Exploring the snow this winter

You don’t need to be an expert to have a great day on the mountain. Many ski novices – or those who skied in their youth but haven’t seen the snow for a few years – can be put-off by the thought of high costs, dicey access roads and potential failure on the slopes.

It doesn’t have to be that hard. There are so many options in the South Island for skiing holidays that are easy to get to, reasonably affordable and realistic for any skill level. One of the big differences is the choice between the commercial and club fields. At the first you’ll have access to all the gear and facilities, while the latter is a more intimate experience with less pressure.

Below are a few tips to get you and your family on the mountain this winter – whether you want to push yourself to the top or just sit back and enjoy the scenery.

1. Accessibility – you don’t necessarily need a 4WD

Many of the big fields, like Coronet Peak and the Remarkables, now have fully tar-sealed access roads. Even some of the smaller clubs, such as Craigieburn, Broken River and Mt Cheeseman, are gravelled. So, as long as you pick your time, you can get to the fields in a standard car – but always remember to pick up some chains from the service station to have on hand just in case.

2. Gear – you don’t have to shell-out for the latest skis and boots

Almost all commercial and club fields offer gear hire – just check their websites before you go. The big fields have warehouse-style facilities where you walk in and someone can set you up with everything you need. Clubs usually have fewer choices, but there’s less people and more time to work out what you want. You’ll pay around $50 a day for skis/board and boots, plus $20-$40 for jacket and pants.

3. Price – just how expensive is it?

A day on the mountain can range hugely in cost, depending on how prepared you are. If you want to dine in the cafes, paying a premium, the dollars soon add up. But take a chilly bin and thermos, or join the car park BBQ cohort, and the cost soon drops. A day lift pass for a South Island field can range from around $75 to $120, so it’s worth checking the web before you go.

4. Confidence – you don’t need mountain experience

There are so many options for a day out on the mountain – you don’t even need to ski. Snow shoe hire is a way to get on the snow without the challenge of skis, or there’s always nearby options to hike or bike if someone in the family would rather give it a miss. And try not to worry about failing – there are plenty of people who just head out to give it a go. It’s also good to know that technical advances in skis have made it even easier for novices to progress faster than ever.

Don’t write-off the idea of a family ski holiday before you’ve left home. Getting on the slopes with your kids and learning alongside them can be a great experience for everyone. Kids ski for free on some fields, so make the most of the opportunity to get out on the mountain for a great bonding experience together.

TPP has a range of quality training programmes available on the West Coast including outdoor education, tourism and also ski patrol offered from Wanaka – contact TPP today for more information.