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Queenstown warms up for Winter Festival
Wednesday 2 May 2012, 1:34PM
By Tourism New Zealand


Queenstown Winter Festival
22 June - 2 July 2012

One of the best times of year to visit Queenstown, appreciate the landscape and experience the resort town’s electric atmosphere is during the American Express Queenstown Winter Festival at the end of June.

Dubbed the Southern Hemisphere’s biggest winter party, the multi award-winning festival (22 June - 1 July 2012) is an event highlight that attracts an estimated 45,000 people to celebrate the official start of the resort’s winter season.

The festival sports a reputation for being fun, outrageous and a must for locals and visitors alike. Major Australian website Yahoo!7Travel ranked the Queenstown Winter Festival amongst the world’s top 10 ‘must-see’ festivals, above other famous events like New Orleans Jazz Festival, Pamplona’s Running of the Bulls, Oktoberfest, and the Sydney and Melbourne festivals.

Winter fun
Winter Festival started in 1975 when a group of locals decided the start of winter would be the perfect excuse for a party so they organised some mountain races, a couple of concerts and a ball, and the whole thing snowballed from there.

Fast forward 38 years and the festival has grown into a much-loved celebration which heralds the start of winter and launches the region’s ski season in style. Tens of thousands of locals and visitors take to the streets and ski slopes each year for 10 days of non-stop fun with on-mountain action, street parties, fireworks, live concerts, comedy, free family fun, and a great mix of internationally acclaimed performers and home-grown acts.

Winter Festival Director Simon Green believes the secret to the festival’s success is due to the fact that it remains true to its roots.

"It’s run by the people, for the people and is all about celebrating what we are and where we are. For locals it’s a great chance to get together and celebrate winter living and for visitors it’s a great time to come because town is absolutely buzzing, the ski fields are open and there’s a real party atmosphere."

To ensure the festival is accessible to all there’s a strong focus on including a range of free events each year. In 2012 out of the total 60 Winter Festival events, 40 will be free to attend.

2012 festival programme
The festival traditionally opens with a bang and thousands of people are expected to congregate along the lakefront in downtown Queenstown for the spectacular opening party and fireworks display.

Festival fun and festivities will continue throughout the week and into the final weekend with ‘mountain mayhem’ on the slopes of Coronet Peak, the wacky birdman competition where people create amazing costumes and attempt to fly across the freezing waters of Lake Wakatipu, the iconic dog derby, ice hockey, charity boxing, night skiing, cyclocross and slopestyle.

New international events this year include the New Zealand movie premiere of Ice Age 4: Continental Drift, and a rare performance from New Zealand's best known comics - Flight of the Conchords' Oscar winning Bret McKenzie and co-star Jermaine Clement.

New Zealand’s famed vintage steam train the Kingston Flyer is stoking up for the first ever steam-powered party. Passengers will enjoy mulled wine and roasted chestnuts, live entertainment, toasty warm carriages, competitions and a train journey across an iconic winter landscape.

Following a successful debut last year, the ice rink on the Village Green will again provide a magical downtown hub and offer public skating sessions throughout the festival.

The festival finishes on Sunday 1 July with the spectacular Mardi Gras, a big street party that celebrates the diversity of Queenstown’s community. The full festival programme is available online at

A serious earner
The festival is a big earner for the Queenstown region - an economic impact and sustainability report commissioned after the 2010 event confirmed 30,000 visitors spent an estimated NZ$50 million during the 10-day event.

The report also showed that most international visitors are from Australia - many coming to the festival as part of their trans-Tasman skiing holidays.

Background: Queenstown

With mountain peaks as far as the eye can see, shimmering lakes, and crisp alpine air, Queenstown offers an inspiring holiday destination with a vast mix of action and relaxation - a bucket list of opportunities from year-round high-octane thrills such as bungy jumping, jet boating, skydiving, canyon swinging, paragliding and four-wheel-drive adventures to a more relaxed pace with world-class golf courses, scenic walking and biking trails, award-winning Central Otago wineries, luxury spas, boutique shopping and galleries.

When it comes to eating out and the après-ski scene, Queenstown packs a huge bite. Innovative and award-winning cafés and restaurants offer cuisine for every palate, from the discerning connoisseur to groups out for a fun, relaxed meal. Nightlife is busy and vibrant with an eclectic mix of stylish bars and sophisticated clubs, Kiwi pubs and late night hot spots.

When the snows come, Queenstown transforms into a winter paradise, attracting snow sports enthusiasts from around the world with its stunning alpine scenery, crisp blue-sky days and easy access to some of New Zealand's finest skiing.

Depending on the snow, the region’s ski fields start opening from early June, and a good season runs well into October. Six diverse ski fields are within a 25 - 90 minute drive, and offer a range of terrain suitable for all levels of skiers and snowboarders. Backcountry heli skiing is the ultimate freeriding and freeskiing experience for powderhounds.

More information

Queenstown region

Winter in New Zealand INDEX