly.
It’s the first trip we’ve all been at the same
level: There’s no better feeling than making it
from top to bottom as a family.
“Yeah, and chickening out on those
jumps,” Taj says enthusiastically. “I’m glad
we did that together! Made me feel like less
of a scaredy-cat.”
***QUEENSTOWN REPORT CARD***
It’s only a three-hour flight from Sydney to Queenstown on
Air New Zealand.
Qantas and Jetstar also fly to Queenstown, which will be
open for night flights this winter. Hire a car to drive to the ski
fields or catch a shuttle bus.
The Heritage Queenstown has large, interconnecting rooms
with kitchenette, washer/dryer, king or twin beds, and lounge
area. Its award-winning restaurant serves winter vegetable
salad, slow-cooked lamb and pizza. The kids love the bucket
of marshmallows and sticks next to the open fire.
Heritage Boutique Lake Resort, Cromwell, is close to
Cardrona. These funky villas are perched over Lake Dunstan
with kayaks, canoes, spa and sauna underneath. They
feature a full kitchen, two bedrooms, sensor lights, plush
carpets, plasma TVs and mountain views from the balcony.