Photo: Hucking a cliff at Coronet Peak
Coronet Peak and The Remarkables are the two major ski resorts near Queenstown, on the South Island of New Zealand. Coronet Peak is 20 minutes (18km) from Queenstown while The Remarkables is 45 minutes (24 kms). Queenstown acts as the base for these two mountains as there are minimal services up at resorts.
Both mountains are operated by NZSki (which also operates Mt Hutt). Working at any NZSki resort will give you season access to the other resorts, while work conditions and application processes are similar.
Each resort has its own vibe - Coronet Peak is the more advanced mountain with plenty of good backcountry and cruisers. The Remarkables is more family and learner friendly; however, it has also carved itself out a freestyle / terrain park niche, and has some excellent terrain for those who like to hike into the backcountry.
If arriving internationally, Christchurch on the South Island is the closest major international terminal. However, Queenstown also has an international airport (ZQN) for flights arriving from Australia. Jetstar, Virgin and Qantas fly from Australia while Air New Zealand flies internally in NZ.
The bus from Christchurch to Queenstown takes around 8 hours and prices range from $NZ50 - $NZ100. It is a good idea to book early to get a cheaper fare.
InterCity Coachlines runs buses around New Zealand and can take you from any of the major cities in New Zealand to Queenstown. See www.intercity.co.nz
Naked Bus is another bus service that runs from all the major towns on the South Island to Queenstown and may offer a cheaper price if you compare in advance. See nakedbus.com
Opened in 1947, Coronet Peak was New Zealand’s first ski resort. Coronet Peak has NZ’s longest ski area opening hours and is the only commercial ski area to offer night skiing. It is the busiest resort on the South Island, so the crowds are larger than at other resorts, but the lift infrastructure seems to handle the crowds reasonably well.
Coronet Peak is best for intermediates, with a number of good cruisers. The mogul runs are plentiful at Coronet Peak.
However, like most NZ resorts, there is only a small skiable area (280 hectares), with a small vertical drop (481m), which compares to most resorts in Australia.
Coronet Peak has some nice backcountry access in addition to its four main lifts. If you are keen on hiking to find powder there is always a new stash to be found. Remember to carry avalanche safety gear if you are going into the backcountry. Coronet Peak is the better of the two resorts in terms of backcountry.
However, the lack of trees can mean poor visibility on certain days, though the weather tends to be a little better than at resorts further north.
Coronet Peak also has NZ's most extensive snowmaking system which helps to build up the early season base. The average snowfall is just 2m at Coronet Peak. Underneath, however, the terrain is mostly grass tussocks, which means fewer rocks to hit even when the base is low.
Night-skiing is possible from early July until mid-September, Friday and Saturday nights from 4pm until 9pm. This includes the terrain park which is open under the 'Park after Dark' and also includes the giant air bag on which to practice tricks.
From an insider's perspective, the Exchange is very nice on a powder day. You take the Coronet Express chair, head down the M1 and cut left after the first corner. There are plenty of natural jibs to hit as you go down the run.
The Remarkables has a more relaxed atmosphere, and is home to a a better terrain park and freestyle terrain, as well as dedicated learner facilities. It is a smaller ski area than Coronet Peak and attracts more of the families and kids than Coronet Peak, as the in-bound is much more suited to beginners than Coronet Peak.
However, there is some excellent backcountry terrain at The Remarkables if you like to hike. If you are an advanced rider, you will likely spend most of your time at The Remarkables in the backcountry (or in the terrain park if you like park riding).
In-bound terrain is made up of three north facing bowls which tend to be sunny. Due to their enclosed nature, the resort has fewer closed days than other resorts further north in New Zealand.
Average snowfall is around 3.5m, which is higher than at Coronet Peak. There is snowmaking on the terrain park and under the Alta chair.
In addition, the scenery at The Remarkables is truly stunning, and it is one of the most photographed areas of New Zealand.
From an insider's perspective, Toilet bowl on The Remarkables is very nice. It is a 30 minute hike from the top of Sugar Chair. Drop down the back side to enter into an open powder bowl. There is then a short hike back up to the road.
Chutes is at the top of the Shadow Basin Chair from where you cut left. A 15 minute hike leads to some steep chutes, and if you hike higher you will find even more untracked couloirs. The higher chutes lead you to a hike over the frozen lake, otherwise you can traverse back onto the runs.
The Homeward Bound runs don't require hiking but are more popular as a consequence. To get there, take the Shadow Basin Chair and then head right off the top of the chair. The run takes you down to the road where a bus then picks you up to take you back to the base.
The season usually opens in late June and runs until early October, snow dependent.
Queenstown is a sophisticated and savvy, cosmopolitan yet casual, town, with something for everyone. Whether it’s adrenaline-pumping, heart-thumping action attractions, a relaxing winery tour, or a scenic hike through the natural and unspoiled hills surrounding Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown has it all. It is certainly the biggest winter party town in New Zealand and is one of the bigger winter party towns in the world - there are over 40 bars in town. The many pubs, clubs, cafes, bars and restaurants ensure that the town is alive during the whole winter. Queenstown is a year-round extreme sports town that attracts adventure people and the people are generally very laid back.
Photo: The Remarkables
There are buses to take you up to the mountains, but many people also hitchhike up to the mountains, especially on their days off.
Recruitment for NZSki is done via the website www.nzski.com/employment/NZSki-Jobs.jsp
When you apply, you will select a preference for the mountain with which you wish to work (Coronet Peak, The Remarkables or Mt Hutt). NZSki regularly receives more than 4,000 applications before each season, so make sure you put a strong effort into you application in order to make it to the interview stage. You can put in a second choice option in case you are not successful in your first choice of resorts.
Of the two resorts, Coronet Peak is probably the more popular, due to the shorter time it takes to get to work and home each day, and the more easily accessible, steeper terrain that is available to tackle when you get a ride break. Terrain park lovers might prefer The Remarkables though.
Recruitment opens in early February each year. Some of the most common roles are Rental Assistant, Lift Operator, Custodian/Cleaner, Food and Beverage Attendant, Guest Services & Ticketing Assistant, Ski/Snowboard Instructors, Ski & Snowboard Techs and Bus Drivers. See Jobs Available at Mountain Resorts for a description of ski resort jobs.
Photo: Night riding at Coronet Peak
If your application is successfully shortlisted to interview stage, you will be required to attend an interview. For some roles a face to face interview are compulsory. Face-to-face interviews start to take place in Queenstown from mid-May onwards each year.
Entry level roles start from $15.25NZD/hour, which is minimum wage in New Zealand. For roles that require more qualifications, skills and/or experience the rates will be higher.
Many staff pick up a casual second job in town at one of the many bars and restaurants. There are over 160 bars in Queenstown, although many of these will not hire in advance as there is no need due to the numbers of walk-up applicants each season.
The staff is usually very diverse with employees from all over the globe.
However, New Zealand Immigration has very strict rules in place regarding visa sponsorship to which NZSki must adhere. In previous years, NZSki have been able to sponsor only about 8% of their staff for visas, so you will dramatically increase your chances of getting a job if you can provide your own work visa. See Work a Winter Snow Season in New Zealand for further information on New Zealand's working holiday visas.
Australian citizens are legally entitled to work in New Zealand with no visa necessary.
The roles that may be considered for sponsorship are the more highly skilled roles and you will need the appropriate qualifications and experience to be eligible. Without exception, NZSki cannot sponsor applicants with a job offer that have no SnowSports industry qualifications or experience.
For information about the various types of work visas that may be available to you depending on your personal circumstances, refer to www.immigration.govt.nz for details.
Bunac is a company that offers work abroad programmes. It is open to UK/Ireland and US citizens www.bunac.org
To be considered you will need to have a minimum of NZSIA / SBINZ / PSIA level 2 or equivalent with 3 seasons teaching experience. In all cases, whether it be a working holiday or sponsorship visa, you must supply evidence of your work visa before you can commence employment. It is best if you can upload this into your application as soon as you get it.
Photo: Hitting the terrain park at The Remarkables
Being a part of the crew means you will also receive free departmental training to help you do your job. You will also have access to the NZSKi-U internal training programs to help you develop your professional and personal skills.
No staff accommodation is provided. Staff live in Queenstown, and you will need to arrange accommodation yourself.
While you are looking for a place to live, the www.blacksheepbackpackers.co.nz is a hostel with a good atmosphere and is not too expensive.
You can expect to pay around $150-200NZD/wk for accommodation in town. It is possible to get a group together and head to a real estate agent in town. They will set you up with a place that is not too expensive. Queenstown rentals are most expensive near the centre of town.
www.queenstown.com has further information on the town of Queenstown
Other Accommodation Tips
There are two towns on the outskirts of Queenstown, Arrowtown and Frankton. If you don’t mind a quieter vibe and have your own transport these are both good options for accommodation.
The supermarket in Frankton is the best value for groceries, which means having a car is helpful if you are living in Queenstown, though the bus runs out to Frankton frequently throughout the day.