What’s as big as a ski resort but doesn’t have a chairlift? Soho Basin Private Ski Area! With hectares of pristine snow (264 to be precise) and no more than two dozen guests per day, this is definitely a luxury ski experience like no other in New Zealand. Located a 40-minute drive from Wanaka, here you can cruise down wide-open bowls or take on steep chutes, ride with one of their experienced guides or cut your own lines, all accessed from the from the comfort of a heated cabin atop a state-of-the-art snow cat. When it’s time to rest the legs, head down to the deck of their Alpine Hut, take in the expansive views and treat yourself with gourmet food and a fine NZ wine or two. Then do it all over again.
In the cool world of winter sports, cross country skiing sometimes gets forgotten. But for peace and tranquillity, stunning mountain scenery and one of the best work-outs around, you can’t beat a trip to Snow Farm, NZ’s only Nordic ski area. No waiting in lift lines you simply put on your skis and off you go, or get a yourself a lesson from one of the super-fit Nordic ski instructors (there’s a reason they look good in lycra) and take on 50km’s of track that winds its’ way through the pristine alpine landscape. Once you’re feeling confident on your skinny skis, you can head a further 4km’s out to one of the backcountry huts for an overnight stay. No electricity – no cell service – just you, nature and the most incredible alpine views.
This region has always had a world-class reputation for excellent wine, and now thanks to some entrepreneurial start-ups, beer lovers are also well-catered for. The craft beer scene has taken off in Wanaka with 6 local breweries; B.Effect, Ground Up, Maverick, Rhyme & Reason, Sidewinder and Wanaka Beer Works. Not your standard drop a visit to Rhyme & Reason after a day on the slopes is a must. Located just two minutes from the heart of Wanaka this new brewery has a relaxed, industrial vibe, grab a pint from the ever- changing extensive list. Then grab a take away rigger for the road from Ground Up which is just up the road or pop into Pembroke Wine and Craft Beer Bar where you can taste all of the local beers.
Too shattered to shower? No problem just leave your snow gear on and head to Brownston St., where you’ll find a great selection of food trucks serving up some gourmet options. There’s Mexican street-style food at Burrito Craft, Dripping Bowl for fresh homemade soups served with The Peoples Bread co. sourdough, and beautiful toppings such as roasted seeds and Raglan coconut yogurt. Buddha’s Corner for vegetarian friendly Asian – Indian fusion and Francesca’s Pizza for wood-fired pizza classics like Margherita, or try the Pepperoni using wild venison, and the Tartufi with wild mushrooms, mozzarella and black truffle oil.
For a small-town Wanaka has a BIG selection of boutique stores that stock everything from sophisticated high fashion and street wear from NZ and international designers, through to specialist suppliers that offer the very best in outdoor clothing and equipment. Wanaka is also home to cult performance wear clothing company Mons Royale. Worn by the World’s best action sports athletes as well the New Zealand Winter Olympic Team, while it’s not guaranteed your skiing or boarding will get any better, it will increase your comfort factor and (street cred) for the next time you head up to Cardrona or Treble Cone.