Winter in Queenstown: What to expect
Winter in Queenstown - everyones favourite season!
There is already a buzz in the air. Ski season is here, and locals and visitors are hitting the slopes. If you’re planning a winter holiday to Queenstown, here’s what you need to know.
The most important thing to know about winter in Queenstown is that you don’t need to ski or snowboard to have fun. Queenstown’s famous activities like jet boating, wine touring, Skyline gondola and the TSS Earnslaw cruise all run throughout the winter season. So whether you love the white stuff or you are here to see snow for the first time, Queenstown is an unbeatable choice for your winter holiday destination.
WEATHER: WHAT TO EXPECT
In New Zealand, winter runs from the start of June to the end of August although expect the weather to be cold in Queenstown right through to October. It has even been known to snow in December.
The ski fields in Queenstown and Wanaka are open from mid-June to October depending on the ski conditions. The area can see snowfalls as early as May, which provides the beginning of the snow base for the season.
Daytime winter temperatures in Queenstown range from 0°C to 8°C (32°F – 47°F) and you can generally expect the days to be calm and clear with very cold starts in the morning.
SKI FIELDS: WHAT TO EXPECT
In the South Island, ski fields range in size from small club fields to large ski areas. Just out of Christchurch, you will find Mt Hutt and Ohau Ski Field is a smaller field near Mt Cook. Mt Dobson and Round Hill are two small club fields near Tekapo. But it is Queenstown and Wanaka that are the big drawcards for skiing in the South Island. Treble Cone and Cardrona are just a short drive from Wanaka, and The Remarkables and Coronet Peak are Queenstown’s closest ski fields.
The big four ski areas of The Remarkables, Coronet Peak, Cardrona and Treble Cone offer a good mix of beginner and advanced terrain. Cardrona and The Remarkables offer substantial pipe and park terrain for the adventurous.
There are loads of options for lift tickets. You can choose a one-day pass, a season’s pass or anything in between. There are savings to be had if you purchase multi-day tickets (such as a 3-day or 6-day pass), so it’s worth figuring out how many days you’ll be skiing or snowboarding, and purchasing tickets accordingly. For most mountains, kids under 6 are free. There are also packages that allow you to combine lessons and gear rental.
Coronet Peak offers night skiing on a Friday and Saturday night. This is a great way to ski under lights and enjoy a drink or meal at the base building restaurant between runs.
WINTER DRIVING: WHAT TO EXPECT:
If you’re planning on driving yourself to the ski fields, make sure you know the road conditions. While some of the roads are sealed, poor weather and ice often make conditions challenging. You can drive all the way to the base buildings of The Remarkables and Coronet Peak on tar-sealed roads. Cardrona is sealed part way up and Treble Cone is a gravel road the whole way. Regardless of whether the roads are sealed, you will always need to carry chains in your vehicle. There are many times throughout the season when the road is only accessible by vehicles fitted with chains. If you’re in a rental car, pick up snow chains from your rental car company. If this all sounds too difficult, just hop on the ski bus. There are ski transfer services available to all main ski areas, departing throughout the day.
WINTER EVENTS: WHAT TO EXPECT
The big event in Queenstown over winter is the Queenstown Winter Festival. This is the event that officially heralds the start of the winter season for the local ski fields. The festival line-up offers a jam-packed programme of winter-themed events to suit every taste and budget. The 4-day event draws snow lovers and partygoers from far and wide. This year, the Queenstown Winter Festival runs from 22-25 June and offers free and paid events.
During August and September, you’ll have a chance to catch some of the superstars of the snow world compete in the Audi quattro Winter Games. The Winter Games is the only event of this size in the southern hemisphere and is one of the top 5 winter sports competitions in the world. The event is all completely free to watch and promises to be a uniquely Kiwi experience. Events include alpine skiing, curling, free skiing, cross country, snowboarding, freeride and ice hockey.
WINTER ACTIVITIES: WHAT TO EXPECT
And if it all sounds like too much snow, don’t be put off! There are plenty of off-mountain activities to make your holiday a memorable one. Some of our favourite ways to enjoy the winter months are wine touring, a massage or pamper at a local spa or a scenic cruise on the lake.
Get in touch if you’d like more information about winter in Queenstown.