Local Wisdom

Ski Tips

Snow Tips

Over the years, experience has taught us that some questions don't change much and neither do the answers! Here are some commonly asked questions, scroll down the page for the "answers" (Carolyn's opinion based on nearly two decades in the ski industry in NZ and internationally)....

I'm a beginner - which ski area should I go to learn?

All of the ski areas have facilities for beginners, but probably the most beginner friendly areas are Cardrona and the Remarkables. Both ski fields have good sized beginner dedicated areas and beginner lifts. Once you have mastered controlled stopping and turning, the progression to bigger slopes is nice and gentle and fairly non-threatening. This is important because it allows your technique to develop without being in a situation where survival becomes the dominant factor! The beginner areas at the Remarkables face the sun throughout the day so despite the extra altitude, they can be warmer than other areas.

What do I wear?

Dress warmly in layers. It’s easy to take off a layer if you are hot, but remember that conditions can change quickly in the mountains, and you may also need extra layers to keep warm particularly if the wind is blowing. Ski areas generally have day storage facilities so you can leave a bag with extra layers safely with no hassle.

The first layer should be a thermal layer and this is crucial to the performance of your ski/snowboard outerwear as it will keep you warm and dry by drawing perspiration away from the skin allowing it to escape through the breathable fabric of your outerwear. A cotton tee shirt for instance does not work this way, so you may find you get quite chilled by the moisture held in the fabric next to your skin. You should have both a thermal vest (or undergarment) and also thermal long johns.

The next layer should be a mid-layer of fleece or wool. You may wish to take an extra mid-warmth layer for really cold days. Finish off the layers with an insulated jacket, pants, gloves, socks, a hat and goggles. It is really important to have a warm hat - most heat loss is via the head. If you suffer from the cold you can also use glove warmers and toe warmers (also known by some as 'Atomic teabags').

In warmer conditions (e.g. spring skiing at the end of the season) a light base layer top, a shell jacket, pants, socks and gloves should be sufficient. It is still advisable to always carry a hat.

How far is it from Queenstown to Treble Cone, & Cardrona?

Cardrona is about 1.15hr by car from Queenstown via the Crown Range. Treble Cone is a little further, 1.5hrs.

Always carry chains as conditions change quickly in the mountains and you may need them to get down the ski area roads even if you did not need them to go up! Never ignore signs or ski area staff who tell you that you should fit chains, even if you have 4WD, particularly if you are not used to driving in snowy and/or icy conditions.

Which Ski Areas are particularly 'family friendly'?

The Remarkables and Cardrona get the 'family friendly' big tick! Both ski areas are well suited to families. The Remarks has a great tubing run which is a lot of fun for the whole family, and Cardrona has probably the most comprehensive kids ski school and child minding for kids from as young as 3 months old.

I'm a non-skier, what can I do on the mountain while the rest of the family is skiing/riding?

Most ski areas have great slope viewing areas where you can hang out with a coffee and a good book. The Remarkables often has live music, DJ's and entertainment throughout the season and they also have a great tubing park.  Warm waterproof footwear (not ski boots) is a good idea for your comfort.  You can rent apres ski boots if you are planning on playing around in the snow.

What do I need to pre-book before I get to Queenstown?

It can be a good idea to pre-book your equipment if you need to rent, particularly if you want to try a specific ski. However, there really is no need with us, as we never run out of gear, even during the school holidays. You don't need to pre-book lift passes or ski school, other than private lessons and child care/lessons for the littlies. You can also organise mountain transportation when you get to town. There really is very little that you need to book in advance and no price advantage in doing so.

What can I do if my ski boots hurt?

Ski boots can make or break your ski holiday - that's a fact!

Don't ruin your ski time by trying to put up with it, come and see us in Shotover Street, we have some of the most experienced boot fitters and best equipment in the country! There are a myriad of minute adjustments that we can make to the inner or even the shell of the boot itself to increase your comfort. We also believe that custom made footbeds are an absolute must!

Getting a comfortable fit from your boots can be a lot easier if you help your feet with a few simple steps.

The first thing to look at is your socks.  You are best to wear one good quality, thin pair of socks.  This allows for a good, exact fit inside the boot.  When your feet slop around inside your boots, you lose serious ski performance inhibiting your ability to turn, and requiring much more effort.  Your ski boots should feel like a firm handshake on your feet and lower legs.  Sounds obvious, but be sure that there are no wrinkles in your socks – that can be a real killer for your feet and shins.

If you are still uncomfortable or your feet are slopping around, it’s time to look at your equipment.   

If you are travelling by air, due to luggage restrictions, it may be more convenient for you to rent boots in Queenstown.  Choose a rental shop like Browns Ski Shop which carries several well known brands of boots to see which brand suits your foot shape best, and gives you the level of performance that you need.  One boot type definitely doesn’t suit all feet.

If you are thinking of buying boots, always work with a specialty boot fitter.  This is one piece of gear that needs to be a collaborative effort between the boot fitter and you, if you want happy feet and great skiing.

There is a myriad of foot shapes and sizes out there, and now the solution for “happy feet” is available for all of them.  It comes in the form of Fischer Vacuum Fit technology, it’s a Global Sensation - truly!!!  Fischer Vacu-Plast material (a funky type of plastic) enables complete anatomical adjustment of your boots.  The shells of the Vacuum boots are heated and molded to your foot shape creating space where you need it.  The next step is to "vacuum" the boot, allowing the Vacu-Plast material to mould and shape to where you don't need space as well, this gives the exact anatomical shape for your legs and feet.  The end result is a boot that provides comfort, warmth and fantastic performance.

Bootfitting has come a long way in the past 10 years with more precise tools and better footbeds (orthotic’s for ski boots).  This has made it easier to get the fit you require whether to new boots, or your existing pair.

What's the difference between 'Executive' and 'Mid-Range' rental equipment at Browns Ski Shop?

About 98% of our Executive fleet is new every season. The types of skis in this category are all high performance skis. Mid-Range skis are renewed every three seasons. Skis in this category are suitable for people requiring less ski performance i.e. beginners and basic intermediates.

What if I want to snowboard and ski during my holiday?

If you rent equipment from Browns Ski Shop you can change from skis to a board (and back again) whenever you like during the rental period at no extra charge.

Do I need goggles if I already have sunglasses?

Goggles are a fairly vital piece of equipment that should be carried in the mountains. The weather can change very quickly and sunglasses just don't cut it as far as protecting your eyes and face from harsh conditions. Goggles cover more of your face and seal around your eyes to keep out wind and snow. Amber or rose coloured lenses are designed for low light conditions therefore making it easier to see when conditions are not great. Some goggles come with interchangeable lenses for different lighting conditions.

How do I care for my leather gloves?

Basically leather gloves should be treated the same as a pair of leather shoes. They need to be protected before use by conditioning with a product such as Hestra Leather Balm. When they get wet they should be dried slowly in a warm place, never directly on a hot radiator or heater. Re-proof and condition often.

My ski jacket needs cleaning - what is the best method?

Always read (and follow) the laundering instructions before cleaning. Generally the most effective way to clean your outerwear is in a washing machine on cold wash with non-biological washing powder or a product such as Nikwax TX.direct which also re-proofs the garment. After a quick spin (unless advised against this by the washing instructions), line dry or dry on a hanger in a warm room. Handy tip - down filled jackets can generally be dried in the drier - put a tennis ball in the drier with the jacket as this aids the process by "fluffing" up the feathers.

I suffer from bad circulation and feel the cold - what should I do?

Multiple thin or medium weight layers of clothing are warmer than one big thick garment as warm air is trapped and acts as an effective insulator. Look for products that include Possum fur as Opossums and Polar Bears are the only two animals in the world whose fur is hollow and has a layer of air inside, preventing it from freezing! A cuddly fleece neck warmer also keeps you nice and warm. Mittens are warmer than gloves as your fingers are together and can heat each other. You can purchase single use glove and toe warmers (I call them "Atomic teabags") which are activated when the particles inside are shaken, and then give off heat. You can also buy rechargeable boot heaters which you might just decide, if you suffer from cold feet, was the best purchase you ever made!

Don't forget - a hat is an essential piece of survival equipment for the mountain environment for everyone.

Do 4WD vehicles require chains?

Yes, absolutely. You must carry chains irrespective of your vehicle specs. You would hope not to have to use them; however when conditions are such that you HAVE to go slowly and HAVE to brake, then 4WD's will slide just like regular drive vehicles. Really not trying to downplay too much how great it is to have a 4WD in snowy and icy conditions (because it is great), just trying to let you know that if you are not familiar with snow & ice driving, that a 4WD is NOT a guarantee that you won't need chains. Always, always put on your chains when directed to do so by signs, or by ski area staff. The vast majority of hassles on ski field roads are caused less by the conditions than by idiotic people who think (mostly erroneously), that they know better than experienced ski area personnel.