Queenstown Winter Festival in for major changes

(American Express Queesntown Winterfestival)
(American Express Queesntown Winterfestival)

Festivities only wound up on Sunday night at Queenstown's Winter Festival, but organisers have already announced a major shakeup for the event in 2017.

The long-running 10-day festival format will be crammed into just four "action-packed days" which Destination Queenstown believes will suit visitors, sponsors, and the media better.

"Our primary objective is to announce the start of the Queenstown winter season through this celebration", says DQ chief executive Graham Budd.

"We believe we can achieve all of the objectives for visitors and locals across four days and it will make community participation easier and more focused."

He says it can be challenging for sponsors to commit "on the ground" for the full 10 days.

But festival director Lisa Buckingham says the planned changes are no reflection on the success of this year's event.

"The Festival has evolved over its 42-year run", says Ms Buckingham. "In 2017 the biggest changes yet will ensure that the Festival will continue to be the southern hemisphere's biggest celebration of winter for decades to come."

(American Express Queenstown Winterfestival)

An estimated 45,000 residents and visitors took part in more than 60 events over the 2016 festival, which included a mix of old favourites along with some new events.

A lack of snow forced many of the mountain events including the Dog Derby, Suitcase Race, and Mountain Bikes on Snow to be moved from Coronet Peak ski field to the higher Remarkables Ski Area. However the last minute changes still resulted in record numbers at some of the events. The video shows highlights of the events which took place. 

"When you are working with so many events under one umbrella and then throw in weather conditions and outdoor venues you need a great team, supportive partners and most of all a sense of humour," says Ms Buckingham.

However there are no plans to change the timing of the festival, which is timed to run about a fortnight after the start of the ski season, and before the busy winter school holiday season.

An advisory group is now looking at the 2017 schedule, which is expected to retain key favourites while injecting some new events into the tighter 4-day schedule.  An online survey is also seeking feedback from festival visitors and participants, as well as the local Queenstown community and businesses.