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New Zealand is a fantastic place, with diverse landscapes and cultures. Mountains and Lakes. Palm trees and Penguins. There is a very active and outdoor culture, so sports and recreation are very much the norm. NZ is an awesome place to spend a winter, the people are friendly, the place is beautiful; just ask anyone who has been there. On the whole New Zealand is a very safe place, and with English being the main language there are no language problems.
Snowsports in New Zealand
Often thought of in the same sentence as Rugby, Sheep Farming and The Haka. Snowsports enthusiasts shouldn’t overlook the fact that New Zealand has a very strong and flourishing snowsports industry. One of the greatest things about the NZ ski season is that when it is Summer in the Northern Hemisphere it is winter in the Southern Hemisphere. So the winter season in New Zealand runs June – October. Just as you are worried about having to hang your boots up at the end of the season, there's another awesome winter season just about to kick off on the other side of the world.
This fact, that there is the possibility of an eternal winter, has not missed the attention of some of the big names in the ski and snowboard industry. Many of the top international race teams head 'south' to train on good winter snow, such names as Lindsey Vonn, Ted Ligety and Jon Olsson have been regular visitors over the last few years. The Burton New Zealand Open is part of the TTR World Snowboard Tour, and every year brings a host of big names down to compete. The homegrown NZ freeskier talent pool is also going strong with the likes of Jossi Wells and his brothers making regular X Games appearances and podium finishes.
Great Powder in NZ,
Where's the skiing/riding?
There are many different places to ski in New Zealand.
North Island - Whakapapa (pronounced - Phakapapa) and Turoa are the biggest ski areas and are on a great big volcano called Mt Ruapheu. It last erupted in 1997! Quite spectacular.
South Island - there are lots of 'ski fields' - so lets start with the big ones - Coronet Peak and The Remarkables (based out of Queenstown), Cardrona and Treble Cone (based out of Wanaka), Mt Hutt (Methven), then there are lots of others - Craigieburn, Temple Basin, Mt Cheeseman, Mt Dobson, Mt Olympus, Broken River, Round Hill, Ohau, to name a few.
There is a great difference between all the resorts with each having their own little character. Some are very small and are called 'club fields' due to the fact that they are run like a club rather than a business. Don’t let the fact that some of these are accessed only by rope tows put you off, the skiing is full on and very challenging. At the other end of the scale there are places like Coronet Peak, which is ran by NZSki, and it is a fully commercial ski resort that has every facility that you could want, and provides a world class guest experience, with high speed chair lifts and lift pass scanners that will count up the amount of vertical meters you cover in a day – just log in at the end of the day to the website to see who skied the 'max vert'.
Most of the skiing in NZ is on the mountain tops, with the valley floors remaining 'green' for most of the winter. There are some areas where there is accommodation on the mountain, but on the whole most people live and take holiday accommodation down the valley, and then travel up to the snow each day. This allows for the towns near the ski areas to provide way more than just ski facilities.
Queenstown is a great example
From Queenstown you can ski easily at Coronet Peak or The Remarkables, each ski area having some great skiing, and both being of a very different character. However Queenstown itself has a wealth over other activities available – bungy jumping, jet boating, mountain biking, golfing, wine tours, spas just to name a few of the activities. Once you are done entertaining yourself for the day, then in the evening there are restaurants to suit all tastes, and a nightlife that never fails.
Fantastic for Training
One thing that must be said is that compared to the large European and North American resorts that have hundreds of different runs and chairlifts, the skiing in NZ is great skiing, but it is quite a lot smaller. This however does have a potentially hidden advantage; that is the fact that you will be skiing on the same run more than once during the day, it very quickly comes to mind not just "how do I ski down here?" but "how do I ski down here better than I did last time?"
This means that the NZ mountains are the perfect place to train to improve you skiing or snowboarding skills. Over the last few years there has been a wealth of different training options arrive in NZ, from race training, to freestyle training, to Instructor Training.
A great example of this is the likes of SITCo which is a Queenstown based Ski and Snowboard Training program. SITCo run a number of different courses from 10 weeks to 5 weeks to 2 weeks, that are designed to allow people to come to NZ and train for their Ski and Snowboard Instructor Qualifications.
With the NZ season being in the 'off season' it means that people are able to come on a SITCo course train for their Instructor qualifications and then head off to the Northern Hemisphere to work a season as an instructor, as they are already qualified.
SITCo has been doing this since 2002 and there are now a great many people out there who have got to live their dream of living and working in the mountains.
If you are keen to live the dream, then you cannot go wrong with a winter season in NZ. Who wouldn't want to be here?
Colin Tanner is a NZSIA alpine examiner and BASI trainer and examiner with SITCo, who run ski and snowboard instructor courses in New Zealand.
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Ski & Snowboard Instructor Training Courses , New Zealand. If you are in New Zealand and enjoy winter sports, then why not take this opportunity to train to become a qualified ski or snowboard instructor. Courses run for 10, 8, or 5 weeks; June - Sep