Big man on the mountain, Freeride World Tour vice champion, Sam Smoothy has been spent every weekend and holiday at Wanaka since he was born and has been based in the mountain town full time since 2004.

He is considered a local Wanaka character who goes hard or goes home with extreme talent on the planks and a take no prisoners approach to living life.

“I realized pretty early on how special Wanaka was” says Smoothy on the phone from Sri Lanka where he has been soaking up the sun and surf after a successful northern winter. “After travelling fairly extensively I stand by that Wanaka ticks all the boxes I have for a place to call home.”

Why Wanaka?

I love to ‘activitize’ and Wanaka is such a great place for this. A standard day of this for me being a morning ski, afternoon rock climb and then a quiet game of disc golf, all in a beautiful setting.

Best place for coffee

Not much of a caffeine fiend so my spot is based on location but Kai Whaka Pai is a sweet place for a cuppa.

Best place for breakfast

My place!! With French toast grilled bananas and bacon looking out over town at Treble Cone. Though I am very partial to the cheese scones hot out of the Federal Diner oven.

Federal Diner cheese scones
Federal Diner cheese scones

Special occasion dinner spot

Bistro Gentile on Golf Course Road has some pretty swish dishes and a stellar in house wine buff in Courtney.

Best place for apres

Water bar is a sweet spot for a pint of the frothy stuff with the classic Wanaka view but best après for me is DIY at the Mt Aspiring lookout on the east end of Glendu bay. A quick dip in the lake there is hard to beat post spring ski though somewhat nippy.

Smoothy 'activitizing' in Wanaka
Smoothy ‘activitizing’ in Wanaka

Favourite event on or off the mountain

Closing day at Treble Cone. Hands down the funniest, silliest day of the season with fancy dress, tussock skiing, spring beer drinking and a whole lot of shenanigans.

I carted a wood fired pizza oven up last year and in full retro regalia lead a party through the day and deep into the night. Just good times. Think we need a band this year…

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

There’s quite a few and I need to keep some secret for the future but one that gets overlooked is the Clutha River outlet walk track. I love riding my bike down the side of the river in autumn with the amazing colours an their reflections in the water.

Secret powder stash

The Motatapu Chutes in treble cone have plenty of hidden gems to weasel out on a powder day as do the Alta chutes at The Remarkables. Both require hiking though and a head screwed on right snow safety wise. User be warned.

Where do you ski the most during winter?

I mainly ski Treble Cone as it’s where I grew up, where my crew skis and where I can still catch a few runs with my still far too keen parents.

Favourite Wanaka local character

There’s quite a few eccentric locals but Chris Reilly is one of the classics. Eternal ski bum, part time bus driver, sometime Gandalf impersonator and cultivator of one of Wanaka’s finest non GM crops of upper lip finery.

Chris can be found shredding TC, loudly laughing in Water Bar and generally being an inspiration to us younger ski bum scoundrels that the lifestyle can live on.

What can you get at Wanaka you can’t get anywhere else?

I think the range of activities in a spectacular setting with laid back locals is what sets it apart.

What should you take back with you as a visitor to Wanaka?

Easy. A return ticket.

Want more? Read Action photographer Camilla Stoddart’s Guide to Wanaka

Heading to the snow in Australia or New Zealand this year? Then you need our Insider Guides from Locals in the Snow



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