Queenstown Snow Invasion: it’s Going to Get Hectic!

Things are about to get hectic in Queenstown as a huge Aussie winter invasion starts to fly in. Queenstown has always been popular with Aussies snow lovers, who made up around 40% of the total ski market there pre-pandemic.

In winter 2019 Australian visitors also made up a dominant 84% of all international arrivals to Queenstown Airport, with an average of 80 weekly return flights from Australia then a Queenstown Airport Corporation spokesperson told Snow Action this week.

For 2021 winter they hope to be back close to that again, with around 60 – 70 weekly return flights expected from Australia.

Who can’t wait to fly back here? © Queenstown Airport Corporation

As we reported yesterday, it’s been a slow start to the season in NZ, apart from at Mt Hutt, but Coronet Peak Ski Area Manager Nigel Kerr is optimistic things are looking up.

“Unfortunately the warmer temperatures lately haven’t been kind to us and we are going to have to slide back our opening day until we build our base back up. The good news is the colder temperatures are starting to arrive so we will be able to have the snow machines firing over the weekend and into next week.”

A lot of West Islanders will ditto that. Hopefully for Queenstown and Victorians, the current ‘travel pause’ for flights from Melbourne to NZ won’t last too much longer. Anyone who got paused already and can change their dates as a result will benefit given the current lack of snow.

Otherwise, things will be busy on and off the slopes in Queenstown for sure. But don’t worry too much about overcrowding and lift lines, because a lot has happened in terms of lift infrastructure since the last time we could go there.

Here’s a look at what’s you can enjoy at the 3 main Queenstown ski fields in 2021.

skiing beneath the Coronet Peak gondola
Coronet Peak’s gondola will be a first time experience for Aussie visitors in 2021 © nzski.com

Coronet Peak improvements

Closest to Queenstown and very popular for both day and night skiing, Coronet Peak debuted gondola cabins on the Coronet Express out of the base last season. Very handy for a chilly day, and no brainer for night skiing.

Plus non-skiers can ride up for the view and too enjoy a drink at the Ice Bar.

Coronet Peak is the easiest access road to drive of any in NZ, being fully sealed and only 18km from town. But door to door on the ski bus is the convenient way to get there nonetheless.

Night skiing is for anybody – the beginner carpet lifts run, and it’s a super fun experience for the kids.

Night skiing kids at Coronet Peak Queenstown
Night skiing Coronet Peak © nzski.com

What’s ‘new’ at The Remarkables

OK, it’s not new for locals who got to try it last winter, but for Aussies the Sugar Basin 6 pac lift is a new experience. It will definitely keep things moving nicely at busy times on some of The Remarkables most popular terrain.

The massive investments of recent years – as nzski.com have pumped in $NZD 35 million here and at Coronet Peak – has transformed The Remarkables into a world class ski area that truly caters exceptionally well for all levels.

Build it and the will come is a philosophy the company is applying in spades – also at their third area, Mt Hutt, which debuted NZ’s first 8 seater lift a couple of weeks back with a record opening day.

Beginners get a covered conveyor, while two express 6 pacs and 2 quads access green, blue and black pistes.

All weather learner lift – wish we’d had that in our day! © nzski.com

Take some short hikes and detours to find awesome freeride terrain to test the best.

The base complex is spectacular.

The road has seen a lot of improvement over recent years too, but it remains steep with some gravel, so the ski bus is the simple alternative.

The Remarkables Sugar Basin 6 pac express lift
Who can’t wait to try the Sugar Basin Express? © nzski.com
Booking.com

Cardrona adds the back bowls of Willow Basin

Not to be outdone, Queenstown’s 3rd main ski option Cardrona has a whole new basin to tempt you in 2021.

For the first time since the resort opened 45 years ago there will be lift-accessed skiing and riding on the back side of Mt Cardrona looking back towards Waktipu and the Southern Alps. The expansion adds 65 hectares of primarily intermediate terrain, accessed from the top of the McDougal’s Chondola through to the bottom of the ‘new’ Willows Quad.

This is the repurposed McDougal’s quad chair that was replaced by the Chondola in 2017 – which we reckoned at the time made Cardrona the best place to learn to ski in New Zealand as you simply progress from a carpet lift to the gondola.

The Remarkables covered carpet lift as above ups the ante and the competition, both are excellent beginner options.

For the full story on the back bowls check our feature on the development and further plans for neighbouring Soho Basin, which is home to a boutique snowcat operation now.

They are hoping to kick off their beginner’s area by Monday 21st June.

New Willow Basin terrain © Cardrona
Booking.com

Check the latest snow and weather reports here: Coronet Peak Remarkables Cardrona

For the latest travel advice/pause details etc check Smart Traveller