I thought it would be a lot colder and a lot harder.
But at 5pm last Saturday the snow up Coronet Peak down the main trail is surprisingly soft. And if there are any tricky icy patches, they’ve not emerged yet.
The company’s good too – it’s a bit of a United Nations on the four-seater chairlift heading up. There’s an Irishman, a precocious German girl – who every time we get to the top of the run excitedly says “Let’s doooo this!” – and an easy-going young chap from Uruguay.
The beer and conversation flow. The Irishman comes across like someone who has to keep pinching himself to confirm he’s not dreaming and this is his actual life right now.
“If I was able to change anything, I wouldn’t change a thing at the moment,” he says.
Not even, it seems, a chairlift dismount a few runs later when we get in a tangle and he bunny hops awkwardly forward for a few metres before eventually stacking it face first. He just gets up laughing and exclaims: “Did you see that!?”
The trio are all NZSki workers here for a season and enjoying time on the slopes after finishing their respective shifts.
It really is a perfect night for riding and just gets better – we see no reason to stop except for a brief water break. By 7pm I’m warming to the task and the crowd is thinning out as people head home or pitstop at the cafe.
The trails are wide open. By 8pm, there are a few patches of ice but still not many. We head over to Meadows which involves a nice little detour across a thin trail through short patches of complete darkness, which just adds to the special night-riding atmosphere.
There really is nothing like cruising down the mountain, illuminated from top to bottom by lights, and zipping in and out of the shadows.
It’s one of the most charming things to do in Queenstown.