Beginners guide to Wanaka’s Winter Wonderland

My kids have been asking if we can go to the snow, and with a Wyndham Resort in such a wonderful location as Wanaka, it would be silly not to take advantage.

But… I’m a non-skier, and I have no idea where to start in planning a ski holiday with kids.

So with a little help from Google and the wonderful staff at Wyndham I’ve put together the Beginners Guide for taking the kids skiing!

 

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When?

Ski Season in the South Island of New Zealand typically runs from mid-June until early October, depending on snow and weather conditions, leaving four glorious months in which to grab a week in the snow.

This time frame fortunately encompasses two school holiday periods for most regions in June/July and September.

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Where?

Wanaka is centrally located in New Zealand’s Southern Alps on the shores of Lake Wanaka, and with Wyndham Wanaka nestled only a short stroll from the lake, and within 2km from the heart of Wanaka, it’s the perfect base for a family adventure.

You have your pick of four ‘World Class Ski Areas’ on your doorstep, Cardrona and Treble Cone (both within a 35 minute drive of Wanaka), with Coronet Peak and The Remarkables (just over an hour away).

Depending on your circumstances, you may want to start with first timer lessons, then hit the slopes to try out your skills as a family. Each ski resort differs with what they offer in terms of beginner slopes, kids activities, and special offers, but all are family friendly and offer a variety of childcare solutions, if you have really small kids, and ski programmes for the older kids. All offer fully licensed registered early learning centres, which allow you the option to enjoy your time skiing or snowboarding, knowing that your child is comfortable, safe and happy.

Cardrona Alpine Resort has a terrific learner area with a variety of beginner lifts, long, wide gentle slopes and fantastic views towards Queenstown and Wanaka. Skiwee club is dedicated to kids ski and boarding instruction, with childcare facilities, and qualified instructors for toddlers to teens.  Older kids can enjoy the club from a half day memberships to full 4 day programmes . Under 5’s can attend the Ski Kindy, and you can choose from an all-inclusive package that includes daycare and lesson for 3-4 year olds,  or childcare only or lesson only. There is even a nursery where under two’s can be taken care of while you hit the slopes (or in my case slide around on my bottom!). Natasha from Wyndham Vacation Resorts in Wanaka recommends first time skiers/snow boarders to go to Cardrona Ski field as the progression in slopes is slightly easier compared to Treble Cone.

Treble Cone is The South Island’s largest ski area with jaw dropping views over Lake Wanaka & the Southern Alps, offering  the Kitty Cat Childcare Facility, and beginner’s lessons with free beginners lifts and learners slope. Group lessons at Treble Cone are all about kids having fun while learning to ski or snowboard in a safe environment.

Coronet Peak and The Remarkables both offer Skiwiland which comes highly recommended by Dannielle from Owner Services, at Wyndham Vacation Resorts.  Skiwiland offers full or half day childcare programmes for under-fives who are not ready to ski, and care and lesson options for those who are keen to learn. This programme includes indoor and outdoor activities and lessons in small groups with trained assistants and instructors. Coronet Peak and The Remarkables also offer great first timer packages for adults and children that can be purchased for 1 – 6 days, which include lessons, lift passes and ski hire.

Dannielle said Nate (aged almost 4 in this pic) loved his ski lesson at Skiwiland! 

Dannielle said Nate (aged almost 4 in this pic) loved his ski lesson at Skiwiland!

 

How?

Do your research! Yes I know I said I was doing that for you, but the one thing I discovered is there is so much information on the websites! From ski packages, to instructions for fitting snow chains and what restaurants are available.

Being prepared means knowing the safety rules, so it’s really important to take a lesson before you first head up the hill, to learn the basics, and understand mountain safety

You need to consider costs – Once you have chosen your location from the options listed above, You will need lift passes, equipment (and maybe clothing) hire, lessons and potentially childcare costs – So comparing the deals on offer in advance, may help you decide which ski field is right for you and your family.

Top Tips – Get up on the mountain early on the first day to allow yourself time to organise and familiarise yourself – Make sure the kids go to the toilet before you hit the snow, and that they have your  mobile number on them – maybe a sticker on their helmet or permanent marker on their forearm.  Set meeting points for easy pick up after lessons (because all kids tend to look the same when bundled in ski gear, and I most certainly am one to forget what colour jacket my child is wearing on any specific day).

Take Snacks! After a day on the slopes, you can guarantee the kids will have a healthy appetite. Be prepared for aching calf and abdominal muscles and a sore butts all round.

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What to wear? What to Buy? What to Hire?  

It’s all a bit much planning and packing everything for the entire family, but there are certain ‘musts’ when holidaying in a snowy mountain environment. Best advice is to dress everyone with thermal underwear, and knee length quality wool socks for inside the boots. Bad socks may make your feet sweat which means they then get really cold.

Ensure they all have a warm beanie and warm wool or fleece long sleeve top, and remember layers! Sunglasses and sunscreen is also extremely important as the reflecting sun can cause severe sunburn! Choose waterproof, (lined and insulated) jacket and pants, and gloves. Consider the thread count of the material because it makes a difference to its breathability, and your ultimate comfort. For kids, consider two-piece ski suits (much easier to go to the bathroom).

Renting the hard equipment like skis, poles and boots can be done at the ski resorts, and clothing and accessories packages are on offer which helps those of us first timers and beginners who generally have no idea what to choose. For safety a helmet is also recommended, just like riding a bike!

Local Tips for Smooth Sailing  Skiing

Things to consider before going to Wanaka over winter:

  • Hire a car with snow chains and please ask to be shown how to use them. A car is recommended but Transport options are available from resort to ski field – normally about $NZD35.00  per person pick up at the resort. Bookings need to be made the day before travel no later than 6pm
  • Roads are prone to closure over this time of year so Natasha from Wyndham Wanaka recommends flights to Queenstown rather than Christchurch.
  • Its Peak Season so its really busy – its unlikely to be able to Check in to rooms earlier than your official Check in time, so keep this in mind when planning your arrival

So there you go.  Who else is ready to hit the slopes? I sure am.

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