Insider guide to Queenstown: Jase John

Glenorchy

Aussie Jase John owns NZ Shred in downtown Queenstown where he’s lived since 1996 after watching a tv show called ‘Pepsi Extremists’ in a hotel room in Rockhampton and booking a ticket across the ditch.

Ask him what he loves about Queenstown and he’ll answer “what can you find not to like about the place?”

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First things first, best place for coffee?

Personally, I don’t need a 100% perfect coffee, if it comes with a smile and some aspect or inspiration for my day then I’m happy. There is some great coffee in town, and plenty achieve well over a ‘Pass Mark’.

Myself? I frequent a small circle of places. Joe’s Garage – for the Queenstown underground culture feel.

Joe's Garage
Joe’s Garage

Bob’s Weigh – because it’s a great story and wicked to see a local fella make some headway. Vudu & Lada – always good, but more for sit-down, not if you’re in a hurry.

The Post Office Café – because everyone loves the feeling of walking to the counter and the person behind has already placed your order. But, I think the best actual coffee in a cup, is from the guys that roast the beans themselves and that’s Bean Around The World.

Best place for apres?

If, as I mostly do, I’ve spent a day up at Cardrona Alpine Resort, then there’s just nothing compares to a couple of quiets in the beer garden at the historic Cardrona Hotel with the rest of your crew – telling stories of the day and feeding the stone fire or multiple brazziers.

If you’re in Queenstown itself, then a catch-up with Carl at Brazz or Dave and the crew at the Lonestar, is always easy. And, if you want to get away from the crowds and feel like you have your own ‘Local’, then you just can’t go past Atlas Bar at the far end of the Steamer Wharf.

Best place for breakfast?

To be honest, perhaps it’s my hippie parentage or Byron surf days, but I am definitely more of ‘muesli & yoghurt’ sort of guy. The Post Office Café in town or The Boatshed Café on the way to Frankton are my pick for this.

In saying that, I am a bit partial to the Breakfast Burrito at Halo, and depending on your night before, you can always bank on Joe’s Garage to make you feel sort of O.K. with the ski field road trip ahead.

Special occasion dinner spot?

Depending on the company, if in town you can’t go past Chris and his team at Farelli’s for good, honest, consistent food, or if you are really trying to impress, then Rata for that step above. If we were happy to go further afield, then I like Amisfield Winery or Saffron, in Arrowtown.

Michelin chef Josh Emmett's cuisine at Rata
Michelin chef Josh Emmett’s cuisine at Rata
What is your favourite event on or off the mountain during the season?

Winter Festival has always been a highlight for me, simply because the event encompasses ‘something for everyone’. There’s fireworks displays to open, snow events on the hills, street parades, night time parties, comedy nights, an ice rink in the middle of town, for Mum, Dad & the Kids, bands playing for free, food stalls, jetboat sprints, birdman into the freezing lake and even a Stand-Up Paddleboard race.

Where do you take out of town visitors to WOW them?

Just depending on timing really. If you are wanting ‘local’, for an hour or so, then either Sawpit Gully road over the Arrow River, or a drive up to the corner of the Remarkables road (about 4kms up) where the gravel pits is – a great spot to watch the sunset over the mountains, Frankton Arm and the west of the Lake.

With a half or full day, there is not much can bet a trip to GY (Glenorchy). Stopping at Bennetts Bluff is a photo in absolutely any weather. You can hang in town and have coffee and some lunch with “GT” at GYCafe, and then a wander just around the corner, onto the jetty.

Or, for a totally different perspective, you can take the dirt road around and over the Rees & Dart Rivers, to get to the ‘two horse town’ of Kinloch.

Glenorchy
Glenorchy
Secret powder stash or favourite run in the region?

Well, if I gave away too much, then it would no longer be my “secret”. In saying that, the best snow in the region is definitely accessed by heli. All the local operators (Southern Lakes Heliski, Harris Mountains Heli and Alpine Heli) have different terrain and all do a quality experience.

If your budget doesn’t extend that far, there are some wicked short hikes (when conditions and Ski Patrol allow) from all of the local ski fields.

1. A hike up the ridgeline to the west of Captains, at Cardrona is almost always fruitful.

2. The same, to the top of the Saddle Basin at Treble Cone, makes for some wicked backcountry views

3. And you can rarely go past a boot pack up to the Chute or above Homeward Bound at Remarks.

Where do you ski the most during winter and why?

From a shop point of view, we try to get our team spread around all of the mountains. So, I am the “Cardrona/Treble Cone Boy”. I’ve had a Season Pass for Cardrona for the 10+ years, however usually get a dozen days in at the other mountains as well.

“Why Cardrona?” … well, in my opinion, it is set up the best for a broad range of skiing and riding. More often than not, I have folks with me in the truck, so it’s good to have the range of slopes (from the gentle of MacDougalls, the freestyle of Whitestar, or the openness of Captains), facilities (easy parking, great child facilities & multiple eating spaces) and the beginner/intermediate package options offered – make it a perfect place to frequent.

Contrary to many peoples thoughts, it’s less than an hour in the truck, from door to lacing up boots. And besides, Loui “The Snow Pup” prefers the snowballs at Cardrona … and he’s really the one making the call!

Your favourite QT local character and where would we find them?

This town is made up of so many characters, I really don’t know where to start – I will do the book one day – but, I suppose one that springs to mind is Hylty. As the saying goes, “Everyone knows Hylty”.

Jeff is a good, real Kiwi fella, and has been in town for 30-40+ years. I worked for Hylty for years, and ended up buying a business off him. He hunts, he builds, he talks and smiles, but probably the thing he really “does” is skis.

He’s a Coronet Peak stalwart, down to spending several of the last years as an (unpaid) Ambassador up on the hill – taking people around and showing them the virtues of nzski’s “Jewel in the Crown”.

How do you find Hylty? Just ask someone … “Have you seen Hylty today?”, and they’ll say “Yer, I did a few runs with him first thing this morning”, or “I saw his truck drive past with his skis on the roof and a deer on the back, about an hour ago”. He’ll be around … He’s always around.

What can you get at QT you can’t get anywhere else in the world?

To answer cryptically, I think “the combination”. I’m not the most extensive of travellers, but I’ve been a good few places for snow; Canada, the States and I now settle in to annual trips to Japan.

If you’re a gambling person, then for sure there are better ‘snow quality’ destinations around the world, but not many I’ve seen that have the feel of Queenstown, that “Combination”. The snow on the hills (and on our day, we can be world-class), the vibrancy of downtown, the mix of international people and cultures, the stunning scenery on a daily basis and that “I’ll be back” factor. You just never go to Queenstown once!!!

If you had to buy one thing to take back with you as a visitor to QT what would it be?

Is this a trick question Rach. Of course, everyone should get themselves an NZSHRED T-Shirt, Hoodie and Cap … I’ll even give you a free sticker!

Don’t just take  Jase’s word for it, check out our other Insider Guides to Wanaka, Queenstown, Methve, Ohakune, Jindabyne, Mt Beauty and Mansfield as they are updated daily here.

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Rachael Oakes-Ash is the name behind @misssnowitall and the founder of SnowsBest.com. A long time travel and lifestyle journalist and ski writer, she's been published in ESPN, TIME, Wallpaper*, Action Asia, Inside Sport, Australian Financial Review, Emirates Open Skies, Conde Nast Traveler and more. She was the Fairfax snow blogger from 2007 to 2017 and the Southern Hemisphere editor for OnTheSnow. Rachael is also a documentary producer, author, radio announcer and humorist.

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