As I slip, slide, and twist my way around town today it feels like I am taking part in some sort of winter obstacle course. Swerve to avoid a snow dune here, skid on your tires across the ice there, wind your way around the slow moving salt truck and then dodge the flying chunk of frozen snow that just dislodged itself from the roof of the car in front of you. Ugh. It reminds me of a much more fun (and much less dangerous) drive that I made on my honeymoon, full of twists and turns that were meant to be there in sunny, sweet Queenstown, New Zealand.
Long before arriving in Queenstown, we knew that we wanted to ride the Skyline Gondola to see the views of the town and surrounding mountains. The skyline complex has a lot more to offer besides the gondola rides, including a restaurant, some shops, biking trails, walking paths, stargazing tours, Maori cultural presentations, and last but not least, the luge. When we were queuing at the bottom of the gondola to purchase our tickets we noticed that the luge rides could be matched up with the gondola tickets to make a package deal of sorts. For NZ$48 per person, we were able to get a round trip gondola ticket in addition to three luge rides each. After noticing that there were two tracks we thought this would work out well- one ride on each track with the final ride a redo of the favorite track!
Once we got to the start of the luge, we were outfitted with helmets that were cleverly color coded by size. Red ones were small, blue ones were medium, green ones were large… it made the gearing up process very quick and smooth. Then we grabbed a locker for our loose articles before heading for the starting line, which was accessed by a small chairlift. We told the staff member there that it was our first ride and he directed us to the blue track, the gentler of the two. It was slightly shorter, less steep, and more scenic, with fewer and less sharp turns, so everyone has to begin their day on that track. We got a quick tutorial on how to work the carts from a friendly, enthusiastic staff member. The system is pretty simple. Keep both hands on the handle bars to steer, push them forward gently to “hit the gas”, pull back on them to brake. There is a long, flat stretch before the official starting line where the staff member led us in a little “Simon says” style road test to make sure we could handle the carts, and after obeying his directives to show him that we could stop, start, and turn he gave us a stamp on our hand to show the rest of the staff that we were cleared to drive.
The blue track was very fun, perfect for a first time rider. It was possible to get yourself going pretty fast if you wanted to, otherwise you could make it a more relaxing journey. I chose the latter, for a few reasons. I wanted to make sure I really knew how to handle the cart before I tried the red track, which had way more turns. I was also really enjoying the gorgeous views. Just around every bend was a grand vista, of woods or plants or the mountains or the water or the town down below. And I definitely didn’t want to hit the children! Kids between 110cm and 135cm who wanted to ride alone were not allowed on the red track. Kids under age 6 and under 110cm could ride in tandem with an adult- but no tandem riders allowed on the red track. This made the blue track way more crowded and meant there were some very slow riders.
In contrast, the red track was all about speed! There were some banked turns and two very steep little drops- I believe my cart was airborne at one point! I’m glad I had the chance to enjoy the view on the blue track because the red track was a big blur of color and noise. Of course, you could slow down on this track too if you wanted, the carts are designed so that everyone can feel safe and comfortable, but after seeing those turns and drops you just want to make the most of them. There was no question that our third and final ride would be a repeat of the red track. My husband gave me a head start this time, but he still won in the end!
Apparently the Skyline Luge is a large company, with two tracks in New Zealand, two in Canada, and one in Singapore. To learn about the Queenstown location, visit the Skyline website. In hindsight, we wish we had purchase a ticket with six or seven rides rather than just three as it was such a fun experience. Twisting and turning down that luge track beats slipping and sliding on the snow any day!