On Top of the World Down Under
A third of New Zealand’s most dazzling national park consists of permanent snow and ice. It boasts seventy-two named glaciers and twenty-seven mountain peaks that top 10,000 feet, including Mount Cook, which stands head and shoulders above its neighbors. It’s not quite what one expects to find in the South Pacific, on the same island that gives us groves of palm trees and hibiscus plants.
This is the place to splurge on unforgettable flightseeing in, around, and through the Southern Alps. Flights include a snow landing on the 19-mile-long Tasman Glacier, the longest river of ice outside the Himalayas; in the deep silence of the roof-of-the-world panorama, you can occasionally hear the rumble from within as the glacier shifts ever so slightly.
Skiing is the other activity of choice in this entirely alpine park, with heli-skiing, an exhilarating 8-mile-long glacier run (the southern hemisphere’s longest ski run), and downhill ski touring available. A number of guided and unguided walks take anywhere from thirty minutes to three days for the well-known Copland Track.
New Zealander Sir Edmund Hillary used this high-altitude park to train before his record-setting ascent of Mount Everest. The Hermitage, one of the world’s best-sited hotels, offers this magnificent scenery from most of its picture windows.