About This Festival
Touted as one of the leading mountain resorts of the world with stunning snow-capped mountains, crystal clear lake and crisp blue-sky days, Queenstown is the ideal place to stage a winter festival. The ten-day extravaganza spans two weekends, running from Friday to the following Sunday, to celebrate the start of winter in late June and early July.
Snow bunnies, snow sports aficionados and winter wonderland fans can expect a packed program, with a range of on and off snow wacky events, street parties, music, performances, competitions, charity events, food and fireworks amidst the picturesque New Zealand lake and alpine resort town. From the fireworks that kick off the festival through to the Mountain Mayhem event, the festival caters to all: everyone and anyone looking for some winter fun.
A Winning Winter Wonderland
In 1975, a bunch of locals decided that the start of winter was a great excuse to have a party. With races on the mountains, food and drinks, concerts and a town-wide ball thrown in, the Festival was a great success. News of the fun spread quickly and since then the event has—no pun intended—continued to snowball in its success.
Since then the festival has evolved into New Zealand's (and perhaps the southern Hemisphere's) biggest celebration of winter, with 45,000 festivalgoers flocking to the resort town. The ten-day celebration is filled with over 60 events—enough to appeal to even the most die-hard winter enthusiast.
From Wacky to Wonderful
The Queenstown Winter Festival kicks off with a free party and fireworks that echo around the surrounding mountain peaks and set the tone for the next ten days of winter fun. The focal point is the Festival Pavilion in the center of town, where most of the 60-odd events are held (some free, some requiring tickets).
Events range from uber-competitive to fun and recreational. Festivalgoers can participate in winter sports that extend well beyond skiing and snowboarding, including pro ice hockey matches, mountain bikes on snow, Frisbee golf, drag racing (cross-dressing event), jet boat races and various downhill snow races. A must-see is the wacky Mountain Mayhem event where participants sliding downhill in suitcases (with whacky costumes to boot) to compete for either the racing or Best Dressed division. Not to be outdone, the Festival also has a Dog Derby, where farmers and their dogs slide down the snow—and the animal theme continues with a birdman contest (which invariable ends with competitors landing in the lake).
For those with a less competitive streak, the Queenstown Winter Festival caters to a wide palette of entertainment tastes, including a glittering festival parade and family fun day, jazz nights, concerns, comedy shows, a lakeside Mardi Gras party and a grand ball.
Finally, for those who prefer to chill out rather than dive in—the Queenstown Winter Festival is quite simply, all about having fun in a winter setting. There’s an Arts & Crafts market to indulge in local produce and gifts, or you can simply wander over to the Coronet Peak base building to relax, hang out and sip some hot chocolate or even a glass of mulled wine.
What to Wear?
Winter is a fantastic time to visit Queenstown, with crisp clean air and often clear blue skies with sunshine. The average daily maximum temperature is fairly settled, hovering around seven degrees Celsius (45 degrees Fahrenheit), dropping to approximately 0 degree Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit) in the evening. However, in the mountains the weather can change dramatically in a few moments so it is best to be prepared for all situations. It’s best to dress warm (standard ski wear, including beanie and gloves), although in the spirit of the festival it’s also a great idea to pack your dancing shoes and some sparkly party wear when you’re not on the slopes.