Boasting some of Australia’s best skiing, Victoria’s Mt Hotham is open until mid-October. Photo / 123rf
Ewan McDonald reflects on a spring trip to favorite mountain peaks before the ski season ends.
They’re called winter sports for a reason – no prizes for guessing what it is. But as the cold season gives way to spring, there are still some highlights to be experienced these last weekends in the mountains.
Compared to the height of the season, spring often means better weather, better snow, and a more relaxed vibe. It also brings great activities when you want time off the ski area. Here are our top five picks from home and across the ditch, for fun on the slopes and beyond.
Les Remarquables, closing on October 16
Remarkable by name, remarkable by nature: the range is made of steep peaks, narrow couloirs, off-piste powder and three wide-opening sunny bowls. Take the scenic 40 minute ride from central Queenstown to a learning area with great progression for beginners and first-time skiers, a range of parks from small to big lines, piste runs and, for the more adventurous , some of Godzone’s best free-riding terrain.
What else is in the area? Well, it’s Queenstown, so… And while it’s never a good idea to drink and ski, the city’s many craft breweries are bringing back their Oktoberfest on September 24th.
Cardrona Alpine Resort, closing October 16
A little further up the road, it’s considered a fun, family friendly mountain with reliable snow conditions. The kids will burn out on the big learning trails and dedicated kids’ centers, while you’ll challenge yourself in Arcadia, with its secret powder states, chutes and cliffs. For cyclists, Cardrona has the most extensive facilities in the Southern Hemisphere with four terrain parks, two halfpipes and gravity courses.
What else is in the area? Well, Queenstown is just down the slopes, so… Classical music lovers might like to unwind at the impressive AWE festival (October 8-16); families can give the mind a different kind of workout at Puzzling World.
Mt Hutt, closing October 16
The “big mountain” of Canterbury has some of the best natural snow around. It also has one of the longest vertical drops on the South Island and the greatest variety of terrain to attract skiers and snowboarders. In good weather, and from the highest point of the mountain, you can see the patchwork of Canterbury Plains below stretching out to the Pacific Ocean. Once you’ve taken in the views, take the legendary 632m drop down Broadway or tackle the toboggans and steep inclines of the Towers.
What else is in the area? The ski area is approximately 45 minutes from Methven, where you can relax at the latest wellness destination, Ōpuke Thermal Pools and Spa, which offers
areas reserved for adults and families; The monthly Methven Trotting Club meets are billed as the best grass track harness racing in the country.
Ruapehu ski areas, closing on October 24
Whakapapa and Tūroa make up New Zealand’s largest ski resort, offering very different snow experiences. Explore the vast volcanic terrain of Whakapapa, with spectacular views of Tongariro National Park, wide groomed trails, huge snow-filled pools, steep waterfalls and a secret powder stash. It is also home to extensive beginner facilities at Happy Valley; opposite there is a tube park. Cross over to Tūroa for the highest ski area in the country and the longest vertical in Australasia. Options for all levels, including large open tracks for great cruising and the Terrain Park, specially designed for riders to practice their tricks. On a good day, hike to the top of the mountain on skis or a snowboard, admire Crater Lake, then descend back to the field or Whakapapa.
What else is in the area? Extensive trails to explore on foot or by bike; Sky Waka, our largest gondola, with stunning views of nearby peaks, is it Taranaki Maunga? For true Kiwiana, Retro Day Ōhakune (October 1) features one-time prizes, DJs and a carrot bag tossing contest.
Mt Hotham, Victoria, closing end of October
The Australian ski season generally runs until October, with snowmobiles ensuring good powder. Connoisseurs consider the ski resort of Mt Hotham in the Victorian Alps to offer the best skiing in the country, as well as sledding, snowboarding and general winter fun. Expert skiers will revel in steep runs and challenging terrain, including Mary’s Slide, the legendary double black diamond run. Beginners and intermediate skiers won’t miss the opportunity, with practice runs and a variety of runs. When you’re ready for a break, plenty of après options include spas to soothe the muscles, restaurants to satiate the appetite, and bars to quench the thirst.
What else is in the area? It is the only ski resort in the southern hemisphere at the top of the mountain. So, once you get there… the resort hosts frequent events and festivals; Dinner Plains, 15 minutes away, has a snow park, onsen spa with outdoor hot springs, dog sledding, waterslide, snowshoes – and Australia’s tallest brewery .