Thursday, July 16, 2015

Wanaka, New Zealand

Best For: Skiing and snowboarding addicts from the Northern Hemisphere who just can’t let go when winter slips away 

Executive summary by darmansjah

Quickly developing a reputation as one of the world’s premier adventure towns, Wanaka sits on the shores of sprawling Lake Wanaka amid New Zealand’s Southern Alps. Surrounded by rugged, Lord of the Rings-style alpine scenery, the tranquil town of 5,000 is peppered with hostels, cafes, pubs, and small, luxury eco-lodges. As is customary in New Zealand ski towns, there’s no skiing right there, but four ski areas are within a 40-minute drive, including one, Snow Park NZ—teenage boys with pants that need to be pulled up, take note—that is essentially one big world-class terrain park.

Treble Cone, 35 minutes from town, is the best and closest, with more snow and skiable terrain than any other South Island resort. In typical New Zealand style, the entire ski area is above tree line. It’s also steep, offering intermediates an array of plummeting, groomed runs but limiting the options for beginners. Almost half of the runs are rated expert, and the in-bounds, backcountry-style terrain—a collection of wide-open bowls, chutes, and ridges—is what makes the area sing. Cardrona Alpine Resort, a 40-minute drive south, has more beginner terrain, a quality ski school, and on-mountain lodging.

Though New Zealand isn’t blessed by the powder gods the way, say, Japan and the American Rockies are, Wanaka gets the most snow in the country, with just over 200 inches in an average year. Seasons are reversed here in the Southern Hemisphere—Wanaka’s ski season runs from June through October—making it an excellent choice for “summer” skiing and snowboarding.

Ask a Local 

Jossi Wells is a 21-year-old professional freeskier who was born and raised in Wanaka. Here are his recommendations.

Best Digs
Budget: YHA Wanaka Purple Cow
Swank: Lakeside Apartments

Best Eats
Cheap: Redstar
Gourmet: Botswana Butchery

Best After-Ski Party Spot
Ruby’s Cinema & Bar

Best Rest-Day Activity
Puzzling World

Wanaka’s Classic Ski Run
Arcadia Chutes at Cardrona Alpine Resort

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