Katherine Eva is a Freelance Writer on the look-out for top adventure spots.
Published August 24th 2017
Snow Action Without Skiiing
If you love the snow but want a break from skiing/boarding, snowshoeing with Guided Walks NZ is a great option.
It's 815 A.M and Mark our friendly tour guide picks us up full of beans. He's a Queenstown local and was actually born in a hospital that used to be here in town. After a few more hotel stops Mark tells our small group of five that we'll briefly drop by the office to collect our shoes and waterproof clothes, and then head up to the Remarkables Mountain range, about 45 minutes away.
Soon we're all geared up in the mini van and climbing the windy mountain road to the Remarkables. The views are spectacular at every turn. Eventually we're playing a game called "spot an ugly view". Very hard (impossible actually) to win a point. To the people of Ngäi Tahu, Ngäti Mamoe and Waitaha, in ancient times the peaks and valleys of this area were places of Atua (gods). I can sure see why.
Our guide and me
Our day in the snow starts at about 10 A.M. We eagerly attach our snowshoes: steel claw-like sandals complete with a four-wheel-drive gear for steep inclines. Who would've thought a quick flick of a metal bar to raise the heel could make an upward climb so much easier? A good day-to-night look too I'm guessing.
First off we stick by Mark in single file to dodge the skiers and boarders on the lower slopes as we make our way to the back country. It's easy ploughing through the snow with the lightweight shoes, and the poles help with stability. We're making out way up the hills in the distance to reach frozen Lake Alta, about a kilometre ahead. I'm enjoying the challenge of the short bursts of steep inclines for the warmth and workout.
Check out these bad boys
Needless to say, the alpine views are amazing. At one stage we can only see a landscape of pure white, with a huge mountain above us and a white snow scape below. Truly pristine. This, I realise, in the main drawcard for doing a snowshoeing tour - getting to explore the back country in the safety of a group, often without a skier in sight. And if you do get to spot the odd skier or boarder at the top of a cliff, they're obviously pretty good (or just dopey), and it makes for exciting viewing.
Now it's time for our coffee break next to a low narrow snow cave. I didn't have the energy to wiggle my way inside but some did. I preferred to stay outside and appreciate Guided Walks' hospitality. I cheekily ask if I can have a mocha, and to my surprise Marks says "Yep, no problem!". My Milo and coffee mix is gooooood.
This is us
With renewed energy we're setting off to find Lake Alta hidden up ahead over the next hill. Sure enough we make the climb and arrive at a remote area of white stillness. We're being encouraged to snowshoe across the frozen lake, with reassurances that it's frozen to a depth of several metres. (Oops. Why has my foot gone through the ice. I'm temporarily trapped?) Ahh, that was just a rare shallow hole Mark says, nothing to worry about. I believe him but still make sure I only follow in his tracks from thereon.
I forgot to mention the hearty lunch Guided Walks packed for us; at the lake we sit down in the snow on small rubber mats and munch on sandwiches, big chunky chocolate chip cookies and a nut bar. Who needs a fancy cafe with a view like this.
After our snack we head back the same route, this time needing to use our poles to navigate the steep declines. I'm glad I'd chosen the Moderate Adventre tour which requires some fitness and skill. There's also the Snowplay option which I hear is more for kids and people who've never seen the snow and just want to frolic.
Finally as we reach town at around 3 P.M we all agree that it was a day well spent. If you love nature and want to feel direct contact with the snow (actually sink down into it with each step and sit down in the ice for lunch) this tour is for you. Sure skiing and boarding is fun for the exhilaration but snowshoeing has it's own sense of adventure - without the lifts and queues. Now it's time for a mulled wine while I ponder doing Heli-Snowshoeing on my next trip.