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Queenstown ski holiday on a budget: cheap as chips bro

Published February 18th, 2016

When considering a ski holiday, but wanting to keep it on the cheap, there is no better choice than Queenstown. Nestled within the mountains of the South Island of New Zealand, this picturesque town boasts some amazing ski fields, the world renowned Fergburger, and the most bars per capita in the whole of New Zealand. What’s not to love?

View from the top of Coronet Peak. Photo: Claude Des Forges

Ski holidays can end up quite the costly expense, but it’s easy to stick to a budget in this destination, if you plan ahead and do your research. Here’s a few tips to abate that feeling of dread when your credit card bill arrives post holiday…

Cheapest time to go

Like the Australian ski fields, the cheapest period to head to the snow is at the end of the season so September is the key time. However, if you are not a pro skier, don’t leave it too late. My brother and I went during the last week of the season, and the snow had already started to get really icy. It was fine for my bro, who seemed to be a bit of a natural, but for me, the novice snowboarder, I kept having images of me swishing off the mountain in some catastrophic Mr Bean style disaster. I even did a few bum slides down the mountain. It was certainly quite embarrassing to be 30 years old and have small children whizz by me, obviously thinking I must have some sort of physical impairment to be that inept. Luckily, being a mature adult, I managed to stop myself yelling out: “you just wait! In twenty years time you will have the same fears as me. I am your future, kids!” Kudos to me for not making myself look like a complete nutcase, as well as an invalid. Aim for early to mid September and you will be sweet as bro.

My brother and I hitting the slopes (me hitting the ground more like it). Photo: Claude Des Forges

Flights

You can get direct flights from most capital cities in Australia, and you have your pick of the bunch, with Air New Zealand, Jetstar and Virgin Australia all offering services. Generally, the services are not daily, so my best advice is to look at booking the departing and returning flights separately. Unlike other international flights, Trans-Tasman flights are not cheaper to book on the one ticket, so have a good geeze at each day individually and you can definitely find yourself a good deal. My brother and I scored some cheap flights with Air New Zealand. I must say, I just loved hearing that New Zealand accent crack into action over the loudspeaker. It was like being in an episode of Flight of the Conchords.

Coronet Peak. Photo: Odette Des Forges

Places to stay

The brilliance of Queenstown is that you can stay in one of the hotels/hostels in town, and the slopes are only a short 20–40 minute shuttle bus ride away, depending on which slopes you visit (the shuttle is approximately $20 for the return journey). There is plenty of accommodation to choose from, ranging from 2 to 5 stars, so there is something to fit most budgets. We stayed at Nomads hostel, and were really impressed with the cleanliness, and the welcoming vibe. For around $25 a night for a 4 bed dorm, it is a great option for the budget conscious traveler.

Queenstown street. Photo: Claude Des Forges

Skiing

The best thing to do is get yourself a 3 day ski pass. It works out to around $80 a day, and will give you access to Coronet Peak and The Remarkables. If you decide you completely suck at skiing and would rather frequent the bars instead, then 3 days will definitely be enough. However, you can also buy single day passes if skiing turns out to be your forte, and you want to extend your ski time.

The Remarkables. Photo: Odette Des Forges

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Dining

Queenstown has some really delicious food establishments, and you won't be short on variety. The best budget option is the famous Fergburger. With an amazing range of vegetarian, seafood and meaty burgers to pick from, the burger-lover will not be disappointed. The line often cascades out onto the street but if you can handle the wait, it’s well worth it.

Line at Fergburger. Photo: Odette Des Forges

An awesome breakfast option is Vudu cafe. The food is simply delightful, and the organic coffee is mouth-watering. It’s the perfect place for your pre-ski meal, which is definitely a good idea considering the food choices at the slopes are pretty rubbish.

If you have a few spare dollars then you must go to The Cow. Hidden away in Cow Lane, this Italian inspired restaurant, housed in a converted cow shed, is a wonderful experience for all the senses. The food is scrumptious, but it's really the ambiance of this small restaurant that leaves you feeling all warm and fuzzy. You will probably have to wait for a table but it’s not a big choir considering you can warm yourself in front of the wood fire and sip on a Monteiths cider in the process.

A really unflattering photo of me enjoying my beer in The Cow. Photo: Claude Des Forges

Drinking

Drinking on the streets is legal between 8am and 10pm in Queenstown so the best budget option is to grab yourself a few beverages from the bottle shop (try the feijoa cider... yum!), rug up in your winter woollies and take a seat on the pebble beach in front of the lake. The view is unbeatable.

Caption Feijoa Cider. Photo: Odette Des Forges

Once the sun fades, a great choice is Bar 1876. The drinks are fantastically cheap, at around $5 a beer, so it is easy to while away the evening under the heat lamps after a hard day’s skiing. I had the good fortune of meeting a cool chick from California in the hostel, who was keen for a drink late at night. Dressed in her PJ's and Ugg boots, she accompanied me to Bar 1876, and we had a fun evening, drinking away until the wee hours of the morning. Dress code is obviously no issue for this bar.

Sunset in Queenstown. Photo: Claude Des Forges

When considering a budget ski holiday, Queenstown is definitely a brilliant choice, so don’t forget our friends across the ditch. I guarantee you will be impressed by all this town has to offer.

Waterfront in Queenstown. Photo: Claude Des Forges

Odette Des Forges

I am a travel nut that is always looking for the next big adventure, and the next cheap cocktail. Once the plane hits the landing strip on a return journey, I’ve already mapped out an upcoming trip in my mind. And in my mind it is miraculously free somehow, which helps as travel makes me chronically broke.