Coronet Peak, the granddaddy of New Zealand's ski industry, this year unveils a new, more spacious beginners' area alongside its main base building.
Fifty new carpark spaces have been added to car park 1, a short walk from the base building, along with a new pedestrian walkway. There's also a new, bigger rental area, which now features the latest performance skis from Head, Rossignol, Volkl and other leading brands. Coronet Peak opens on June 11.
Over at The Remarkables skifield, you'll find another 45.5ha of lift-accessed skiable terrain, while car park 4 has been moved below the existing Homeward pick-up on the access road, so you can ski straight back to your car on the last run of the day. This has added a further 150 parks, making a total of 940.
A further 5.5km of the access road has been sealed, taking it up to 9.5km of smooth road.
Further tweaks have been made to last year's new base building, including more staff in Guest Services and 20 picnic tables added around the three decks.
There's also an expanded beginners' slope at The Remarks, and 80 per cent of the rental ski stock has been replaced this season.
Finally, Cardrona is also offering more for first-timers, with a new beginners' trail, called A Real Journey, and the country's first see-through conveyor lift tunnel, the Sun Kids Gallery. This will sit on top of the existing learners' slope conveyor and protect skiers and snowboarders from the weather.
A Real Journey will be the longest beginner run in New Zealand, at 3.2km long.
This year the skifield also introduces a new cafe, Little Meg, at the base of the Valley View Quad chairlift; a couple of new car parks; a wider access road; several new safety barriers and several environmental upgrades.
Further information: See nzski.com.
NEW WATERING HOLES
The 1920s prohibition era is the inspiration behind the cleverly branded Brecon Street Merchant. You can choose from a Growler of beer (a couple of litres' worth to be shared with your mates); have a gin rickey with the bar's batch-made tonics, created with seasonal fruit or herbs from the Gin Garden upstairs; or choose a Twenty's Tipple cocktail such as a Sidecar or Negroni.
With a Blind Pig menu featuring snacks including Tater Tots ("Never Too Much Totty") and toasted peanut butter and jelly sandwiches ("PB&J Slab"), and live music, Brecon Street Merchant sounds like our idea of hipster heaven.
At the similarly cleverly branded Smiths Craft Beer House you can enjoy a Louisiana Po' Boy sandwich with your selection from its 18 rotating taps. There's a hearty menu featuring the likes of venison pies and lamb stew, and a share menu.
New in Arrowtown is Agave, owned by the same people as the excellent Saffron and Blue Door, and Slow Cuts, which has the same owners as Travel favourite La Rambla.
Queenstown has a few new eateries too: Spanish tapas restaurant Toro in Queenstown Mall, Little Blackwood at Steamer Wharf and Erik's Fish 'n' Chips on the lakefront, where you can even order a deep-fried kiwifruit.
Everyone's talking about the upgrade to the runway at Queenstown's unique airport, which was recently named one of the top three most scenic in the world by PrivateFly, a private jet charter service.
The widening and resurfacing of the runway, along with new lighting means airlines will be able to fly into the resort town after dark for the first time. Air New Zealand is commencing evening flights Auckland-Queenstown May 23, more than a month early. Services will operate from 7am to 9.30pm daily, meaning that you can now leave Auckland late on a Friday return first thing on a Monday — great news for skiers. Jetstar is following with Melbourne-Queenstown flights from June 24.
The desperate need for more hotel beds is being addressed in the resort town, with several new builds completed or in the works.
The town's first new hotel in five years, Ramada Hotel and Suites Remarkables Park Queenstown, will be open in time for this year's Winter Festival in late June.
The hotel, located in a new extensions of Remarkables Park Town Centre, has a total of 72 beds and boasts views of the area's famous mountains.
In early June, luxury boutique hotel Hulbert House opens on Ballarat St in town, a restored Victorian villa dating from the late-1800s.
Under construction are extensions to Eichardt's Private Hotel on the lakefront and QT Queenstown, scheduled to open at the end of the year on the two rear blocks on the Rydges Lakeland Resort site.
Jucy has also announced plans for a Jucy Snooze five-storey 256-bed hotel for the CBD, due to open next October, which will feature a mixture of pod and family rooms.
Lake views from luxury lodge
was lucky enough to have a quick look around one of New Zealand's most luxurious lodges this autumn.
is the third of US billionaire Julian Robertson's New Zealand properties (the other two are Kauri Cliffs and The Farm at Cape Kidnappers), which he bought in 2010. Matakauri is the only one not built from scratch, so was closed for a year while its 12 suites underwent extensive renovations. A luxurious four-suite owner's cottage was added for $5 million.
The lodge is just a few minutes' drive from Queenstown off the spectacular road to Glenorchy. Majestic Cecil Peak looms opposite, and many of the rooms are designed to make the most of the lake outlook.
The vintage steamship the TSS Earnslaw and the Spirit of Queenstown catamaran, frequently cruise by, dwarfed by the mammoth mountain.
This chic, modern lodge may be the height of luxury but it is cosy and comfortable. You can't help but admire the attention to detail: the straw hats on a hook by the door of the extra-luxurious owner's cottage, homemade baking in jars in the kitchens, cosy blankets everywhere, sumptuous coffee-table books, fresh flowers, world class art. The outdoor heated pool — again, facing Cecil Peak — has been designed so its shades of blue mirror the different tones found in Lake Wakatipu.
• Matakauri Lodge is offering a stay four, pay three deal until September. The offer includes pre-dinner drinks, canapes, gourmet dinner each evening, full breakfast each morning, and complimentary non-alcoholic minibar, and use of all lodge facilities (excluding spa treatments).
Getting there: Jetstar flies direct from Auckland to Queenstown.
Further information: See queenstownnz.co.nz.