This popular programme is designed to provide students with the knowledge, skills and attributes required to enter the Ski Patrol industry. It is held in high regard by the Heads of Ski patrol within New Zealand and includes a seven week placement for students with a real ski patrol department. This is where students compound the skills learnt with their tutors and is probably one of the longest and most fun filled job interviews ever.

The programme has successfully run since 1995 and past students have reached senior, supervisory and heads of department positions within New Zealand Ski patrols. The programme also provides a strong foundation for related careers in the outdoors, including alpine and ski guiding, a variety of summer guiding and/or instruction, ambulance officer, and safety management. It contains both Pre- Hospital Emergency Care and Avalanche Stage 1, both entry level qualifications for many outdoor employment options. On successful completion of the programme some students seek work overseas, before returning to apply for work in New Zealand.

Learning takes place in a realistic working environment and includes practical and theory that is based on identified industry needs. It is a big six months, chock full of learning, growth, discovery and fun. 

Please feel free to download the Ski Patrol Frequently Asked Questions document located in the right hand panel.

  • Level:
  • Credit Value:
  • Awards:
    Tai Poutini Polytechnic Certificate
  • Location:
  • Method of Study:
    Full time, 26 weeks*
  • Start Date:
    28 March 2016
  • End Date:
    23 September 2016
  • Dates:
    Subject to change
  • Applications:
    Now open
  • International Cost:
    $18,000 NZD** (2016)
  • $7,183.00
  • Domestic breakdown
  •   Tuition Fee:
  •   Course Cost:
  •   NZQA Fee:

*Excluding Holidays
**Domestic and International Total Cost - includes some text books, programme teaching equipment, field costs (except food), Treble Cone season’s pass, field transport, NZQA and exam fees.

Domestic fees applies to:
- A person who is a citizen of New Zealand, Australia, Cook Islands, Niue, Tokelau Islands.
- A New Zealand resident or permanent resident currently living in New Zealand.
- An Australian permanent resident who has a returning resident’s visa and is currently living in New Zealand.

We do not set a closing date for applications.

The Polytechnic reserves the right to not accept late applications, i.e., after the programme has started.

You will be offered a place subject to meeting the entry and selection requirements and the availability of places on the programme.

The Polytechnic reserves the right to cancel, prior to commencement, any programme which does not attract a minimum number of students.

Core Elements

All courses are unit standard based and have been designed through feedback from the New Zealand Ski Patrol, Emergency Care and Snow Safety Industries. With the exception of snow blasting, all integrate with each other for the duration of the programme, so cannot be studied and assessed as separate modules.

Pre-Hospital Emergency Care (PHEC)

This course includes the following NZQA unit standards (the nationally recognized PHEC certificate):

  • 25411 Demonstrate knowledge of and use an Automated External Defibrillator
  • 25412 Provide basic pre-hospital emergency care
  • 14473 Move and position patients in preparation for transportation

Additional PHEC training includes the use of rescue toboggans as well as additional in depth first aid training requested by the ski patrol industry.

Avalanche Hazard Management

This course includes Stage 1 Avalanche (accredited by the NZ Mountain Safety Council), is comparable to the Canadian Avalanche Stage 1 and covers:

  • Weather and snow pack observations
  • Avalanche phenomena
  • Snow stability and metamorphism
  • Avalanche terrain and back country safe travel techniques
  • Avalanche rescue
  • Snow blasting for Avalanche control


This course begins in the distance learning section of the programme and includes:

  • Interpreting weather maps
  • Taking weather observations
  • Making safety decisions based on weather

Ski Patrol Operations

As well as looking at client safety, this course has a strong focus on professional work ethics and behavior. It includes:

  • Managing personal learning processes
  • Developing team attributes
  • Slope hazard management
  • Emergency response systems

Much of this course is assessed whilst students are on work placement.

Mountain Craft and Rope Rescue

The intention of this course is to become proficient in low span chairlift evacuation, and the basic rope skills required by ski patrol. This course includes:

  • Basic rope, ice axe and crampon skills needed for general and rescue work
  • Harnesses and ropes
  • Knots and basic snow anchors
  • Abseiling and chairlift evacuation

Skiing and Boarding Skills

This course begins with a fitness training program in Term 1 and progresses into ski or snowboard lessons with the Treble Cone Snow sports school. It culminates in a rigorous ski or snowboard test at the end of Term 3. It also includes the basics of ski touring techniques. 

Further Study Options

Career Opportunities

The Certificate in Ski Patrol is a respected programme and provides specialised training in the specific skills required for a first year ski patroller.

Many of our graduates are enjoying successful careers patrolling on New Zealand ski areas as well as ski areas overseas. Other graduates have chosen to establish themselves in the first aid, mountain and ski guiding industry and embark on careers in guiding, back-country touring, emergency care and safety management.

Ski or Snowboard?

Because of safety and timing issues associated with avalanche control work, as well as the importance of holding a high traverse line, the majority of ski patrols do not employ snow boarders. 


The Tai Poutini Polytechnic ski patrol programme is based in Wanaka, in the South Island of New Zealand. Wanaka is the gateway to Mt Aspiring National Park, internationally renowned for its magnificent mountain related activities. Excellent rock climbing, mountaineering and five amazing ski resorts are within ninety minutes drive of Wanaka. Wanaka is also home to worldclass mountain biking, fishing and other outdoor activities.

Ski Patrol students complete their practical training on Treble Cone - one of New Zealand’s largest and best loved ski areas. It offers some of the most advanced skiing and riding terrain including natural pipes, large open faces, steeps, mogul fields and of course the famous Mototapu chutes.

Both Wanaka and Treble Cone were named in the Top 25 Ski Resorts in the World by

Entry Criteria

Applicants must meet the following criteria:

  • Applicants for whom English is a second language must meet IELTS (or equivalent) Level 5.5 or above.
  • Have successfully completed NCEA Level 2 (or overseas equivalent) with a minimum of 8 credits in English and a minimum of 8 credits in Mathematics.
  • Be over 18 years of age as of May 1st of the year they enter the programme to meet the requirements of the test certifier issuing the approved handler test certificate for snow blasting.
  • Verification by a New Zealand Ski Instructors Alliance (NZSIA) certified ski or snowboard instructor, or an appropriate ski patrol supervisor who has been pre approved by one of the program tutors that the applicant meets or exceeds NZSIA level 5 in skiing or snowboarding (or proof of overseas equivalent). Alternative evidence could include sufficient video evidence acceptable to the programme leader.
  • Hold a first aid certificate valid for the duration of the programme and including unit standards either 6400, 6401 and 6402. Or units 26551 and 26552 (reported to NZQA) (or proof of overseas equivalent).

Once the entry criteria have been met by the applicant, the Program Leader will interview the applicant to establish how well the applicant meets the Selection Criteria as listed.

Selection Criteria

  • Prior work experience in the Snow Sports industry (paid or voluntary) especially volunteer ski patrolling or trail crew.
  • Prior general experience in outdoor activities e.g. downhill skiing, snowboarding, cross country skiing, tramping, mountaineering or rock climbing.
  • A strong and confident skier who is able to continuously ski black runs at a snow sport area all day.
  • Skier rather than snowboarder.
  • When the number of applicants who meet the entry criteria exceeds the number of positions available, applicants who meet more of the selection criteria than other applicants will be given priority in selection.

Special Notes

Please note there are some alternative ways to meet the entry criteria.Special Entry may be granted where evidence exists that the applicant can successfully complete the programme. Prospective students are advised to discuss this with the Programme Leader, email

This is a Safety Sensitive Programme