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Editor's Mailbox April 2009

News from three South Island tourist destinations - 16/04/09

Skippers Canyon Mountain Biking taken to new level

Bronwyn Thomas

In February an established Queenstown adventure company took over operations of the best known mountain bike ride in New Zealand.

Vertigo Bikes is now operating Skippers Canyon Mountain Biking, taking riders of all abilities and ages into one of New Zealand's most scenic and iconic locations.

No fixed age range for riders
No fixed age range for riders

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Accompanied by professional guides with a range of international experience, groups of riders are taken into the canyon, steeped in history from the early Maori settlers through to the gold mining era, for two exhilarating downhill rides on a choice of routes.

Track takes riders through dramatic mountain scenery
Track takes riders through dramatic mountain scenery

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Vertigo Bikes' five professional guides, two of whom accompany each trip, take care to fit clients with a bike customized to their abilities and riding style, and offer them tips to improve technique so they get the very best out of their experience.

New full-suspension bikes are regularly serviced, and every rider is provided with safety equipment such as helmets, pads and gloves as part of the package.

Conference and incentive groups are well catered for by the Vertigo Bikes team, with rides and trips effortlessly tailored to their needs and a number of 'combo' products available in conjunction with other operators.

"We can organise flights in or out of the area, add on food or beverage options or a full range of other activities designed to make it an absolutely stellar and memorable day, "said Vertigo Bikes owner and bike guru Tim Ceci (pronounced Che-Chi).

"If the smiles and the feedback are anything to go by, everyone has an absolute blast."

On the Skippers Canyon ride, each rider gets to do two rides enabling them to 'suss out' the track first time down, then really have some fun on the second ride.

"People really don't have to be experienced mountain bikers. As long as they're reasonably confident on a bike we'll take them out," said Mr Ceci.

"They come back to town raving about the track and our superb guides, smiling from ear to ear."

Ceci and his staff are no strangers to the professional mountain biking circuit. Ceci has won several rounds of the National DH Series in the 'Masters' category and was a member of the 2008 winning 'Brake Burner' winning men's team. He is also a three-time national Heli Bike challenge winner.

Paul Angus is a former pro downhill racer and Scottish national downhill champion, while other guides all have equally impressive New Zealand and overseas track records.

Vertigo Bikes has been operating since 2000 and is known as the heli-bike experts. Their original heli bike trip – a flight above The Remarkables range followed by an 18km off-road ride – featured in the UK 'Top 50 things To Do Before You Die' list.

They also offer the Skyline Gondola Downhill ride which is a 100% purpose-built downhill single track built by the Vertigo boys themselves.

Check out

Lake Tekapo attraction achieves milestone recognition

Jen Andrews

In February 2009 a visitor attraction set in the heart of the South Island's majestic Mackenzie Country has achieved recognition as one of New Zealand's leading tourism businesses.

Lake Tekapo's Alpine Springs/Spa & Winter Park, which officially opened on 25th June 2007, has been endorsed by Qualmark, New Zealand tourism's official mark of quality.

Alpine Springs
Alpine Springs

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The complex has quickly become an essential stop on the country's tourism map, offering visitors year-round relaxation and recreation with hot pools, day spa, café, and an international size outdoor ice rink which provides a stunning setting for skating, ice hockey and curling.

Ice skating rink
Ice skating rink

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Owner Karl Burtscher is delighted to have achieved the prestigious Qualmark endorsement.

"Qualmark represents quality assurance for local and international visitors alike. It's very important for people to know they're spending their time and money on an activity that's been rigorously tested and meets New Zealand-approved tourism standards.

"I'm looking forward to providing visitors with even more variety this June when we launch our new Snow Park. We're going to have a state-of-the-art 80m long by 50m wide snow tubing slope for all to enjoy in natural and man-made snow."

Qualmark Chief Executive Geoff Penrose congratulated Mr Burtscher on achieving endorsement from Qualmark, New Zealand's official mark of quality for tourism.

"Achieving Qualmark accreditation is testament to Alpine Springs' commitment to providing a quality visitor experiences in a number of activities. The operation performed strongly across the range of quality indicators that Qualmark assesses and we welcome them on board as part of New Zealand's group of quality assured tourism products."

Alpine Springs has three hot pools shaped in the configuration of the local glacier lakes, Pukaki, Ohau and Tekapo.

Alpine Springs hot pools Hot pools in snow
Alpine Springs hot pools

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Hot pools in snow

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The pools are fed by underground spring water and are nestled amongst New Zealand natives typical of the local alpine area and terraced to provide majestic views of the surrounding Southern Alps and Lake Tekapo. Pathways from changing rooms to bathing areas are heated for maximum guest comfort.

The boutique day spa oversees the pools and out to Lake Tekapo creating a peaceful haven within the complex. It encompasses four treatment rooms and offers a full range of treatments including massage, hot rock massage, reflexology, facials, body wraps, manicures, and pedicures. The main complex also features a large sauna, steam room and plunge pool.

Mr Burtscher says Alpine Springs/Spa & Winter Park has also been developed with a strong focus on sustainability.

"We've created a wonderful place where visitors can be part of our unique alpine and lake environment while ensuring the best possible use of available energy to provide a sustainable tourism operation that is energy efficient and environmentally aware."

The complex is efficiently powered by the latest refrigeration and heat regeneration technology.

Energy efficiency and sustainability is attained through a high specification refrigeration plant which generates 600 kilowatts of heat energy from an electrical input of just 180 kilowatts as well as sophisticated sand filtering and a Wapotech pool system.

"The ice-making process produces heat which is used to heat the pools," says Mr Burtscher. "We've been careful in all our processes to ensure we make the best use of on site rocks and timber in construction as well as using the best engineering and technology available.

"It's great to be able to offer people of all ages, from independent travellers to school or corporate groups, such a diverse range of activities in one of New Zealand's most beautiful settings."

Lake Wanaka voted in Top 100 World's Greatest Trips

Victoria Murray-Orr

LAKE WANAKA, New Zealand (January 26, 2009) – Lake Wanaka is listed as one of the world's top destinations in the 2009 edition of Travel + Leisure's 100 Greatest Trips, an influential coffee table book that is read by tens of thousands of affluent US and European travellers.

Looking across Lake Wanaka to the mountains
Photo: Peter Hunt

Lake Wanaka

The latest edition features a double page spread on one of Lake Wanaka's pre-eminent luxury lodges, Whare Kea, and is widely viewed as the 'bible' of where to go by discerning travellers around the world and serves as valuable, inspirational and practical research material for those considering a holiday down under.

Whare Kea's private alpine chalet in the Buchanan Range also featured in the November issue of Travel + Leisure magazine as one of the world's best high-altitude hotels.

For further information on Lake Wanaka, visit

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