When the invitation to our friend’s black tie wedding in the snow arrives, I’m equal-parts excited and intrigued. Once the tickets are booked, it does throw up a few logistical quandaries. Such as, what kind of shoes does one wear with a black tie dress code in sub-zero temps? And, can you hide thermal underwear under a skin-tight silk dress? And, while the girls’ WhatsApp group is flooded with such conundrums in the lead up, I am secretly looking forward to the beauty challenge an arctic holiday will afford me.
Let it be known, I am not a skier. I can count on one hand the days I’ve spent on the slopes. But I DO love a theme (both for holiday dressing and for designing the ultimate beauty bag to go with it). When it comes to most sports, I’m all about the mantra “All The Gear and No Idea”. I figure that if I look the part then no one will notice how challenged I am. So, even though I don’t know if I’ll have time to actually ski, I pack six sets of Uniqlo thermals, P.E Nation ski gear, a pair of Moon Boots AND Timberlands, a deliciously cosy Scanlan Theodore Shearling Coat (available in store only), loads of cashmere knits and two felt hats. Not to mention a couple of Rachel Gilbert black tie options for the wedding. And naturally, I have amassed the most hydrating, sun-protecting, après-cute beauty ritual possible.
Hydration is always high on the agenda when traveling, particularly to the snow, so it was perfect timing that La Prairie currently have the Art of Luxury Pop Up at Sydney Airport where you can have facials, hand massages and eye treatments before your flight. After booking online a few weeks out, I front up on the day ready to bliss out before my flight. My therapist, Angel (who, I discover, really is one) whisks me into my private treatment room and settles me into a cushy bed. She does a double cleanse then applies a mask and does a beautiful massage before using chilled ‘dermaglobes’ to do a cooling, firming treatment around my eyes. Then she applies a generous layer of the La Prairie Skin Caviar Luxe Sleep Mask to my skin so that it’s ready to deal with the onslaught of dry cabin-air. Not only do I feel so much more relaxed during the flight, by the time I land in Queenstown I notice my skin doesn’t have the crepey, parched feeling I usually get. Angel also gave me samples of the Sleep Mask and Caviar Creme to bolster my travel beauty bag. Winning!
For the first couple of days we have booked to stay at The Spire Hotel, which is a lovely boutique hotel right in the centre of town. It’s really convenient to be in the village in Queenstown – particularly if you’re with friends and you want to work your way through the fabulous bars and restaurants. Not only are we hanging out with friends every night due to the wedding, we are also kid-free for a few days, so socialising is high on the agenda.
We arrive late on the first night but the ambience in our room at The Spire is toasty and welcoming. A fire is roaring and classical music is playing. I’m immediately struck by how spacious the room is. It’s wide and there are glass doors opening out onto a generous balcony with views over the little laneway, and up to the snow-capped mountains. Positioned in prime position in front of the fire and TV is a comfy chaise longue and a classic Eames Chair and footrest. It’s the perfect place to while away the hours, Pinot in hand.
I run a bath and add a good lick of Elemis Travel Skin Nourishing Milk Bath – it’s a good one when you want to protect your skin from drying out. Before I left Sydney I did a couple of coats of Sun Escape Instant Self Tan Mousse, so to prevent the bath being my tan’s worst enemy I need to deploy the moisture.
To prep my skin for tomorrow’s onslaught of chill, I peel back the little single use Minenssey Hydrating Clay Mask and pop a few drops of the Hydrating Absolute Flannel Flower in there, before mixing it up and painting it on with the included brush. I lie back in the bath and let it infuse. As tempting as it is to make the bath scalding hot, it’s the fastest track to dehydration, so I go easy on the temperature and keep the soak to under ten minutes.
Once out I slather on Kiehl’s Crème De Corps (they make a travel size, too) – and then pop my PJs on, followed by Weleda Skin Food Moisturiser for my face. It’s super thick and the fragrance is herbaceous and delicious. I apply hand cream – for this trip I’ve packed Officine Universelle Buly Pommade Concrète Hand and Foot Cream (my new favourite – it’s SO quenching) and I even remember to put a top coat of nail polish and cuticle oil on – I’ve got the new nail care products from Kester Black so I’m keen to put them to task. The Self Love Oil has jojoba and avocado oil so it does wonders for winter-ravaged cuticles, while the top Super Sonic Topcoat actually contains oils and antioxidants while hardening your mani. You’ll definitely get an extra few days out of your manicure with the old top coat and nail oil combo – definitely worth doing when you go to the trouble of getting your nails done.
The next morning we are heading up the mountain for the Huck’s (Hen’s and Buck’s) Party at The Cardrona Pub – it’s snowy and very cold up there so I’m glad I’ve put my prep in. The other important ingredient in the snow is, of course, sunscreen. First I apply a decent layer of Ultra Violette Clean Screen (which contains zinc oxide along with calming green tea, cucumber and rosehip extracts), I give five minutes for it to soak in and then I pop on IT Cosmetics CC Cream, which is also a broad spectrum 50+ with both zinc oxide and titanium dioxide in it. With the combination of sun glaring off reflective snow and the harsh winds, a double layer of protection means I’m leaving nothing to chance. For lips? I love Moo Goo Natural Lip Balm SPF 15. I also pack my Aspect Gold Envirostat On The Go 50+ sunscreen because it comes with a carabiner clip that you can clip to your ski jacket. Perfect for skiing.
The final touch? A pair of oversized sunnies. This season I’m into round frames like the Tom Ford Juliet from Vision Direct – I love that they’re partnering with WWF Australia to create upcycled sunglasses and protect sealife on the Great Barrier Reef.
Before I left Sydney I booked in for a set of lash extensions – again – as if I was planning on skiing I didn’t want to worry about applying mascara and risking panda eyes on the mountain. Love Those Lashes did a stellar job, as usual, and I barely have to do anything to my eyes. I apply a quick bit of brow powder and some pink cheek cream, which is a pretty look for après – to give you that fresh-off-the-mountain glow. I really like the new Mecca Hydra Cheek Tint and Illuminating Balm Duo, which is a nifty fresh cheek cream on one side and luminiser on the other. I pop it in my handbag for later as I can also use the cheek shade on my lips and it’s hydrating too – again, great for drying climes.
The Cardrona is boisterous and fun, with much of the day spent huddling around the outdoor fireplace. By the time I get home my cheeks are stinging from the cold and wind. To calm everything down I apply the Peter Thomas Roth Cucumber Gel Mask from the Jet, Set, Facial! Skincare Kit and kick back by the fire with my kindle before dinner. Tonight we’re booked into the hotel’s restaurant No 5 Church Lane, which has a really interesting menu.
After tending to my face – this time skipping the foundation to let my skin rest, and just smoking up my eyes a bit with my new favourite Revolution Re-Loaded Palette in Velvet Rose, which is such an awesome mix of shades and it’s literally $8 from Priceline. I throw on a Scanlan knit jumper, leather pants and some boots and we head down to the bar for a cocktail. Damien goes for the something zesty with cider in it while I go for a Pisco Sour, as we watch the restaurant fill with revelers.
After some sound advice from our waiter we go for a selection of small dishes and sides. In fact all the dishes come in either a small or large size, which being ever-curious and a little prone to food-FOMO, is perfect for me. While the Tagliatelle with Goats Cheese and Brussel Sprouts are delicious, the true standout is definitely the Southern Fried Banana Blossom with Sriracha Glaze and Ranch Dressing. I literally can’t believe it’s not chicken – in that same way that jackfruit can sometimes trick you into thinking it’s meat. I pair it with a glass of Veuve Clicquot Rosé to celebrate Clicquot In The Snow which has just started in Queenstown (there are specials on the champagne all through town). Thank goodness we have left room for desert – the Chocolate Ganache has a delicious pinot filling, which oozes satisfyingly and rounds out the meal perfectly.
Back in the cosy confines of the room, I take my makeup off with my mini bottle of Bioderma Micellar Water that I take everywhere with me, then rinse my skin with cool water, before going through the same hydrating ritual as the night before. Tomorrow is the wedding and we move to new accommodation so before bed I do another full body coat of Kiehl’s Crème De Corps to keep the tan going strong and then it’s off to bed for some beauty sleep before the madness begins.
The next morning, after a delicious brekkie in bed, we’re pretty sad to be checking out of our little haven in Queenstown. The Spire has been welcoming and lovely in every way. The staff remember your name and go that extra mile to make you feel at home, which is the reason I usually try to book boutique hotels when I travel. That personal touch is so important when you’re far from home. Fantastic food, prime position and a roaring fireplace doesn’t hurt, either.