Winter Games off-mountain events underway

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New Zealand’s biggest snow sports event has kicked off in Queenstown - and there’s plenty of off-mountain action too.

Not only are some of the world’s best skiers and snowboarders in the Southern Lakes to compete in a snow and ice extravaganza over the next couple of weeks, but a full schedule of music, arts, film and comedy has kicked off (see below for the latest). 

However, the arrival today (Sunday) of a wintry blast has prompted cancellation of the cross country sprint awards ceremony that was scheduled for 6pm in Arrowtown. That will now be held on Tuesday afternoon following freestyle racing at Snow Farm.

The second biennial event incorporates freeskiing, snowboarding, alpine ski racing, cross-country skiing, skier- and snowboarder-cross, plus biathlon, curling, ice hockey, winter triathlon, figure skating and adaptive events – it’s held predominantly in Queenstown and Wanaka but also in Dunedin, Naseby and Methven.

At the opening media conference on Friday, MC and snowboarder Nick Hyne says one of the best things about this year’s Winter Games is that it’s dual-sanctioning for skiing and snowboarding – meaning athletes compete for valuable FIS and TTR points towards world rankings and the Winter Olympics.

Hyne, a well-known Queenstown rider who’s competing in the slopestyle event on Sunday, adds: “It’s pretty amazing to be seeing this all happening in our backyard.”

Destination Queenstown boss Tony Everitt says Winter Games is a significant event that helps turn the attention on New Zealand and the Southern Lakes.

“We believe Queenstown is a fantastic location for this event. We have a great range of skiing and snowboarding facilities for winter sports, we have the fastest growing airport in Australasia-Pacific and we have the second-largest stock of commercial accommodation in NZ after Auckland.”

The Winter Games – which also packs a hefty line-up of downtown activities – officially opened on Friday with the downtown invitational rail jam in Earnslaw Park. This weekend’s events snow sports events are cross-country skiing at Snow Farm.

Winter Games – upcoming off-mountain events:

TODAY (Sunday): Wine Down wine tasting, talking and buying – 80 wines from 15 producers plus food from 1pm-7pm at Queenstown Resort College downtown ($25 includes 20 tastes)

TONIGHT (Sunday): Musical ‘London Calling – from Beatles to punk, this celebration of pop music that changed the world starts at 8pm at the Arrowtown Hall ($35)