Coronet Peak snow fields of Queenstown New Zealand
I have never been skiing or snowboarding, but during my recent visit to Coronet Peak, 16kms from Queenstown in New Zealand, I was asking myself… why not?
Visiting a friend, we decided to go up the mountain and have a bit of a look see. What I discovered was joy and excitement hovering in the air, and on the faces of the people enjoying the slopes. This is a 280-hectare wonderland of snow and adventure. It was the first commercial ski field in New Zealand, open since 1947.
“I LOVE going fast!” one eight-year-old boy declared to me with great enthusiasm when I asked what he liked about skiing. With great exuberance, he related, in shared detail, of his skiing experiences. I wanted some of that same euphoria he was sharing. In a way, I did. His passion was infectious, and one day in the not-too-distant future, I too will venture to the slopes.
Yet, today at Coronet Peak was about sightseeing. The day was glorious, with the sun shining on the snow and watching the adventurers prepare, share and ski was incredibly moving.
Even if you don’t participate in the sports on offer, it is still a fantastic place to visit. The building is huge, with great preparation areas downstairs. Upstairs there are two bars, two restaurants and a cafe. The favourite meal seems to be hamburger and hot chips. (By the way, it was delicious!)
Outdoors, the tables were filled with people eating and relaxing. The firepits were not in operation when I visited around midday. I could imagine, delightfully, of the warm welcome they would offer after coming down the mountain. Lights come up for the night skiing, between 4pm and 9pm.
Looking out over the farmlands, towards the lake and distant snow-capped mountains was a beautiful sight. Inhaling deeply, I felt the fresh, crisp, pure air invigorating me.
A 180-degree turn brings you to face the mountain and the awesome ski fields. Mesmerised, I watched these skilled performers swerve and weave their way downwards. It reminded me of the way birds swoop and sway in the air. These skiers were doing the same thing but on top of the snow. It was beautiful to watch.
Once they landed, it was interesting to watch the way they walked. Are you a skier? Then you know the gait I am referring to. Sort of heel down first, then the front of your foot.
Witness the spectacular views over the Wakatipu Basin by taking the gondola ride up and back down the mountain.
Repeat visitors often bring their own equipment. In Queenstown or at the onsite ski shop, Skis and snowboards can be rented. They also have clothing and snow gear available. For the more passive adventurer, single and double toboggans can be hired.
If you want a different way to get down the mountain, Yooners (also known as jump jackers) are also available for hire.
A yooner is a vehicle that you sit on, your feet in front of you as you careen down the mountain. Imagine if a ski and a sled had a baby.
Coronet Peak is perfect for the newbie as well as the experienced skier. There are extensive beginner facilities and progressive terrains. Lessons and rentals are available, for children as young as two years old, all the way up to the more mature starter. The focus is on safety and fun!
Coronet Peak also offers an Adaptive Program for people with disabilities. Specialised equipment allows these people to achieve the freedom and joy that the able-bodied skiers do, regardless of ability.
Flora and fauna are cared for at the peak too. The mountain and its trails are planted with native Tussocks and Hebe. A trapping program stops pests from coming up and threatening the Karearea – the New Zealand Falcon. Pine and Douglas fir that are cut down in the summer months are sold as Christmas trees. As New Zealand is in the Southern Hemisphere – winter here is December, January and February. The money raised from the sale of these trees is donated to local charities. What a wonderful program!
Coronet Peak is a place that skiers come back to year after year, and I can see why. The vibe and energy of this destination is infectious, leaving you wanting more. I can almost hear the mountain whispering to me “hoki mai” – In the local Mairi dialect this means “come back”!