At the foot of the South Island's dramatic Southern Alps with the crystal clear Lake Wakatipu lapping at its shores, Queenstown is the closest thing you can find to an authentic winter ski village this side of the equator.
What's better is that New Zealand's hot spot is just a three-hour flight from Australia's east coast hubs, making Queenstown the choice for residents of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane all searching for a world-class winter adventure.
You can land right in the heart of the town after a Friday morning flight from Australia to find yourself cutting corn on Coronet Peak within the hour. There's no time to waste, then, especially for a lads' long weekend, so we've consulted the ski town gurus themselves to give you an unbeatable play-by-play to the only ski destination you need to consider this winter.
We've said it before and we'll say it again - if you're still splashing cash on home ski resorts you need to have a good, hard look at yourself. Queenstown can't be beaten for proximity, choice, season length and snow quality.
Only 20 minutes from downtown, New Zealand's original ski field, Coronet Peak, is the choice mountain for those after some fun, rolling terrain with no trees, meaning every inch of the mountain is a line waiting to be picked. It also offers twilight and night skiing, so you can shred from bell to bell while a DJ spins tunes from the deck as the gorgeous winter sky morphs colours to a crisp darkness.
If you fancy yourself a park rat or are keen to upskill your aerial and rail prowess, The Remarkables offers a park for every type of rider. The drive up the mountain is also an experience in itself, nestled in the dramatic Remarkables mountain range. Ski amongst rocks, frozen lakes and enjoy off-piste powder. Homeward bound run, is a must do for experienced riders, there’s a bit of hiking involved but you are rewarded with long, open terrain. It’s not all about chutes, rock drops and off-piste, The Remarkables offers one of the best learners areas, with wide open spaces to practice your turns. Make sure not to miss the jaw-dropping look-out over the ridgeline edge and down into the expansive valley below.
With 3 metres of average snowfall each season, Cardrona offers New Zealand’s longest season that stretches well into October. A popular stomping ground for pros, from Olympic and X-games athletes alike, Cardrona offers NZ's only Olympic-standard 22ft Superpipe. A 50-minute drive from town and perched smack bang in-between Queenstown and Wanaka, it's the perfect all-around hill for some surefire weekend turns and certified good vibes.
Sporting arguably New Zealand's best freeride terrain, Treble Cone is definitely worth throwing in the ring for serious powder hunters that don't mind the extra travel time. Think huge bowls, natural hits and the choice of some quality backcountry terrain.
No boys' weekend is complete without at least one awesome story to tell your jealous mates back home. If you want to feel the hairs stand up on the back of your neck when the chopper leaves you atop a mighty peak, heli-skiing is certainly the thing for you. Untracked lines, maximum vertical and world-class guiding can be found at a bunch of Queenstown operators including Southern Lakes Heli and Alpine Heli-skiing. You simply can't do this back home.
There are worse problems to have, that's for sure, but there are almost too many spots for a post-ski frothy in Queenstown. Believe us, you'd need a full season on the ground to tick off each one.
Assuming you're not sticking around for the on-mountain grooves at Coronet Peak, you'll need to quench your thirst for a cold one after a full day ripping the slopes back down at the town. Attiqa's Sundeck is the ideal spot for max relax vibes and a prime view of the fairy-floss pink sunset skies. From there, upscale your evening with a drink at Lodge Bar followed closely by dinner at White and Wongs for epic vibes and the perfect location for groups or commence your quest for easy-going street food at literally every turn.
Hawker & Roll serves up awesome Malaysian-inspired street-eats by celebrity chef Josh Emmett, the famed Fergburger will fulfil your greasy grub needs and Speights Ale House or Brazz ticks the box for a traditional pub feed with a beer garden to match. If you're smart enough to align your trip with a rugby game, there's no place you'd rather be to watch the All Blacks take on the Wallabies.
For the groove fiends among us, Rhino's Ski Shack is a nightlife institution that pedals funky hip-hop beats well into the early hours, and The World Bar serves up tasty teapot cocktails alongside some groovy tech house.
Whether you've just touched down for a baller bucks weekend or a hardcore skier's search powder on the slopes, Queenstown does awesome group pads like nowhere else. Forget staying on the mountain. Enjoy epic snow within 20 minutes’ drive, but still kick back in sleek accommodation in the heart of the town, with easy access to off-mountain activities and world-class dining options.
The Rees ($$$)
The swankiest digs of them all, The Rees, flaunts two or three bedroom apartments and epic lake views through floor-to-ceiling windows. Modern, well-appointed ski-chalet vibes ooze from the euro-style decor and its cosy fireplaces. Both Coronet Peak and The Remarkables are within equal touching distances, as is the town centre via a zero-hassle shuttle bus.
Swiss-Belsuites Pounamu ($$)
If Swiss-Belsuites Pounamu was any more on the lake you'd be swimming to apres beers. Airy, spacious multi-room suites open to expansive balconies with crispy views and every potential headache is taken care of, including free parking and overnight ski lockers.
Blue Peaks Apartments ($$)
You can't beat Blue Peaks Apartments for achievable, location-friendly group digs just three minutes walk from the town centre (perfect for those who enjoy a late night on the turps). These simple, no fuss serviced apartments are also ideal for an affordable extended stay, should you get an unexpected dump on a Sunday night and have to call in sick for the Monday...
This article is the first in a complete directory brought to you in partnership with Destination Queenstown. Stay tuned for more insights in the coming months.