One thing on my bucket list for my time in New Zealand was to experience skiing in the Southern Hemisphere. After lots of research of the best companies and options for me, I decided fly down to Queenstown to spend five days skiing with Oz Snow.
Oz Snow offered a five day/ four night ski package which included a stay at Reavers Lodge in a dorm room, three days ski pass to the various ski resorts in the area, transfer from the airport to the hostel, a free meal and discounted ski gear. For all of this I paid around $500 NZD which I thought was a fantastic deal. Skiing is an expensive hobby so to be able to ski three different resorts with discounted gear was a fantastic offer.
I flew down to Queenstown with Jetstar and was met at the airport by a friendly staff member. They drove me to the hostel where I checked in, hired ski gear and was given instructions on how to get my ski passes for the next few days. I made my way into town with my vouchers and headed to each ski resorts office. Exchanging my vouchers for ski passes was very easy and I was also able to book onto a transfer bus to pick me up from the end of the hostel’s road for each day for an additional fee.
I had been to Queenstown once before so knew my way around the town and where all of the main sights were.
Back at the hostel, I met my dorm mates who were friendly and headed upstairs for the free meal the hostel provided on the first night. Many of the fellow travellers in the hostel were from Australia since backpackers from further afield would traditionally stay in long term accommodation. We had a fun evening bonding and although no one was skiing in my area the next day I was happy that I’d been able to connect to others staying there.
The next morning, I had an early start - although not the earliest of the trip! – and headed down the road to be picked up by the bus transfer to Coronet Peak ski resort. This is the closest resort to Queenstown with only a 30-minute drive connecting the two. Although Coronet Peak is known for being a good beginner resort and for often having icy conditions, I was pleasantly surprised by my day here.
The weather was probably the biggest factor in that it was a clear day with a fresh covering of snow on the slopes to cover up the icy patches. I managed to explore the whole resort over the course of the day and enjoyed the variety on offer. Although there were a higher percentage of beginner slopes, who doesn’t enjoy a cruisy day? The food options on the slopes were a little more limited but I still was able to find a small café with seating outside so I could enjoy a hot chocolate out in the sun. I returned to the hostel in the late afternoon feeling excited for the next few days of skiing.
That evening I found my hostel room to be pretty empty so walked down to the town and found a burger joint to stop and eat at. I had annoyingly lost signal and data in a very weird blip on my first day so distracted myself in the evening with a book by the fire.
The next day I wasn’t so lucky with the weather. Again, it was an early start as I met the transfer bus for the hour drive to the Remarkables ski area. The drive up is pretty dramatic, we actually attempted it in April in our own car but the steep sides and narrow roads caused us to chicken out and turn around. This time though, I was in a huge coach and just tried to not look out the window too often as we made the hair-bend turns up the mountain. Although the drive up offered amazing, if not terrifying views of the valleys below, at the end of the road and the start of the ski resort, the mountain was shrouded in cloud. This, and the combination of high winds meant that some of the resorts lifts were closed.
Back in 2016 when I lived in Salt Lake City, Utah, I skied often in Snowbird ski resort. One day, I was feeling overzealous and decided to travel to the other side of the mountain by myself. On arrival, I realised that this side of the mountain was heavily clouded in, and with feet of new powder and no real sense of direction it led to a heart stopping half an hour as I attempted to make it down the slope, with only the faint shadow of a lift wire to guide me.
With this experience still firmly at the forefront of the sensible side of my mind, I chose to go carefully at the Remarkables, taking on routes I could see from the bottom of the chair lift and ones which were frequented by other skiers. After a lunch inside warming up, I decided to be a little more adventurous and try out another side of the mountain. This was a good call as the cloud has lifted here slightly, meaning I had more visibility to really enjoy the piste.
Overall, the Remarkables seems to be a good ski area with a lot of versatility and a great central bowl for ease of use. However, due to the cloudy and windy conditions, half of the resort was shut off and of the resort that was open I only skied what I was comfortable with when you can’t see what you’re doing! Weather has such a huge impact on how enjoyable a ski day is, no matter the quality of the snow or resort. Luckily my last day was a good improvement on the weather!
After a cold and wind-blown day at the Remarkables, I opted to stay in that night and have dinner once again at the hostel. We had some new dorm mates who were keen to socialise, so I spent the evening in the hostel bar sharing stories with other travellers.
The next morning was my last day skiing and the longest day of all. I had a very early start and blearily made my way to the transfer bus for the hour and a half drive to Cardrona. This was the resort I had been most excited for as I heard only good things about the quality of the snow, the extent of the slopes and the facilities. When I first got to the top of the mountain, I was disappointed to see a lot of cloud obscuring much of the resort but I quickly found a hidden gem lower down where the cloud lifted making for perfect ski conditions.
Throughout the day I followed the sun and ended up finding some great slopes with new powder and blue-sky conditions. I also spotted a lovely little café to have lunch in and enjoyed lapping up the sun whilst I could. Cardrona is quite expansive and I didn’t get to ski it all since I tended to favour the better light conditions but overall, I was impressed with the quality of the snow and the facilities on offer. It is worth the higher price tag and I can see why it is a firm favourite for the more intermediate to advanced skier with plenty of runs to keep them entertained.
After a busy day on the mountain, made even longer by the long drive back to Queenstown, I was ready for an early night. I was so tired I even missed a small earthquake in the night and woke to worried text messages from friends up in Auckland!
On my final morning in Queenstown I went for a walk around the popular gardens and also got a solution to the mysterious loss of my data and signal from my phone. On the Queenstown beach my phone rebooted and magically restored itself!
I was so glad I came down to Queenstown to experience skiing in New Zealand. I loved how I got to explore three areas in the span of just three days and fully make the most of my short time. As a solo traveller it was also the perfect amount of time for me as although I only met a few travellers in the hostel I never felt really isolated. I would recommend using Oz Snow for a solo or group ski trip for a cost effective and hassle free option for a ski holiday. They also offer ski trips in Australia, Japan, USA and Canada so are worth checking out.
Over my year in New Zealand I really embraced solo travel and found all of my trips memorable and exciting. I loved being able to do what I wanted when I wanted and the chance to meet so many people along the way. It led to a new found confidence which I brought over to my next big trip back home via LA, Mexcio, Cuba and Amsterdam.