First Timers Guide to the Snow

So you have decided to take the leap and head up to the mountain, good on you! If you aren’t sure of where to start, don’t worry! These tips will set you on the right track for having an unforgettable first time on the snow.

The snow season in NZ runs from late June through to late September for the South Island, and Mt Ruapehu's season (located in the middle of the North Island) generally runs from late June through to the end of October.


The first thing to consider when taking a trip to the mountain is the weather. We recommend that for your first time to the snow, try and go for 3 or more days so that you have the maximum opportunity to learn and also because the weather can sometimes be unpredictable. Try to choose days that will offer good visibility, minimal wind and blue skies. If there is fresh snow overnight then that’s an added bonus and what is often excitingly referred to as a bluebird day. Catch a bluebird day and the view will be breath taking, the snow glistening and the atmosphere lively… You won’t be able to resist coming back for another visit!

You can regularly refer to snow and weather reports of our website to keep an eye out on what the weather is doing.

Fuel the fire

Before heading to the mountain make sure you fuel up on a nutritious breakfast such as porridge or cereal and toast. Skiing and snowboarding burns a lot of energy, so a few muesli bars, a bag of nuts or a sneaky chocolate bar in your jacket pocket is also a great way to keep you motivated throughout the day. At lunchtime, make sure you stock up on some healthy nutrituous food to ensure you’ve got a good amount of energy left for the rest of the day to keep learning.

Speaking of fuel, your car will be withstanding the same cold conditions as you so make sure you prepare it for the mountain too. Top up on petrol or diesel the day before your trip to avoid an early morning stop. Also, if your vehicle is diesel, some antifreeze wouldn’t go astray, to guarantee that the engine will start in the freezing temperatures. Keep a big drink bottle in your car as well to pour over the windscreen and windows if they get too frosty.

What’s needed?!

An easy trick to remember is to build your base from the inside out – start with thermals and long johns, a t-shirt, jumper (if you need it) then your waterproof jacket and pants.   If you don’t own your own set of snow outerwear, you can always rent snow pants and a jacket from ski areas and rental places for a pretty affordable price, you could also try asking around your circle of friends and borrow ski gear, just make sure that it can withstand 0°C and below temperatures. Also, keep note that you can always take something off but you can’t put another layer on if it starts to get colder, it is easy enough to store extra layers in a locker or in a backpack. Don’t forget about your feet either! One pair of warm merino or fine wool socks should keep your toes toasty. If you want some more info on clothing, check out our article on outerwear and thermals here.

Once clothing is sorted you can move on to gloves. There are mittens, which are great for kids, or gloves and you’ll often find people wearing either, it all depends on personal preference. Make sure that they are waterproof and breathable and on extra chilly days, use glove inners which are perfect for keeping your hands warm.

Easily overlooked is eyewear. Ski areas and rental places generally won’t rent goggles out due to hygiene reasons. So, it is best to invest in a protective eyewear such as goggles as protecting your eyes whilst out on the slopes is very important!

Next is your head, beanies are essential to keeping your head warm and here at snowHQ we highly recommend wearing a helmet to keep your head protected and to also keep the warmth in. Most places will rent helmets if you don’t own one.

Beginner Packages

For your first time to the snow, we recommend buying a beginner package. Most ski areas will offer these and they usually include a beginners area lift pass, equipment rental and a lesson with a qualified ski or snowboard instructor. Check out the guest services area for all of your needs, otherwise, the friendly mountain staff are always happy to help and there will be lots of signs about to let you know where to go.

Once you look the part and have your lift pass sorted, next will be your lesson, an essential when first learning to ski or snowboard. Lessons for beginners will generally start in the lower area of a mountain which most of the time has a magic carpet – a conveyor belt which moves you from the bottom of a gentle slope, to the top - Instructors teach you all the skills required to get you down the mountain safely all whilst having fun.

End of the day

After your big day on the slopes, taking off your ski or snowboard boots and wiggling your toes is the best feeling. But your day doesn’t end there. If renting, return your gear to where you got it, or store it in the overnight locker if provided. Otherwise, sit your boots beside a fire (not too close though!), heater or in a drying/warm room. This includes your clothing too, such as gloves and jacket, to ensure that when you hit the hill again they have aired and dried properly.

Go for it!

These tips are a base for you to build your mountain knowledge on. There is nothing like experiencing a perfectly groomed trail stretching out in front of you and knowing that the only person you are competing with is yourself. If you take these tips into consideration you will find that your first visit to the mountain will be an awesome experience which will leave you bitten by the snow bug and loving the mountain as much as we do.