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Author: Keiran Bleach

TREBLE CONE PHOTO MARK CLINTON

Winter thrills and spills: hit the slopes in the Southern Lakes

Four Southern Lakes ski areas will open soon, heralding a winter of thrills and spills on the slopes. Here’s a taste of what skiers and boarders can expect… after all, it’s all downhill from here.

THE REMARKABLES TERRAIN PARK
THE REMARKABLES TERRAIN PARK

The Remarkables is extending its learner terrain by a massive 70 percent this season, as well as installing a new conveyor to access the area. Ski Area Manager Ross Lawrence believes this will significantly improve the experience for novice riders. “The learner experience is about progression, so providing another step will get guests feeling even more comfortable and capable as they gradually move up the mountain.”
Remarkables Snow Sports Academy will also continue. The freeski and snowboard development programmes offer season-long and school holiday courses for children aged 6-18. For those who love jumps and bumps, there are extensive freestyle features across three dedicated terrain parks. The Remarkables is a 40-minute drive from Queenstown and three-quarters of the road is now sealed.

Opens 9 June, closes 7 October*
www.theremarkables.co.nz

Coronet Peak offers the longest skiing hours in the Southern Lakes. Mornings start with First Tracks, when earlybirds can watch the sun rise as they glide down freshly-groomed trails against the backdrop of panoramic views of Lake Wakatipu. As twilight arrives, families and friends can catch up over a pizza or burger, watch the sun go down and take to the slopes under lights.
“People love night skiing – it’s a magical and fun experience,” Ski Area Manager Nigel Kerr says. “And it’s extremely convenient at just 20 minutes from downtown Queenstown.” This winter, night skiing runs three times a week, with Wednesday added to Friday and Saturday nights. “We have key events teed up for our guests to enjoy, bringing some well-known and loved DJs and bands to Coronet.”

Opens 16 June, closes 30 September*
www.coronetpeak.co.nz

Treble Cone is renowned for its unmatched terrain and leg-burning vertical, new General Manager Toby Arnott says. “To complement this, visitors can expect a fresh approach to the Treble Cone experience; wide open, uncrowded terrain, and short lift queues,” he says.
It has a northwest-facing learners’ and beginners’ area, so it’s bathed in sunshine and warmth all season. For hard-core types wanting advanced terrain, Saddle Basin and Summit Slopes offer plenty of challenges with open powder faces, natural half-pipes and fun drops. New for 2018 is a Snow Shoe Experience, which includes a scenic chair ride to the top of the ski area; snowshoe and equipment rental, and a fully-guided walk with a qualified instructor.

Opens 28 June, closes 23 September*
www.treblecone.com

TREBLE CONE PHOTO MARK CLINTON
TREBLE CONE PHOTO MARK CLINTON

Cardrona Alpine Resort is handily situated between Wanaka and Queenstown. It has three wide, open basins featuring some of New Zealand’s most progressive terrain and promises that every family member will find a favourite trail. It also boasts New Zealand’s only gondola cabin-style lift on a ski area, McDougall’s Express Chondola.
Spokesperson Jen Houltham predicts “another epic season” this year. “Highlights of the 2018 winter up at Cardrona will be the Real Journeys Queenstown Winter Festival; the Audi quattro Winter Games NZ, and the Jossi Wells Invitational,” she says.

Opens 16 June, closes 14 October*
www.cardrona.com

*All dates subject to weather and snow conditions.

LUMA Southern Light Project - credit Che McPherson Pixel Peeps

Let there be light: LUMA is the annual festival that lights up the southern skies

According to the Book of Genesis, ‘God said “Let there be light,” and there was light. A group of dedicated Southern Lakes locals may not have divine powers, but each year they deliver an innovative light festival that takes people on an interactive sensory journey like no other.

LUMA  Southern Light Project - credit Kiara Collab Photography
LUMA Southern Light Project – credit Kiara Collab Photography

Central Queenstown will shine brightly for four nights over Queen’s Birthday Weekend when the LUMA Southern Light Project comes to town. The free public event, now in its third year, attracted more than 35,000 visitors in 2017 and has gained a loyal following among locals as well as people from around New Zealand and overseas.
Set within the idyllic Queenstown Gardens and along the waterfront, the festival will transform the giant natural amphitheatre into an illuminated winter wonderland full of art, curated collections of stunning light sculptures and thought-provoking installations.
Luma was the brainchild of SILO, a collective of Southern Lakes professionals which – along with its wider group of fellow hard-working volunteers – is highly motivated to give the region more exposure to culture and creativity, to foster and enhance social wellbeing and develop a stronger sense of community.
Duncan Forsyth, whose day job is General Manager and Winemaker at Mount Edward, contributes countless hours of his ‘spare’ time while wearing the hat of Luma Light Festival Trust Chairman. For him it’s all about wanting to “give something back” by providing an event that is entertaining, accessible, family-friendly and joins everyone together.
“It looks like all the streets are paved with gold in the Southern Lakes,” Duncan says. “But the reality is that it can be a very difficult and costly place to live in and to enjoy. Families are working hard and trying to hold down two jobs… sometimes that sense of community gets swamped.”

LUMA Southern Light Project - credit Che McPherson Pixel Peeps
LUMA Southern Light Project – credit Che McPherson Pixel Peeps

Although Queenstown has firmly cemented its reputation as a hub for outdoor activities and adventure sports, Duncan believes the rich and thriving creative side of the Southern Lakes district is often overlooked. “We see Luma as really helping to put our region on the map as a respected cultural and arts destination.”
Without spoiling too much of the surprise, Duncan says this year the aim is to “pull people down a rabbit hole of visual delights”. It’s safe to say that the audience will be stimulated, and enlightened – literally and figuratively. “Every year we want to change people’s expectations of what Luma is about. If you’ve been before you’ll have a new and different experience this time.”
Aucklander Angus Muir, who has been recognised internationally, returns as principal light installation artist, featuring alongside creative art luminaries such as Daniel Brown, Jon Baxter, Puck Murphy, Mapping Mondays and Nocturnal.
Luma Southern Light Project is at Queenstown Gardens/Marine Parade for Queen’s Birthday Weekend (Friday 1 June to Monday 4 June), 5pm-10pm. Entry is free however, a gold coin donation would be appreciated. Car-pooling or taking public transport into town is advised. For more information, visit www.luma.nz.

Southern Lakes Cycling

Trailing behind: set about seeing the Southern Lakes by bike or foot

Autumn is often rated as the most picturesque time of year in the Southern Lakes region, and Queenstown Trails Trust Chief Executive Mark Williams says it’s the perfect season to explore the area by bike or on foot.

Southern Lakes Cycling
PHOTO: MILES HOLDEN

With the trees now displaying the full spectrum of golden-bronze to rusty-red hues, mild temperatures and plenty of daylight hours, Mark believes the pre-winter conditions and stunning scenery are ideal for both cyclists and walkers. He’s on his bike most weekends in the 120-kilometre network of trails and tracks that make up the Queenstown Trail. And, after a year in the job, he is more passionate than ever.
“The Queenstown Trail is very multi-purpose,” Mark says. “It’s a fantastic ride experience for visitors from out of town, but also a great commuter trail for residents. With Queenstown under a bit of infrastructure pressure, it means people can use a different mode of transport to get to work. So it serves a wide range of users.”
From April to June, the views along Queenstown Trail are breathtaking. It traverses two impressive suspension bridges, crosses three rivers (the Kawarau, Shotover and Arrow) and circumnavigates Lake Wakatipu and Lake Hayes.
“At this time of year, you get a beautiful mist. It’s pretty spectacular seeing the mountains poking out from the mist. And you get the first snowfalls, so it looks like a dusting of icing sugar on top of the mountains. With the golden trees and snow, it’s a really nice mixture of colours.”
Mark recommends trying Arrow River Bridges Ride during autumn. For more information, visit www.queenstowntrail.org.nz.

Southern Lakes

An exciting upward trajectory: the Southern Lakes are on the up and up

Adventure capital of the world; winter wonderland; jewel in the tourism crown. The superlatives trip off the tongue when describing the Southern Lakes region, which has long been lauded for its jaw-dropping scenery, adrenalin-inducing activities and fine wine and food.

Southern Lakes

Whether you get your kicks bungy jumping from a great height; hurtling down a river at break-neck speed in a jet boat; sampling a glass of Central Otago pinot noir at a winery; skiing or snowboarding at one of the four mountain resorts; marveling at the majestic waterfalls in Milford Sound or discovering the quaint charm of Arrowtown in all its autumnal glory, it never fails to impress.
With Queenstown and Wanaka leading the charge and neighbouring towns (Te Anau, Cromwell, Arrowtown and Hawea to name just a few) nipping at their heels, the Southern Lakes region is riding a wave of growth and development that shows no sign of abating.
While more and more domestic and international tourists flock to the region and pour money in to the economy, its permanent population is increasing at an unprecedented rate. A number of Cantabrians moved to the area – particularly Wanaka – in the wake of the earthquakes. Others bought baches, or a piece of land with an eye to relocating in future.
Now the rest of New Zealand is following suit. Kiwis are starting to shun the big-city hassles and expense for a better quality of life in the regions, and many of them are choosing the Southern Lakes to live in, holiday in, or do a mixture of both.
Residential and commercial construction is booming as builders and developers frantically try to keep up with demand. Tradesmen are certainly a sought-after commodity in these parts. New subdivisions are coming on to the market thick and fast, with sections at Bridesdale Farm (between Queenstown and Arrowtown), Northlake (Wanaka) and the high-end Bendemeer (near Lake Hayes) being snapped up. Te Anau has also benefited from the Southern Lakes housing shortage as homebuyers and investors have increasingly looked for affordable opportunities there.
Businesses are doing a roaring trade too. The ever-expanding Frankton Flats industrial and retail precinct – handily situated on the main road between Arrowtown and Queenstown – is a hive of activity for both locals and tourists. Five Mile shopping centre, with its supermarket and a range of big-box stores, has filled a much-needed gap. The new kid on the block is Queenstown Central. Billed as ‘a premium retail environment’, stage one is due for completion later this year.
Young workers continue to gravitate to the bright lights of Queenstown and Wanaka to ply their trade in the hospitality, tourism and ski industries – and, of course, to enjoy the nightlife. At the other end of the spectrum, Queenstown Country Club is being built for retirees. With world-class golf courses nearby, lakes and rivers for fly fishing and boating as well as kilometres of mountain biking and walking trails on the doorstep, it’s easy to see the attraction.
Watch this space: Southern Lakes is on an exciting upward trajectory.