Wanderings, travel, photographs and skiing…

Skiing New Zealand: The Remarkables Ski Area

By on September 3, 2007 in New Zealand

I arrived in Queenstown yesterday, and this morning I awoke with a very bad cold – typical.

The weather was very windy outside, and I decided not to ski, but to spend the day exploring the town, which is quite touristy, and to drive up to The Remarkables Ski Area.

The Remarkables Ski Area is only 6 km from Queenstown. Well, that is what the sign said. Now, considering that Queenstown is at the bottom of a U-shaped valley, and The Remarkables (which I saw as we came into land) are in a corrie/hanging valley above the town I should have known that the sign was wrong.

The 6 km from Queenstown is, in fact, the distance from the town, to the start of a dirt track that leads up to the ski area, and the track is about 18 km long, so really, the Remarkables are more like 25 km from the town. False advertising?

The track up to the ski area was full of washboards, bumps and pot-holes, and had lots of loose gravel and was very slippery – there was a bus/shuttle service that runs at set times from the bottom of the access road to the ski area. In the middle of winter, with snow and ice, the drive up must almost be impossible.

The Remarkables Ski Area is very small with only three lifts, two of which, on my visit, were not working due to high winds. The snow was quite slushy.

The lake - Queenstown, New Zealand

The lake – Queenstown, New Zealand

The Remarkables Ski Area - looking back from the main lodge towards Queenstown

The Remarkables Ski Area – looking back from the main lodge towards Queenstown

Ski Map - Remarkables, Queenstown, New Zealand

Ski Map – Remarkables, Queenstown, New Zealand

The Remarkables Ski Area - main lift

The Remarkables Ski Area – main lift

The Remarkables Ski Area, Queenstown, New Zealand

The Remarkables Ski Area, Queenstown, New Zealand

The base lodge had the basics, that is, a ski hire area, coffee bar and cafe, changing area and toilets. There was also a small beginner area in front of the lodge, that looked very flat and icy.

Lift lines - The Remarkables Ski area, Queenstown, New Zealand

Lift lines

The drive down the road from the ski area was, if at all possible, was even scarier than drive up – what happens in a white-out? How many cars are lost over the edge per year?

On the way down I picked up a snowboarder who was hitch-hiking. He had taken the bus up (season pass for the bus from Queenstown to the ski area is about $600 (NZ)) but decided to go home early because the conditions were so poor and was hitching while waiting for the bus. The boarder was from Perth, Australia and had come to Queenstown to work the season in a local bar. It appears a lot of people turn up on-spec to get the job and over 200 people queued to get the one job in the bar, and only 5 of them had the necessary experience. Also, there is a chronic lack of accommodation in town for seasonal workers. The hotels are too expensive, and backpacker hostels only let people stay for one week. The boarder also confirmed that the snow line gets down to Queenstown, on average, five times per year, however, this year it only happened only once.

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Nick's continued wanderings can be followed on Twitter: @nickswanderings.
 

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