Matakauri Lodge, Queenstown

They say you can tell gauge how well Queenstown is doing by the length of the line at Fergburger. Judging by the hordes of people spilling onto Shotover Street, queuing for the most hyped hamburger this side of Hobbiton, New Zealand’s adventure capital is cooking. (Locals, by the way, go to Devil Burger, where the burgers are also decent and you don’t have to queue.)

The pandemic has undoubtably been a tough time for this tourism-reliant town, and visitor numbers aren’t expected to return in full until 2025, by which time the major infrastructure works that have turned the centre of town into a colossal construction site could well be wrapping up. Although it feels like I should be given a site induction before going shopping, it’s wonderful to be back among the mountains and lakes of Central Otago; and let’s face it, no one comes to Queenstown for the charms of the CBD.

Like many, I’m here to experience the best ski season in years, with 100 percent of the terrain open at both The Remarkables and Coronet Peak, the latter which celebrates its 75th anniversary this year. Unfortunately, “Huey”, New Zealand’s weather god, is in a foul mood as we climb through clag (Kiwi-speak for the impenetrable cloud that smothers mountains) to The Remarkables. What’s remarkable is we get down the piste in one piece. Visibility is near zero as I gingerly pick my way down the piste more by feel than sight. It means we don’t see the plunging chutes and rock drops that make the mountain such a Mecca for the thrill-seekers. Riding the new Sugar Bowl Express chairlift we make a brief flyover of the natural-feature “Burton Stash” terrain park, a favourite for freestylers on days when you can actually see the terrain…

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