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Off Season: Kiwi Ski

Destinations, June 1997

Off Season: Kiwi Ski

Where else can you get snow and cheap digs in June?
By Eric Blehm

It starts so innocently. As the mechanic at your bike shop finishes tweaking your crash-mangled GripShift, you limp over to the thin selection of biking videos. Not Retread, again. Then, you glimpse it: the last copy of Powder Grrls, a heartbreaking documentary about how much fun it is to be young, female, on a snowboard, and at Big Bear. You rent it. You rewind it — repeatedly. And afterward, blazing summer sun notwithstanding, you have to schuss.

Sadly, your stateside options are sorely limited: Only Timberline Lodge at Oregon's Mount Hood stays open through Labor Day — and even it maintains only one, usually slushy, run. Argentina and Chile, with their upside-down Southern Hemisphere seasons, are better bets, their ski resorts open and snow-packed — but also jammed with American ski racers, globe-trotting socialites, and assorted wannabes. Where can a modestly paid, devout, and deprived powder lover go in June? Think Kiwi. New Zealand's ski fields — they're not called resorts — are less pricey than elsewhere south of the equator and are blessed with light, dry powder, despite their relatively low altitude.

Base your Kiwi sojourn in Queenstown, since few ski fields offer on-site lodging. From downtown, you can catch a shuttle to The Remarkables, 15 miles southeast of town ($36; 011-64-3-442-4615), remarkable mainly for the variety of terrain it packs into a compact area. Though the vertical is only 1,030 feet, there's a nice smattering of runs that will humble the cockiest of cliff-jumpers.

For those who require even more excitement, heli-skiing in backcountry bowls is readily available, at about one-third of the cost in the States. Southern Lakes Heli Ski (011-64-3-442-6222) and Harris Mountain Heli Ski (011-64-3-443-6722) offer introductory full-day packages for as low as $425.

Flying to New Zealand, on the other hand, can thin your wallet considerably. Air New Zealand (800-262-1234) often offers cut-rate fares during June and July, skiing's low season here. But if such tickets aren't available, ease the pain with cheap accommodations in Queenstown. The Wakatipu Lodge (011-64-3-442-8413) has dorm-style rooms for $12 per person, while the Queenstown Lodge (011-64-3-442-7107) offers a private bath and a view of Lake Wakatipu for $33 per room.

Filed To: Snow Sports
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