Snow sports are literally that – sports on snow – and no matter where you live in New Zealand, you are never too far away to play.

What is Snow Sports?

Snow sports involve sliding down a prepared snow-covered slope on a pair of skis or a snowboard. Skis were used as a form of winter transport across snow, originating in Scandinavia. Skiing grew in popularity and by 1900 there were many forms of ski competitions. Today snow sports are a major leisure and competitive activity combining the beauty of the mountains with an exhilarating, healthy sport.

There are several types of snow sports in New Zealand. Skiing can include downhill skiing (the most popular), cross country or nordic skiing (skinny skis), free skiing (big mountain, terrain parks, half pipes and moguls – bumps), speed skiing, ski touring and telemark skiing. Since the late 1980s snowboarding has become very popular and includes downhill boarding and free style (terrain parks and half pipes – like skate boarding).

Snow sports provide families with an ideal activity undertaken by all family members at the same time – no need to take turns and no point scoring. Each family member can participate at their own pace according to each individual’s fitness and ability. You can enjoy the snow together whether on a snowboard or a pair of skis.

Where do you go for Snow Sports?

In New Zealand we have 14 commercial ski areas, 1 commercial cross country area and 11 club ski areas. Five areas are based in the North Island – Auckland (indoor area), Mount Ruapehu (3) and Mount Taranaki. The remaining 21 areas are in the South Island stretching from the Nelson region to Southland.

Getting there does require private or public transport unless of course you are fortunate enough to live close by. Your local ski and snowboarding shop will be able to give you more information about access to the ski areas. Ski areas have good access roads and are suited to most vehicles.

If you are driving yourself remember that you will be driving in mountain conditions. Use anti-freeze in your radiator; check if chains are required (including four wheel drive vehicles) and if so make sure they are either in your boot or can be hired. Learn how to put your chains on before heading up the mountain and make sure they fit tightly.

What age can your child start Snow Sports?

Families can visit the snow with their children at any age, however young children will require close supervision – just like going to the beach. Equipment is available for pre-schoolers so they can start at a very young age. Realistically, a child is best suited to skiing from about the age of 4. Prior to this they will tire easily, lose concentration and become cold very quickly.

It’s best to start youngsters off by playing in the snow, having snow ball fights and sliding on toboggans. After a relatively brief period you will need to retire somewhere warm for food and rest.

If you have preschoolers, check out the crèche facilities available at some ski areas – this can provide a happy balance of snow-time and inside-time, giving the rest of the family some much needed skiing or snowboarding time!

How do you progress over time?

With the help of a good ski and snowboard school you should enjoy skiing and snowboarding right from your very first day on the snow. Introductory packages are available at all commercial snow areas for skiing and snowboarding. The packages include use of the learners’ lifts, equipment hire and a lesson.

For youngsters, ski school will start with short lessons of 30 to 60 minutes duration, which are best suited to their attention span and little bodies. As they grow, lessons will expand in time and difficulty, and they will move from the beginner’s area and take on the whole mountain.

You don’t have to be an athlete to ski and snowboard as modern equipment does a lot of the work for you. However, if you are fit you will find it easier to learn and you won’t tire so quickly. Adjust your level of activity to your standard of fitness.

With modern teaching methods you can be past the beginners’ stage and moving easily around most of the mountain after only a few lessons. On your first day you will learn how to turn, slow down, stop and ride up the learners’ lifts. Skiing and snowboarding can be learned quickly and with much enjoyment – you can participate throughout your lifetime.

What gear do you need for Snow Sports?

The most important thing about your first day skiing and snowboarding is to be warm, dry and comfortable. You probably have the basics of a ski and snowboarding outfit in your wardrobe already. Ski jackets and pants can be hired at some rental outlets and ski areas.

Clothing checklist:

  • Thermal underwear (top and bottom)
  • Skivvy
  • Woollen jersey
  • Warm socks
  • Warm waterproof jacket
  • Waterproof pants (not jeans)
  • Gloves or mittens (leather or nylon outer recommended)
  • Hat or headband (wool recommended)
  • Sunglasses or goggles
  • Sunscreen

Skis, boots and poles or snowboard and boots – can be hired from your local ski and snowboard shop or at the ski area. Ski pants and jackets can also be hired in some areas.

How much do Snow Sports cost?

Prices vary greatly depending on which ski area you visit. The cost of participating in snow sports depends on the options you take. You will need to pay for equipment (either renting or buying), lessons and the use of the ski areas’ facilities such as lifts.

Ski areas offer adult, student/youth and children’s rates. Some areas offer free lift passes to children under 6. Make sure you check out the cost of all services at the ski area before you visit. Pick up their brochure or visit their website. All of this information is available before you commit to your first day on the slopes.

Learn-to-ski and snowboard packages are available at commercial ski areas. Packages include rental ski equipment (skis, boots and poles) and rental snowboard equipment (board and boots), use of the learners’ lifts for one day and a lesson. Learn-to-ski and snowboard packages are highly recommended especially on your first day and can be purchased on your arrival at a commercial ski area. Packages are also available for days 2 and 3.

Learn-to-ski Package
Child $37.00 – $70.00
Youth/student $45.00 – $70.00
Adult $54.00 – $89.00
Learn-to-snowboard Package
Child $50.00 – $70.00
Youth/student $58.00 – $70.00
Adult $65.00 – $99.00

If you want to purchase equipment for your child, consult a specialist ski or snowboard retailer. They will ensure you get the right advice and ensure your equipment fits properly. However, we strongly recommend hiring equipment first, so that you are sure that your child is going to stick with skiing. Hiring is also a popular option for many parents, as it means they do not have to buy bigger equipment each season as the child grows.

How much time do Snow Sports take to learn?

You can participate in snow sports on any given winter’s day for as long as you want between 9.00am and 4.00pm – the length of time most ski areas run their lifts. This is considered a full day on the slopes. Most areas offer half day rates as well; for example you may decide to ski or board from 12.30pm to 4.00pm.

A ski area will operate its lifts and facilities subject to snow coverage and weather. You may find that during the season a ski area is closed on a given day because there is insufficient snow or bad weather prevents the lifts and other facilities from operating. Before heading to the fields check the snow and weather conditions – for a recorded message ring the ski area for up-to-date daily road and snow conditions.

The season usually runs from June to October although the length of season depends upon the amount of snow a ski area has during the winter months. Nowadays many ski areas in NZ have snowmaking capability, so providing winter temperatures are suitable they can make snow for your enjoyment.

Great Snow Sports Websites


This is the official website of the NZ Snowsports Council. It provides information about all NZ ski areas including up-to-date daily ski reports and web cams


Provides up-to-date daily ski area reports

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This information was compiled by the Kiwi Families team.

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