Know before you go – a first timer’s guide to New Zealand

Thinking of heading to New Zealand to ski or snowboard for the first time this winter? Then you need this.

Strapping one or two planks to your feet and throwing yourself down a hill covered in cold snow can be daunting the first time. If you’re plannning on hitting your first ski resort this winter and making that first resort a Kiwi one then some simple tips can help reduce the angst of the unknown.

Prepare to be blinded

The first time I stepped off a plane in Queenstown I almost fell to the ground in wonder. Who knew that an alpine wonder land of soaring peaks thrusting skyward from an azure lake existed a mere three hour flight away from my beach side home? Not me, clearly.

Queenstown’s just the beginning too. Wanaka’s vista is straight out of a Hollywood film set, surely? Ohau, Tekapo, Mt Cook, the list goes on and every single ski resort has a view that will make you forget the pain of your feet, the burning of your thighs, your frustration with pizza versus fish ‘n chips (you’ll get that reference after your first ski lesson).

Layer up

Your head will be filled with overwhelming information as you try to conquer the hill for the first time, you don’t need to be stressing about your body temperature as well. The key is layers. Mountain weather can change in an instant and you want to be prepared. Base layer, mid layer, top layer (ski jacket) on top means you can take a layer off when needed and put one back on when next needed to. Keeping your core warm is the most important element of the day.

Slip slop slap then slip slop slap again

Thanks to higher altitude and snow reflection the UV rating of a ski field can be 20 to 30% higher than sea level so wear sun screen. A lot of sun screen. Reapply. Trust us, you don’t want to be nursing sun burn when you have those sore thighs to soak in the hot tub.

Goggles and gloves

If you’re planning on renting ski gear (good idea) then buy your own goggles and gloves and ski/snowboard specific socks as ski rental places do not offer these due to health reasons. Many goggle companies now make lenses that change with the light so you don’t have to swap lenses when the sky goes from blue to overcast to snowing.

Contrary to popular belief thick socks are not the preferred choice, good technically designed socks made from merino bamboo blends will keep your feet super warm without adding bulk to your boot.

Take a lesson

Do not under any circumstances allow lovers or family members to teach you how to ski or snowboard as they will not be lovers or family members come the end of the day. Besides, unless they are a qualified instructor of some repute and experience then you’ll only pick up their bad habits that could see you injured. Put simply it will end in tears.

Do invest in lessons your first week. Private will progress you faster but small groups will mean you get to meet fellow skiers and boarders and have someone to laugh with when you stumble.

Water is your friend

Stay hydrated. At every opportunity take a drink of water. Hydration will help at altitude, will help with muscle recovery, will help with brain focus.

Fill your pockets

Blood sugar is your friend. Well, an even blood sugar is your friend. You don’t want any ‘hangry’ moments taking over and impacting your brain to muscle impulses, or lack of them. Take nuts, almonds, brazil nuts. If not nuts then dark chocolate. Munch regularly from your pocket like a squirrel. It will ensure you don’t have a temper tantrum mid slope. Well, it will ensure you don’t have a temper tantrum mid slope as a result of low blood sugar anyway.

Get a good deal!

Ski Max have put together some First Timer packages to Queenstown including return flights with Air New Zealand from Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne, 5 nights accommodation at the Copthorne Lakefront Hotel and a 3 day learn to ski or snowboard package including lift passes, lessons, rental, clothing hire and transfers to the mountain from $1580 per person. Conditions apply.

Check out their website for more details.

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