Sunday, July 26, 2009

Girls just Wana’ka have fun

In the height of winter, Queenstown is split by two extremes. By day it’s a fairytale town with towering pines that stretch towards the heavens near snowcapped mountains, where bold suns rise and fall painting the skies with violent reds and soft pink hues. At night it becomes a crazy party town where adrenalin fuelled mountain go-ers vent their energy by scurrying around like rabbits between a warren of bars.

OK, it’s exciting, but there are only so many times you can dance on tables in Winnies, croon out Karaoke at the Pig and Whistle and wake up with a Fergburger stuck to your face (non of which I’ve done of course!).

With this in mind, the girls and I loaded up Lily (my little Toyota) and headed to Wanaka for a weekend of fun. This small chilled out town is a relaxing retreat from the mayhem and madness of QT and is of course the gateway to the infamous Cardrona mountain.

We sang our girly hearts out for the whole scenic drive which took just over an hour and arrived at the YHA hostel in good spirits. YHA Wanaka has a lovely homely feel and offering as many blankets and heaters as desired, it’s a gorgeous, cozy place in the mid-winter.

From the bottom of Cardrona we hitched a ride with some young Aussies who were drinking beer for breakfast. When we pulled up at the top I was not disappointed. Smooth white contours curved all around me and beckoned me to slide down them. Although the day was overcast, the views were still stunning and after a quick coffee at Base café I was more than ready to roll…And that’s mostly what I did!

Having already wangled a few free lessons prior to my trip, I headed to the top of the ‘big’ beginners area (the reason I LOVE this place), strapped on my board and flung myself down slope with huge confidence.

Trying to get my face out of the snow a few metres down the hill wasn’t easy with all the pro-beginners zooming past. After a five minute battle with my bearings and looking somewhat like a snow monster, I peeled both myself and my pride off the floor and was successful in completing a somewhat slower, shakier run.

After this it was nothing but fun! My ‘beginner friend’ and I had a lovely day sliding about and apart from one incident in which I ploughed into the Magic Carpet and almost dislocated my knee (a warning that showing off DOES NOT pay), my speed and balance began to improve no end.

Falling over uses a great deal of energy, so in between breaking your bones it’s a good idea to make use of the big selection of cafes and restaurants including Base Café, Captains Pizzeria, and Juice & Java bar to name some of my favourites.

At the end of the day, having completely fallen in love with both snowboarding and Cardrona, I came to the conclusion that if I was serious about this ‘sliding on snow’ then a few lessons were a must. Before leaving, I booked an ‘achievement pack’ for the following week with a view to saving my coccyx and keeping my pride.

Feeling exhilarated, we hitched back down and headed to the hostel where we cooked up a feast and drank cheap bubbly. We headed out that night to the locals jam night where I jumped up on stage and played guitar – a refreshing change to dancing on tables and crooning out Karaoke (which of course I’ve never done!). The perfect end to the perfect weekend!

Beginner lessons at Cardrona range from $85 to $245 depending on the amount of days and amount of lessons taken. If you don’t have your own transport, Serious Fun and Kiwi Discovery have excellent packages, which include transport from Queenstown, lessons, lift pass and gear hire from $129 to $179. All of the above can be organized through your friendly staff at the Queenstown YHAs, as can accommodation at the YHA Wanaka!

For more details about prices, check out