Winter adventure a family affair
This little incident really hit my funny bone. It concerned those little cards you find in hotel bathrooms these days.
Usually, the guest is invited to help save the planet by using one towel thoroughly instead of lightly soiling six. Some cards also extol the common good served by two- minute showers.
So I cracked up when the message card in my New Zealand hotel bathroom said this: “Please ensure your bathroom taps are left dripping to prevent the pipes freezing. Thank you, Peppers Bluewater Team.”
I’m at Lake Tekapo in the South Island amid winter conditions a world apart from Perth’s.
The area strikes me as a wonderful place to give kids a white Southern Hemisphere winter.
You’d love the kids to experience a white winter but you’re not snow-savvy. It’d be easy to think “too hard” and get a deal to a sunny spot instead. But the Lake Tekapo area, in the South Island’s Canterbury region, is attuned to the needs of first-time families in the snow and can be accessed by flying to Christchurch.
A hit with all the family would be Tekapo Springs, a small theme park with beautiful lake views and activities that range from chilled-out to adrenaline- filled. Epitomising the latter is the J-shaped snow slope which provides thrilling tractor-tube rides. The rider lies spreadeagled, face-down on the tube, which speeds downhill and round the bend before gradually slowing up. During my visit it was all the rage.
Visitors can also skate on a gorgeous open-air ice rink of international size and then warm up in one of the three hot-spring pools. Each pool is the shape of one of three local lakes — Tekapo, Pukaki and Ohau — while water temperatures are a toasty 40C, 38C and 36C. There’s also a day spa for a complete chill-out — literally, if you follow your sauna with a dip in the plunge pool. It’s set at 8C, the temperature of Lake Tekapo.
There are also family-friendly indoor and alfresco dining areas.
All-day access to the pool is $22 for adults or $17 for children; the ice rink including skates is $16/$12 while tubing is $22/$17 for one hour. Combine two activities and prices are discounted by 10 per cent, while three activities cuts the rates by 15 per cent and allows unlimited tube time. For a child, all-day access to all activities would be less than $40, and just over $50 for an adult.
Tekapo Springs is open from 10am-9pm every day except Christmas, and puts on a shuttle service. Visitors can come and go on the day they’ve bought a ticket. Activities vary in summer, the ice rink making way for the Trippo, a huge inflatable waterslide, and a summer tubing track.
Of course, having a go at skiing is a must and the nearby Round Hill ski field has a strong emphasis on kids and beginners. The fields, which have views of Aoraki/Mt Cook and Lake Tekapo, have a huge beginners’ area featuring a learners’, or platter, lift and two beginners’ rope tows for a fun and gentle way to find your feet in the snow.
A first-timer’s package of a platter-lift pass, rental equipment and a group lesson costs $95 (adult), $75 (youth) and $61 (child). The same package for snowboarding costs $102, $82 and $66.
The night skies in these parts are among the world’s clearest, which makes Mt John Observatory Earth and Sky experiences great for older kids interested in space and able to stay up late. If the kids are younger, the Family or Little Star tours would be better.
The Family tour emphasises fun, operates only during NZ holiday periods and costs $150 for two adults and two children. Little Star, which runs from April to September, starts and finishes earlier and is heavy on stargazing and light on theory. The family rate is $235.
Alternatively, the Hermitage Hotel’s Big Sky Gazing activity, which includes a session in the hotel’s planetarium followed by stargazing from a field site, costs $60 for an adult and $30 a child.
Lake Tekapo’s accommodation options have better pricing and availability in winter because the high season is summer. You’ll do better again if you avoid New Zealand’s winter school holiday period, July 4-19 next year.
In this region there are also family-fun activities such as cycling on a terrific network of trails, kayaking among icebergs on glacial lakes and fishing for trout or salmon.
LOTS OF SKI FIELDS
Claiming to have more mountains than Switzerland and with more than 25 scenic ski areas and lots of perfect, crisp, blue-sky days, New Zealand has the best ski and snowboard areas in the Southern Hemisphere.
Base yourself in Christchurch, Methven or Hanmer Springs and you’ll be as little as half an hour’s drive from nine fantastic ski areas.
You can find everything yourself or book a package, which can include flights, car rental or mountain transport, pants or gear hire, ski or snowboard lessons and lift passes. The NZ ski season runs from late June to late September but the various snow areas do not open or close at the same time; it depends on the season and weather.
Here’s the lowdown on the ski and snowboard areas close to Christchurch and around the Canterbury region:
- Mt Hutt is 94km (about 80 minutes) from Christchurch or 15km (35 minutes) from Methven. High in the Southern Alps, Canterbury’s Mt Hutt Ski Area receives some of the lightest and driest powder in Australasia. Renowned for its laid-back and rural atmosphere, Mt Hutt is family and beginner-friendly. The slopes are wide and the runs varied.
- Porter Heights is 89km (70 minutes) from Christchurch or 85km from Methven. It is Christchurch’s closest ski area and the short, easy access road makes it a favourite. It has easy beginner slopes, cruising intermediate trails and spectacular terrain for advanced skiers and boarders.
- Hanmer Springs Ski Area is 150km (110 minutes) from Christchurch or 25km (40 minutes) from Hanmer Springs. It’s a small club field, well-suited to beginners and intermediate skiers and boarders.
- Mt Lyford is 146km (100 minutes) from Christchurch or 60km (50 minutes) from Hanmer Springs. This is a favourite with families because of great facilities for learners and challenging runs for the more experienced.
- Temple Basin is 128km (120 minutes) from Christchurch, plus a 45-minute walk to the ski area and lodge. It offers a great variety of terrain spread over four separate basins. There are gentle slopes for complete beginners, adrenaline- pumping challenges for the expert, and everything in between.
- Broken River is 104km (90 minutes) from Christchurch, plus a 20-minute walk to the ski area and lodge. The terrain is a series of rolling bowls with runs to challenge all levels of skiers and snowboarders, beginner to expert.
- Cragieburn is 110km (90 minutes) from Christchurch. Known as New Zealand’s largest off-piste ski area, this is not a beginners’ field and is suitable for intermediate and advanced skiers only.
- Mt Cheeseman is 100km (80 minutes) from Christchurch. With great beginner and intermediate slopes, it’s perfect for learners and families.
- Mt Olympus is 128km (115 minutes) from Christchurch or 66km (80 minutes) from Methven. Skiing and boarding, an irrepressible club spirit and spectacular New Zealand scenery make Olympus an unforgettable adventure.
Now, how’s this? There are freebies for kids aged under 10, part of a program designed to stimulate Christchurch’s economy following its two earthquakes.
A family could go on a skiing or snowboarding holiday at the Mt Hutt ski field and get an array of bonus offers.
For example, the youngsters could stay and eat for free in nearby Methven and get free rides to and from the ski field on the shuttle bus. If skiing with their parents, there’s no charge for youngsters at Mt Hutt.
While Methven caters well to ski tourists, it’s also a great base for drives and other activities.
PHOTO: Lake Tekapo
© The West Australian
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