These tips will set you on the right track for having an unforgettable first time on the snow.
So you have decided to take the leap and head up to the mountain, good on you! If you aren’t sure of where to start, don’t worry! These tips will set you on the right track for having an unforgettable first time on the snow.
The snow season in NZ runs from late June through to early October for many areas in the South Island, and Mt Ruapehu's season (located in the middle of the North Island) generally runs from late June through to the end of October.
The first thing to consider when taking a trip to the mountain is the weather. If you live close to the snow try to choose day with minimal wind and blue skies. If there is fresh snow overnight then that’s an added bonus and what is often excitingly referred to as a bluebird day. But to be honest, on the learner slopes you can have fun in pretty much any conditions! If you live further away maybe plan on spending 2 or more days near the resort, to give you more chance of better weather. And if you do catch a bluebird day the view will be breath taking, the snow glistening and the atmosphere lively… You won’t be able to resist coming back for another visit!
You can regularly refer to the snow and weather reports area of our website to keep an eye out on what the snow & weather is doing.
Driving in winter, especially in mountain environments is a little different and some caution, and preparedness is required. We’ve written a separate article on driving in the snow, but in general, here’s a quick checklist of what you need.
Firstly, make sure your car is serviced, has good tyres, and has a full tank of gas. You’ll also definitely need chains, and know how to fit them to keep safe driving on the snow and ice. If all this is too daunting, consider a shuttle, either all the way, or many ski areas offer a lift up the road.
An easy trick to remember is to build your base from the inside out – start with thermals and long johns, a t-shirt, jumper (if you need it) then your waterproof jacket and pants. If you don’t own your own set of snow outerwear, you can always rent snow pants and a jacket from ski areas and rental places for a pretty affordable price, you could also try asking around your circle of friends and borrow ski gear, just make sure that it can withstand 0°C and below temperatures. Also, keep note that you can always take something off but you can’t put another layer on if it starts to get colder, it is easy enough to store extra layers in a locker or in a backpack. Don’t forget about your feet either! One pair of warm merino or fine wool socks should keep your toes toasty.
Once clothing is sorted you can move on to gloves. There are mittens, which are great for kids, or gloves and you’ll often find people wearing either, it all depends on personal preference. Make sure that they are waterproof and breathable and on extra chilly days, use glove inners which are perfect for keeping your hands warm.
Easily overlooked is eyewear. Ski areas and rental places generally won’t rent goggles out due to hygiene reasons. So, it is best to invest in a protective eyewear such as goggles or sunglasses, as protecting your eyes whilst out on the slopes is very important!
Next is your head, beanies are essential to keeping your head warm and we highly recommend wearing a helmet to keep your head protected and to also keep the warmth in. Most places will rent helmets if you don’t own one. Check our list of all the ski hire and ski retail shops in New Zealand.
For your first time to the snow, we recommend buying a beginner package, it’s the best way to quickly build some skills, and have more fun, more quickly! Most ski areas offer these and they usually include a beginner’s area lift pass, equipment rental and a lesson with a qualified ski or snowboard instructor. Check out the guest services area for all of your needs, otherwise, the friendly mountain staff are always happy to help and there will be lots of signs about to let you know where to go.
Once you look the part and have your lift pass sorted, next will be your lesson, an essential when first learning to ski or snowboard. Lessons for beginners will generally start in the lower area of a mountain which most of the time has a magic carpet – a conveyor belt which moves you from the bottom of a gentle slope, to the top. Instructors teach you all the skills required to get you down the mountain safely all whilst having fun.
Expect to spend the first day of so on the more gentle slopes, and if you feel tired, don’t be afraid of taking a break. Most ski areas have warm and comfortable cafes nearby. It will be more fun, and you’ll build skills more quickly when you’re warm, and neither tired nor hungry.
We like to think about the first day simply being about “giving snow a go!”. It can be incredibly challenging and at times frustrating, but also very rewarding, and fun! And for some people they catch the bug and go on to learn how to ski and snowboard. The most important thing to remember, is to have fun! Stop, take photos, make the most of being in the mountains, and if you get tired or cold, take a break. And take a sled or toboggan if you want some downtime, and a few spills and laughs!