A-Z of resorts: Queenstown

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The Independent Travel

It isn't really a ski resort: Queenstown, on New Zealand's South Island, is actually an adventure playground.

It isn't really a ski resort: Queenstown, on New Zealand's South Island, is actually an adventure playground. It has white-water rafting, jet-boating and parapenting. You can bungy-jump there (Queenstown is where the sport was launched commercially in 1988); if you book early enough, you can walk the nearby Milford Track; and I think I heard that there is some sort of outdoor activity at Doubtful Sound. But in winter – between June and October – the main adrenaline sports are skiing and snowboarding at the local areas of Coronet Peak and The Remarkables.

Neither has extensive skiing: even Coronet Peak, the more developed of the two, has only three chair-lifts and two drag-lifts serving a largely intermediate area dropping 420m from the 1,649m peak. Modern and efficient by New Zealand's ski standards, it is just 25 minutes away from Queenstown on the shuttle bus – which means it can get crowded.

What The Remarkables – with just three lifts – lacks in facilities, it makes up for in other ways. When I last took one of the ancient buses up from Lake Wakatipu to the lift base, it proved a bonding experience for the passengers. Despite the roaring of the engine and the crashing of gears, the bus ran out of traction half-way up the unsurfaced, 14km track; the driver stepped out into the blizzard to fit snow chains, and then told us to gather and put our combined weight – there were four of us on board – over the rear axle.

The Remarkables takes its name from the beautiful mountain range on which it is set, rearing up above Queenstown, and running south towards the peak of Ben Nevis (at 2240m, about a kilometre taller than its namesake in Scotland). The ski area is neither big nor impressive; but it is a pleasant, quiet place, populated by Kea mountain parrots, flying hooligans adept at stealing food from unwary lunchers on the restaurant terrace.

Amazingly, The Remarkables did commission a development study from the world's top ski-resort designer, Eldon Beck. Much as I admire his work, I hope nothing comes of it.

Further information: www.nzski.com

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