Rising sharply beside Lake Wakatipu, the Remarkables Mountain Range is an attractive and rugged area close to Queenstown. The highest peak is Double Cone, which towers 2,319 metres over the lake. In winter, easy access and stunning scenery bring hundreds of local and international skiers and snowboarders to the Remarkables. Challenging walking tracks, breath-taking views and fresh mountain air make the area popular with hikers, and the alpine environment is home to a diverse collection of native flora and fauna.
The ski season opens on Saturday 18 June 2016. Just over a half-hour drive from Queenstown, the Remarkables ski field is easily accessible and well-resourced for skiers and snowboarders of all ages and abilities. Packages for transport, lift passes, ski hire, and lessons can be purchased in advance; cafes, restaurants and bars offer a range of refreshments and relaxation and there is an early-learning centre where under-fives can enjoy some educational fun while the rest of the family enjoy the slopes. Three terrain parks covering 220 hectares, seven lifts and beginners slopes ensure that there is something for everyone. The average annual snowfall is just short of four metres, and snow guns and groomers keep the ski field in top condition throughout the season.
The Remarkables terrain is steep and walking it requires a reasonable degree of fitness, however it is worth the effort to experience the wild bluffs and rocky valleys which make New Zealand famous with sightseers, sportspeople and movie-makers alike. Walking tracks range from the ninety-minute trail to Lake Alta, a small glacial lake with views over Lake Wakatipu, to the high altitude, full-day Wentworth Track. Mountain weather is unpredictable and can be treacherous; always take extra clothing and plenty of supplies, and inform the local authorities of your route and expected timetable.
The area is a landscape of schist outcrops, dramatic drops and towering peaks. Waterfalls tumble down steep cliffs. Small glacial lakes and natural amphitheatres are home to insects, lizards and birds, making this a rich conservation area. Endemic native moths, weta, giant weevils and snails share the territory with Kareara falcon, kea, black-backed gulls and pihoihoi. Of these, visitors are most likely to see the kea, a large olive-green and orange parrot with a great sense of humour. Kea frolic and cavort wildly, and are often quite sociable. They are also great thieves, so watch your belongings if you see kea around! A lot of the local plant life is unique to the region. Tiny alpine plants and flowers grow amongst the tussock and grasses, creating ecospheres to support the unique insect life. To maintain the integrity of the natural environment, “take only photos, leave only footprints.”
Some other ways to enjoy the majesty of the Remarkables are hot air balloon, helicopter and small plane tours, or from Lake Wakatipu on a boat cruise or Jet boat ride. These can be booked in Queenstown and will be sure to leave you with lasting memories.