Truly remarkable: heli snowshoeing in Queenstown

Friends! I’m back, after an amazing couple of weeks away. The things I’ve seen! The digital sabbatical! (After no work calls on the first day, I figured all would be well. A good thing too, as from Christchurch on I had almost no coverage anywhere. No texts or calls, no emails, no news. I looked at my phone maybe every other day and let it drain down to dead in between. Glorious.) I hope you played nice with our guest posters (thanks again everyone).

I’m going to take some time to gather my thoughts into some kind of narrative, but in the meantime I shall leave you with my final story from my trip to Queenstown in August (yes, the one in which I went skydiving – it’s hard not to love your work when it brings such opportunities your way) in which I embark on a magical, once-in-a-lifetime frolic through the mountains where few get to go.

Getting back to nature. It’s a bit of a cliche, but for this city slicker, it’s a sentiment that always rings true.me heli snowshoeing the remarkables queenstown

Picture this – it’s as perfect a day as anyone could wish for. Queenstown is beautiful year-round, but stunning weather elevates it beyond tourist trap to breathtaking beauty.

I’m staring out the window of a very nimble helicopter as we ascend the mountain slopes behind the airport, the houses, river and lake receding below. I’ve got dorky headphones on to help drown out the deep drone, but there’s no disguising the lightness and vibrations that are most decidedly unlike any aircraft I’ve sat in before.

We disembark on an untouched peak within the Remarkables, where all I can see is the sparkling of snow crystals dotting the ground all around us, glittering well into the distance where the snowy horizon meets azure sky. Our guide, Peter, cracks a joke about “bringing home diamonds” to his wife.

If your only experience of snow has been of overcrowded beginner ski slopes, then snowshoeing offers an entirely different perspective.

There’s the absolute silence. The crisp, clear, oh-so-pure mountain air. The knowledge that as you turn to look back over the trail you’ve forged, that they’ll remain there until next snowfall (or at least until the wind blows fresh snow over your path). The only signs of life were a series of rabbit prints, and, from a distance, another group traversing the slopes. Cross-country skiers favour this terrain, and school groups come up here, even building snow caves like this one…

snow cave the remarkables queenstown

We strap on the massive snowshoes – it feels kind of like snapping your feet into some kind of giant animal trap – and cut a swathe across the slopes, 1,000m above sea level (the others chuckle at the barely-there imprints I leave in my wake). A pause here and there to marvel at the views, with Peter pointing out shadows where there’s a risk of snowfall, spinning yarns about people who’ve survived avalanches, explaining why the snow appears blue in particularly deep spots.

heli snow shoeing queenstown photos

You’d be hard pressed to find a more genial host than Peter, and he’s not short on cracker stories, from working security for Duran Duran to working with underprivileged students.

Seems he’s a pretty sharp tourism operator too, not only running these walks but also riffing on Bear Grylls mania by starting something called You vs Wild. He’ll even serve you up morning tea on the surface of a frozen lake, producing packets of bikkies, a stack of cups, a thermos, and sachets of tea, coffee, and sugar from his seemingly bottomless backpack.

Best of all, though, is that he’ll expertly dig out a series of perfectly rectangular ice blocks from the ground, forming a frosty seat of sorts to park your (hopefully well insulated) behind upon. And of course, we take everything that we brought onto the mountain back with us, packed neatly away into a Tupperware container, leaving nothing behind.

the remarkables heli snowshoeing lunch on frozen lake

It’s all too easy to get caught up in the pressures and stresses of modern daily life. But as Peter puts it, there’s no better way to rebalance and recharge than to step away for a day or two and immerse yourself in the heart of our earth as we no longer see it.

“It puts it all in perspective.”

(Here’s a shaky video of the latter part of our descent from the Remarkables.)

13 thoughts on “Truly remarkable: heli snowshoeing in Queenstown

  • Reply SP October 2, 2012 at 16:05

    OH MY GOSH this is soooo my kind of travel/trip. I’m so jealous – what a blast!

  • Reply Untemplater October 2, 2012 at 20:18

    Nice pics! Glad you had a great trip! It’s so funny seeing pictures of snow this time of year. We are having our few days of summer heat in SF finally. The hot weather always comes super late and never lasts more than a week. I actually wore shorts and a tshirt today, it was nice!

  • Reply Manda October 3, 2012 at 01:39

    I’ve always been fascinated by the concept of skiing as I’ve never been and it looks terrifying, but my friends who have been all love it! I’m glad you had such a good time. Maybe one day I’ll embark on a skiing adventure to see if it’s for me 😛

  • Reply Budget & the Beach October 3, 2012 at 03:08

    I love the idea of a digital sabbatical! Looks like you had fun!

  • Reply femmefrugality October 3, 2012 at 07:07

    So beautiful! What a great and unconventional way to have a new experience! Most people don’t think snow when planning travel, but man that looks a-mazing.

  • Reply Renée (@nickelbynickel) October 3, 2012 at 12:31

    Looks very pretty, not a fan of cold and snow but would def try this once, sounds like a great holiday 🙂

  • Reply The Asian Pear October 4, 2012 at 11:46

    oh wow. that sounds like an amazing trip.

  • Reply makinthebacon$ October 5, 2012 at 10:38

    Amazing photos. I went snowshoeing back in February at a ski resort for a friend’s bday and it was a lot of fun. However, your trip looks like something more up my alley. 🙂

  • Reply Road tripping the South Island, part 2: From snow caps to lake towns and thunder falls | NZ Muse October 9, 2012 at 22:11

    […] part you and your dollars quickly. It’s the de facto home of adrenaline junkies (skydiving! snowshoeing! jetboating! bungy jumping! mountain biking!). And of course, while the snow season is shorter than […]

  • Reply Byteful Travel Blog Carnival #15 – 2012 November | Byteful Travel November 29, 2012 at 10:20

    […] musings presents: Truly remarkable: Heli-Snowshoeing in Queenstown posted at Musings of an Abstract […]

  • Reply Andrew Crusoe (@bytefulcom) November 29, 2012 at 11:39

    Aloha E. E. Musings,

    Great job, EE. Loved the photos 🙂

    And I also wanted to thank you again for submitting your article to the Byteful Travel Blog Carnival. It’s been included in the 15th BT Blog Carnival which was published today.

    So, if you could retweet, stumble, or “Like” the blog carnival, I would really appreciate it. It would also help people discover your article, too!

    Thanks again. Looking forward to your submissions next time! 🙂

  • Reply Andrew Crusoe (@bytefulcom) November 29, 2012 at 11:41

    Whoops, the link to the carnival was mistyped: The 15th Byteful Travel Blog Carnival.

  • Reply Simon December 19, 2012 at 05:16

    Queenstown has a plethora of world class skiing and snowboarding opportunities and is renowned for being New Zealands number one alpine resort.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *