If you’re like me, and didn’t grow up in a family of skiers, the thought of hitting a resort town in winter probably leaves you colder than a top station in a blizzard… if you even know what that means.
It’s the thought of all those wind blown red noses, goggle tans and ludicrously fluffy apres ski boots, traipsing around on a Seven 11 brown slushi of ice on the ground, that could leave the humble hiker or bushwalker thinking that there’s nothing for them during the snow season in a town like Queenstown, NZ.
Not to be dissuaded, I set off for Queenstown determined to prove that there is a lot of things for an active hiker (that’s tramper to the locals) to do in winter, that doesn’t involve skiing.
The first thing to catch my eye was snow-shoe-ing. Apparently, the skill level required for this is pretty low, with Pam, my guide from NZ Snow Shoe, telling me, ‘If you can walk, you can snow shoe.’ That… I can definitely do!
The thing is that snow is really quite beautiful and the great thing about being on snow shoes is that it opens the door of the quiet, white world to non-skiers or snow boarders who could’ve felt excluded from this wintery wonderland for too long.
Age doesn’t seem to be a barrier with Pam telling me that she has led people aged from 8 to 80 out from the Remarkables Ski Resort Base Station, up the gentle 200m vertical ascent to enjoy a warm Milo or cuppa away from the resort slopes to a quiet spot beside Lake Alta.
After ensuring that our group of 6 were going to be warm enough in our multiple layers of clothing (it’s important to wear a minimum 3 layers – base, mid/warmth layer and a jacket, along with closed shoes like hiking boots or solid shoes and a warm hat), we moved onto the snow to be taught how to attach our snow-shoes. Thankfully, they’ve evolved a lot since the old timber tennis racquet looking style of the past. The company, NZ Snow Shoe provided lightweight, slim-line MSR snow shoes which are easy to walk in, without bulk or feeling like the abominable snowman.
You can also hire your own from Small Planet Outdoors in Queenstown.
As someone who leads trips in wilderness areas, I know how hard it can be when tough decisions need to be made. Unfortunately, the weather gods were not on our side this half day trip, with the grey and drizzly day down in the valley in Queenstown, turning out to be a blustery, blizzardy one up top on the Remarkables. (I’ve heard that it’s not uncommon for the opposite to be true – where the town below can be in pea soup and up above the clouds on the mountain it’s a blue bird day).
Our merry band of walkers only made it halfway to our final destination of Lake Alta, before the conditions had deteriorated so much, that to continue would have been unwise. Good call Pam!
Not to be disheartened, we headed back down under the Alta Chairlift and made ourselves cosy and warm inside the building, whilst Pam pulled the trusty thermos out of her pack and we enjoyed our hot cuppa whilst the wind howled outside.
It truly is a great way to get around on snow and have active adventures that don’t involve a long plank or two strapped to your feet.
Now… all I want to do is go on an overnight snow-shoe trip, staying out on the beautiful, pristine white stuff under a tent or even a snow cave… might just need a few more than 3 layers!
$147 per adult. http://www.snowshoeing.co.nz/
Lotsafreshair travelled on this tour as a guest of Ngai Tahu Tourism.