Spiralling tunnels built in hidden caves, keyholes in the snow, deep powder up the mountain, and ice cafes are what you’ll find when you hit the slopes on Coronet Peak and The Remarkables, says Aana Marinovich.
We hit the slopes after some of the best snowfall seen in five years, so fair to say we saw the fields at their best. With two risk-taking boys in tow (or should I say, two boys with their mum in tow – when did that happen?), I’m the self-designated risk police – typically on the lookout for potential limb-damaging cliffs and ice on the mountain. On Coronet Peak, as long as we kept the base building in our sights, we just skied wherever. So much fun – seriously. I just tootled behind, never worried for a moment. Queues might have been big, but with so much safe snow off-piste, we felt like the only people skiing.
My favourite was the feeling of skiing on never-ending fields of snow, with no place out of bounds as long as you kept the chairlift in view below, like a beacon calling. We scooted off on tangents, went on adventures, and played follow the leader. It was such a treat for the whole family to have a safe and unencumbered playground on which to play.
The beauty of The Remarkables has to be seen to be believed. You are skiing in the Alps, surrounded by peaks, valleys, bowls, and summits, and at the top of the chairlift you can take in the glory of the view. Every time I skied off that lift, I was reminded how lucky we are to have this at our doorstep. New Zealand is breathtaking.
Here you can find plenty of powder, interesting trails, bowls, and valleys, fun parks, or simply hit the groomed stuff. It’s easy to see the kids on the beginner area, as it’s well sectioned-off, but in clear view for parents heading up the chairlift. Come on, who doesn’t love to spy on their kids’ progress?
The snow spiral at the The Remarkables (normally built in August) twists through a cave.
KIDS’ LESSONS AND CHILDCARE
Children’s lessons on both mountains are awesome. For older kids, they are on the mountain most of the day in Kea Club (5-15 years), but come in for lunch and snacks. Our children were grouped with two other kids (from around the world, which is cool) and their American instructor, which felt like they had a grown- up playmate for the day. They learned new skills while jumping, looking styley while skiing and boarding in knee-deep powder, doing worm turns, doughnuts, and racing each other. Kids love other kids to ski and board with, and the best learning happens when you’re just having fun and goofing around.
Kids four and five years old hang at Mini Kea, which has a similar format to Kea Club (but for the younger ones). Littlies (three months to five years) hang out at Skiwiland at Coronet Peak. This is at the end of the main base building beside the beginners area, and has its own safe little snowyard.
They are in and out, mixing up snow sports (depending on their ages) with snow play and indoor activities to stay warm. They get plenty of delicious food and hot chocolate, and when you meet their carers, you’ll know exactly why they love being there. (And kids five years and under ski free!)
The kids instructor was like a grown-up playmate for the day
Instructors are there to teach us all, but they can also be fantastic guides. It’s totally worth having someone navigate you around the best spots on the mountain (nothing worse than discovering the best run of the day with five minutes to go before closing!). You get to jump queues, ask about technique, learn about the mountain and off piste, get insider tips about the weather, sun (and shadow on certain runs), trails, and even food choices at the cafe. If your kids are just going to free ski, it’s definitely investing in this for the whole family, so everyone knows the lie-of-the-snow.
Homemade snow cones after a hot day’s skiing
WHAT THE KIDS LOVED
• Powder, powder, and more powder.
• Fun park (prepare to stand here for many hours filming kids).
• Making a human ski train through the man made spiral (part cave).
• Skiing the Homeward Run all the way from the top of the mountain to the bottom (not waiting for the bus to take us back up though!).
• The food in the café is sooooo good.
Toasting cold little toes in front of the fire at The Remarkables.
• Making the perfect snowball and ambushing our brother as he came through the Keyhole (a narrow chute between two high rocks).
• Sitting in the ice cafe for a hot chocolate- cool!
• First tracks. Fresh powder and no people. Woohoo!
• Finding as many new ways as we could to get down the mountain (we took turns to lead the way).
• Face planting and playing in all of the little off-piste valleys of powder.
• Finding natural jumps and drop-offs all over the place (we could scout our next trail while on the chairlift).
• Filming ourselves doing jumps and worm turns with our instructor.
• Night skiing and pizza (Saturday night is best for families).
WHAT WE REALLY APPRECIATED ON BOTH MOUNTAINS:
• The oversized open fire at The Remarkables Café to warm our toes on the coldest day ever. Heaps of blue ink trails and markers in low visibility so we never got lost on the slopes.
• Drop-off parking right at the top. Bus pick ups from every carpark (no need to be an early bird if you’re feeling lazy).
• Loads of beginner areas so less people crashing on the higher mountain.
• Dual pass so you can go to either Coronet or The Remarkables (and Mt Hutt for that matter) depending on the weather, wind, or just how you feel that morning.
We drove a Hyundai Santa Fe. This is the “Most Popular Family Wagon” (no surprises there), because it just handles a family adventure with ease. We were warm with six heated seats, were able to charge a ridiculous amount of devices (my plan to leave all of those blasted devices behind failed), and enjoyed the mountainous scenery through a multitude of windows and roof windows. Importantly, our ski gear, oversized luggage, and the whole family were able to fit – and still feel comfortable. Most impressive.
Night skiing on Coronet Peak: Our Hyundai Santa Fe fit all of our ski gear and then some.
Staying in Arrowtown is a perfect solution for families. Apart from being full of old-world charm, it has plenty of family accommodation, the best food on offer. Escape the traffic and loads of partying 20-somethings – if you want a family vibe that’s close to everything, it’s a great option.
Arrowfield Apartments: We loved coming home to Arrowfield at the end of each day, it was a lovely warm and comfortable retreat. Just two minutes from central Arrowtown, they have plenty of space, with up to four bedrooms, a large kitchen, with plenty of cooking equipment for family meals, a dining area, and a family room with a toasty fire and plenty of entertainment options. They have an internal garage with storage room and a laundry too.
Arrowtown Holiday Park: Whether you’re in a campervan or renting a chalet, this is great fun for the kids. I love how holiday parks encourage kids to get outside and play. They love the other kids and no matter how cold the weather, they will run around, explore, and enjoy the space. These chalets are warm and sleep up to five people, have a kitchen, bathroom and dining area with a TV. You also have access to all of the facilities of the campground, including a drying area for your ski gear.
Snuggled up at Arrowfield Apartments in a Monsie
FAMILY EATS IN ARROWTOWN
• Terra Mia and Gibbston Valley Winery (03 409 8378)
• La Rumbla (03 442 0509)
• Slow Cuts (03 442 0066)
• Patagonia ice creams
• The Remarkable Sweet Shop Bonjour
Onsen hot pools
• Chinese Village
By Aana Marinovich
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