Snowshoeing is a pretty common Canadian hobby in the winter. It’s an easy way to navigate through deep snow and helps you explore the outdoors during tough Canadian winters. In New Zealand though, this seems to still be almost a foreign concept. Many people who we told we were going snowshoeing in Queenstown either didn’t know what it was or asked “Oh you mean hiking with those rackets on your feet?”
The sport has come a long way since the days of strapping rackets on your boots. The modern snowshoe has a durable, more rectangular frame that aids in walking in deep snow while also providing grip in icy conditions. When researching winter activities in Queenstown we stumbled upon NZ Snowshoe and their heli day trip to explore the mountain ranges up at The Remarkables and knew we had to try it!
The adventure started with a pick-up at our YHA accommodation in central Queenstown by our guide Seb who drove us to the airport to meet up with the guys at Heli Tours Queenstown. I had my first helicopter ride with these guys earlier this year when we were filming Milford Sound with Team Super Tramp but Jordan’s still hadn’t been in one so he was excited!
After a quick safety briefing we piled the snowshoeing gear into the heli storage compartment and took off towards the mountain slopes behind the airport.
As we soared above the beautiful golden tussock and into the snow-capped mountains of The Remarkables it was an endless white blanket of snow for as far as the eye could see. As we approached our landing, the low afternoon clouds meant we had to adjust our course and land further up near the summit we were intending to climb. We piled out of the helicopter and quickly dropped the gear as we huddled together protecting ourselves from the rotor wash as the heli returned to Queenstown.
If you’ve never been on snowshoes before here’s what the look like! They fit on pretty much any boot and tighten with three straps along the top and one around the heel. And I love NZ Snowshoe’s motto – “If you can walk, you can snowshoe” and to be honest it is just as easy as that!
Our guide Seb gave us a brief introduction to the area and mapped out our adventure for the next few hours. From here we took off towards the peak to take in some incredible views of the mountains surrounding us.
If you’re looking to get away from the overcrowded ski hills but want an awesome snow experience snowshoeing gives you an amazing perspective and allows you to enjoy it in absolute silence in the crisp mountain air.
While the snow wasn’t as deep as I expected (due to lack of a good snowfall the last few days) it was so great to be back in snowshoes! Our last time snowshoeing was in Canada with Jordan’s parents, exploring the trails behind their family home. I’ve thought on many occasions while living in New Zealand that this would be a great place to snowshoe so have been surprised it’s not more common!
The next hour we took our time hiking through the snow and enjoying the beautiful afternoon in the sun. Luckily the wind wasn’t too harsh so we could take in the ridge line edges.
At one point we all carefully climbed out onto a rock ledge while Seb named off the many famous New Zealand mountain peaks in the distance. Now I can’t even come close to remembering them all but I do recall seeing Mt Aspiring and Mt Cook just barely behind the clouds.
One thing I never realised before is it’s REALLY hard to walk backwards (or turn around) with snowshoes. With quite a drop of all sides of us, one by one we carefully retreated back towards the safety of the fluffy white snow to ensure we didn’t catch our snowshoes on the rocks!
Nearing the halfway point of our journey, we stopped for a cup of hot cocoa and biscuits on the side of the mountain to warm up a bit. It was a nice surprise courtesy of Seb and I savoured every sip of that chocolatey goodness.
From here we made our way down towards the other end of the basin to where the heli would soon pick us up. We found some nice deep powder to have some fun playing around in and enjoyed the rest of our afternoon on the mountain.
Unfortunately the day was coming to the end as the sun began to creep towards the horizon, but just as we were waiting for the heli to pick us up an amazing sun halo appeared. Jordan ran out for one last photo-op before we jumped back in the helicopter for our ride back to Queenstown.
We had a great afternoon exploring the mountains at The Remarkables and getting a chance to be in a helicopter again (and for Jordan his first) was a real treat!
If you haven’t tried snowshoeing before you should definitely give it a go and be sure to give the guys at NZ Snowshoe a ring and they’ll take good care of you!