If you’re someone who is at home in the mountains – and can imagine making them your office – Tai Poutini Polytechnic’s Ski Patrol programme is for you.

Over the last 20 years, TPP’s Ski Patrol programme has produced some of the country’s finest ski patrollers.

You’ll do your practical ski patrol training in Wanaka, one of New Zealand’s best ski destinations. Wanaka offers some of the most advanced skiing and riding terrain, including natural pipes, large open faces, terrain parks and great back county ski touring.

Avalanche and first aid training is provided in a realistic environment on the ski field. The practical nature of the training equips you with the skills to become a certified ski patroller in line with industry needs.

Our graduates are sought after by the global ski patrol industry and many have gone on to work overseas in Canada and Japan.

We aim to produce graduates who are work ready. We aim for consistently high levels of situational and self-awareness, a strong work ethic, and a mature attitude to teamwork and leadership ability. Combined with skiing ability, these are the minimum skills required to gain a ski patrol job.


Picturesque Wanaka, in the South Island of New Zealand, is home to much of the programme.

Wanaka is a popular holiday destination with domestic and international tourists year-round, due to its skiing, mountain biking, rock climbing and adventure tourism opportunities.

Five amazing ski resorts are within a 90-minute drive of Wanaka and students will be placed at one of a variety of New Zealand ski areas for a six-week work placement section of the programme.

  • Level:
  • Credit Value:
  • Awards:
    NZ Certificate in Snowsport Patrol (Level 4) and NZ Certificate in Avalanche Risk Management (Level 5)
  • Location:
    Wanaka plus nationally for work experience sites
  • Method of Study:
    Full time
  • Holiday Duration:
    1 week
  • Teaching Duration:
    26 weeks
  • Total Duration:
    27 weeks
  • Start Date:
    April 2023
  • End Date:
    October 2023
  • $7,646

  • International Fee (2023):


1. Total Cost - includes some text books and most field transport.

2. Additional costs - during the 6 week work placement section of the programme, both travel and additional or alternative accommodation will need to be covered by students posted outside of Wanaka. A season pass is compulsory and paid for by students. This may be purchased through TPP once enrolment is complete.

Core Elements

  • Meteorology
  • Physiology and Health
  • Outdoor Pre-Hospital Emergency Care (PHEC)
  • Slope Management
  • Mountain Skills
  • Mountain Search and Rescue
  • Snow Science
  • Avalanche Geography
  • Snow Blasting

Equipment List

A complete equipment list shows on the right side of this webpage and will be included in your enrolment pack. Equipment costs will vary depending on what you already own. You will need all equipment on the list by the due date to take part in the programme.

Tai Poutini Polytechnic supplies the use of following equipment for training:

  • A range of first aid equipment
  • Ice axes
  • Ropes
  • Belay devices and karabiners
  • Climbing helmets
  • Reference texts
  • Rescue toboggans
  • Crampons
  • Climbing and industrial harnesses
  • Snow and weather analysis equipment

Programme Structure and Workload

The integrated approach of the programme allows for a combination of teaching, work experience and self-directed study to be delivered over a compressed timeframe.

The programme is guided by the needs of the industry, which looks for mature students who can work independently and have the ability to maintain work ethic for typically long workdays. This means programme delivery hours will incrementally increase over the timetable to 10 hours per day and will include independent tutor guided learning for students.

Online learning, class lectures, small-group tutorials and/or practicals, on field training, scenarios, reflective practice, role play, presentations, demonstrations and independant learning all feature in the programme.

As the programme moves into the winter period, a six-week work placement will enable students to put their newfound skills into action with a working New Zealand ski patrol.

The programme includes the delivery and assessment of two national qualifications, which are taught concurrently - the New Zealand Certificate in Snowsport Patrol (80 credits at Level 4) and the New Zealand Certificate in Avalanche Risk Management (40 credits at Level 5). The level 5 qualification was previously known as Stage 1 Avalanche. Details of these qualifications can be found on the NZQA website.

Upon completion of the programme, students who achieve a passing grade in Meteorology, Snow Science, Avalanche Geography and Mountain Search and rescue, will be granted the NZ Certificate in Avalanche Risk Management (Level 5).

The NZ Certificate in Snowsport Area Patrol (Level 4) will be awarded to students who achieve a passing grade in all courses in the programme.

Further Study Paths

Career Opportunities

Highly respected, the programme provides specialised training in the specific skills required for a first year ski patroller.

The programme allows for various careers, sets strong foundations for related careers in the outdoors, including the ski guiding and avalanche safety industries, a variety of adventure tourism, safety management, summer guiding and/or instruction operations, The Department of Conservation, alpine search and rescue, education roles, nursing, ambulance officer and/or paramedic.

Many patrollers in fact balance their winter work with these types of careers, academic pursuits and/or trades such as building, accounting etc.

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.
  • Meet the legal requirements of handling explosives.
  • Evidence, acceptable to the programme staff, that the applicant meets or exceeds the ability to confidently ski or snowboard in most terrain and snow conditions. i.e. The majority of black runs on a large commercial ski area in New Zealand or overseas.

  • Evidence is by letter of attestation from a level 2 ski snowboard instructor or an industry professional such as a Ski Patrol head of department.
  • Applicants must hold a current First Aid Certificate minimum 1 day course.
  • Have successfully completed NCEA level 2 or equivalent and attained 42 NCEA credits at level 3.
  • Special entry may be granted where evidence exists that the applicant can successfully complete the programme. Please contact the Polytechnic for details.

Selection Criteria apply:

  • 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

As an alternative, appropriate video footage of the skiing and and/or transceiver entry criteria can be provided to the programme leader. Industry people acceptable to the Programme leader can also vouch for the applicant’s ability. It is important to clarify with the programme leader beforehand what is required.

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

  • Special Entry may be granted where evidence exists that the applicant can successfully complete the programme. Please contact the Polytechnic for details.
  • If applicants are unclear about their ability to meet any entry criteria they can contact the programme manager for clarification.


This is a Safety Sensitive Programme