Aerial View of the Southern Alps of New Zealand

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On a recent short trip to the South Island of New Zealand we were fortunate enough to fly out of pretty Queenstown on a glorious, clear, sunny day, scoring a magnificent view of the snow-capped mountains of the Southern Alps all the way up the spine of the South Island.

Image 1 - Queenstown airport from the road to The Remarkables skifield

After a brilliant morning's skiing at The Remarkables we changed clothes, packed the suitcases, and drove down the long, gravel road to Queenstown Airport.

The location of the airport at Queenstown is very special, at the end of the Frankton Arm of Lake Wakatipu. What a fantastic setting!

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In this image, you can see the snow on Ben Lomond above the forested slopes that lead down to Queenstown proper.

The Air New Zealand plane taxied from the tiny terminal to the end of the runway, then took off heading up and over the lake, then made a sharp left.

Image 2 - Lochy River Valley

Here we are heading south towards Kingston and Invercargill and climbing rapidly to gain altitude above the snowy mountains that surround Queenstown.

Our flight plan took us down the Kingston Arm of the stunning Lake Wakatipu.

This picture shows the Lochy River valley, I think.

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A series of banked turns - bringingwows from the passengers with window seats - then brought us up and around and then we headed back towards Queenstown again. Just to say goodbye!

Image 3 - Lake Wakatipu

Banking and climbing, I have an incredible view from my window seat of the climb out of Queenstown.

This is an airport that, as you might imagine, offers quite a few challenges with the mountains all around. Much easier on a clear day like this, no doubt. Quite a bit of our flight time to Auckland is taken up by the ascent.

As we turn northwards we again see the arm of magnificent Lake Wakatipu. Behind and above the lake is The Remarkables mountain range.

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Image 4 - The Remarkables

Its a classic tourist picture for anyone who visits Queenstown - The Remarkables range.

Here is an image of that iconic range from an altitude of 5,000m or more.

The key summit in the range is called Double Cone, just left of centre in this picture.

A line of small unmoving clouds form a smoky necklace at the front of the range.

If you look carefully, at the left of the range, you can just make out where the skifield rests within a series of bowls. Those bowls can offer good protection from the winds.

Image 5 - The Remarkables Skifield

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It has been a great early season at The Remarkables skifield for skiing and riding. These pictures were taken a few weeks ago, in early July.

The skifield itself sits at a high altitude - the base area and car park is at 1600m. This means there is typically snow well into October at The Remarkables.

Looking at images 4 and 5 you get a good idea of where you're skiing, compared to what you're looking at apres-ski from your accommodation in Queenstown.

The access road winds up the mountain range but becomes quite straight as it gets closer to the base station. You can see it in the centre of this picture along with the car parks and base area. Try and make out the lift lines.

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If you can make out the car park you can see one bowl to the northwest - Sugar Bowl; and one to the east - Shadow Basin. Both of these offer a great range of skiing and riding options.

North of Shadow Basin you can make out an icy Lake Alta; and to the south the bowl that makes up the Homeward Runs.

Image 6 - Cardrona Valley

From The Remarkables, we then fly over Coronet Peak skifield and the lovely historic Arrowtown and then rise high above the Crown Range.

From my window I spy the Cardrona Valley and the Cardrona skifield. We'd been skiing here a few days before in great conditions.

The road winding through the valley links bustling and cosmopolitan Queenstown to the beautiful, adventure town of Wanaka. Its about an hour and a bit's drive between the two towns, and what an incredible drive it is when there is so much snow around.

Image 7 - Wanaka
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As we fly over Treble Cone skifield and Lake Wanaka I get a good view of the township. Zooming in you can see how the lake dominates.

We had been staying here for our whole trip, in a cosy cottage beneath Mt Iron, a sizable hill with good walking tracks just outside the township.

Wanaka is one of my favourite places to be just about anywhere ... lets hope we can return very soon!

Image 8 - Lake Tekapo

As we continue to fly NNE up the South Island, I am riveted to the views parading like a movie outside the window, a snowy panorama from up high.

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Next I can make out the Ben Ohau range, but not the Ohau skifield that sits tucked in on the side facing away from me.

That means we're crossing the Mackenzie District and those great two azure-blue lakes come into view from on high.

First Lake Pukaki, then Lake Tekapo comes into view.

Lake Tekapo is towards the top of this picture, with the alpine village on its eastern tip (try and make out the little wooded areas surrounding the town).

The range beyond is the Two Thumb Range, with Mount Dobson skifield visible centre right and Roundhill further left.

Image 9 - Mt Cook

As we continue northwards, Mt Cook (New Zealand's highest mountain) comes into view.

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I can make out the glaciers bottom left - don't they look incredible.

This means we must be over the ocean now and I'm looking east across the Southern Alps and can even make out the Pacific Ocean.

As we continue up the coast I can see the ranges around Mt Hutt, and later we spot the mountains around the Nelson Lakes, home to Rainbow skifield.

Thats a lot of skifields spied from one 30-minute plane trip! But what a brilliant range of mountains in this very special place.

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