Winter is coming.

It's not just about Skiing


Everyone is familiar with the two main sporting disciplines of winter: snowboarding and skiing. They are a bit tricky to learn and it can be expensive, however there are alternatives other than just making a snowman. For a long as there has been snow people have found ways to have fun on it. 

Winter is coming, you can grumble, or you can enjoy, it really is a choice.

As the temperature starts to change and there is a cold snap in the morning, some might say sadly ‘ahh summer is over and winter is coming’. But that same cold snap in the air brings a smile to the face of many because that cold brings the snow and with that the fun begins.

Everyone is familiar with the two main sporting disciplines of winter: snowboarding and skiing. They are a bit tricky to learn and it can be expensive, however there are alternatives other than just making a snowman. For a long as there has been snow people have found ways to have fun on it.

We are going to look at just a few:


There is outstanding snowshoeing in New Zealand, it is huge overseas and here it is starting to get a real ‘foot hold’ excuse the pun.

Snowshoeing is a type of tramping that simply involves walking over snow with the help of footwear that relocates your weight over a larger area. It has been around for thousands of years and is the original snow transport. Snowshoes for the centuries have played a vital role in remote mountain survival, with trappers and traders utilizing snowshoes to traverse the isolated regions of the winter wilderness.


The basic design of the snowshoe is to displace weight, stop snow building up on your feet and give you some manoeuvrability. Traditionally they were just wooden frames with latticed rawhide lacings but have over time evolved with lightweight metals and plastics connected with synthetic fabrics.

The snowshoeing movement is growing fast. It is a great  way for those who like to explore remote snowy areas to do so, and can often be combined with other activities like glacier hiking, skiing, snowboarding and mountaineering. It is a relatively easy sport to pick up and requires no experience. Anyone who can walk should be able to snowshoe. I have done it several times, it is harder than just tramping, but it is unique, and you get to some amazing places. There are several companies that have guided tours in New Zealand and some stores that will hire you the gear.


As a ‘footnote’ – another pun, as with all winter sports, do not just hire some snowshoes and go wandering off, make sure you get good advice, have the right gear and pending the location avalanche training and PLB.


If you want a great experience, try these guys.







With a similar history as snowshoeing, telemark skiing has been around for a while, a long while, it was always just for fun but for survival in winter conditions.

You do not see a lot of them around currently but at one stage in New Zealand it was a super popular alternative to traditional skiing and was seen as very retro, hippish even. It has an unusual stance for turning which makes it stand out on the slopes.  Every turn is done with a sidestep and a movement of the knee down to the ski, like a courtesy. Telemark is one of the oldest forms of skiing and has a history linked to cross country skiing.

As in other ski disciplines, telemark also contains basic equipment such as telemark boots, special binding, and telemark skis, all of which can be hired.

One of the real appeals of telemark skiing rests in gaining access. By placing long pieces of synthetic fabric, known as skins, which can be attached to the bottom of the skis these can aid you to travel uphill in the backcountry. With the invention of light-weight alpine touring (A.T.) skis, telemark skiing has decreased in popularity in the backcountry.


As with most types of skiing there are a huge number of variants in terms of weight, bindings, depending on skill level, where and what you wish to do and the conditions you want to ski in.


As with snowshoeing it would pay to go and get a lesson or join a club.






Cross-Country Skiing

There is a lot of similarity between telemark and cross-country skiing and often both come under the banner of Nordic skiing. But cross-country skiing is basically a form of skiing where skiers rely on their own propulsion to move across snow-covered terrain, rather than using ski lifts or skins. Cross-country skiing is widely practiced as a sport for fitness and as a leisure activity overseas, most major ski resort has a cross-country region, some over hundreds of kilometres.

Modern cross-country skiing is similar to the original form of skiing, from which all skiing disciplines evolved, including alpine skiingski jumping and Telemark skiing. Skiers propel themselves either by striding forward (classic style) or side-to-side in a skating motion (skate skiing), aided by arms pushing on ski poles against the snow.

I have tried it a few times and loved it, it is super hard work and nowhere near as easy as it looks.

The main variant in cross country skiing is some will just go out on to the snow and travel anywhere. (Moving up hill with skating motion, walking like a duck). The other option is on a groomed trail this is made by a machine that cuts two ‘rail’ grooves in the snow and the skier stays in these grooves or does his or her best too.

You can cross country ski to huts and snowshoe across the valley from Cardrona at Snowfarm.



Snow feet

Now with snowfeet, we start to move into the quirky newer fun options. Snow feet is a combination of skis and skates. They are essentially like ice-skates for the ski slopes.

Super lightweight, not expensive, easy to use for both advanced and beginners. They have metal ski edges for easy turning & stopping, an additional back brake for slowing down. Plus, an adjustable binding that can be attached to any snowboard boot or snowshoes with high ankle support.

Snow feet like a lot of these more ‘left field’ products are for fun not for taking on steep black runs. Also, to be noted is that not every ski field in NZ will allow you to use some of these non-traditional products on the chairlift, so pays to find out in advance.



In this last look at ‘fun stuff’ on the snow lets take a look at the snow tricycle. This form of snow fun looks a little odd, it looks ungainly, yet it is so much fun. I have done it several times and it is as easy as riding a bike – actually easier. They have been around for years and have really developed into a high-tech product. Basically, it is a bike, operating in the same fashion with handlebars, but instead of tyres you have small skis, there are lots of variants on how they operate, steer, stop etc, again, not all ski fields allow them. But there are lots of places that hire them and will be able to advise where to go.






Biking in New Zealand has grown at an alarming rate to the point that those that live in snowy areas no longer hang up their mountain bike for winter, they just change the tyres to bigger fatter ones and head out on to the tracks covered in snow. I have yet to find someone who will rents snow bikes for winter, but a lot of the commercial companies cater for a little snow action, but for the hardcore you need to sort yourself out with tyres.

For winter biking that you can rent  check out https://www.aroundthebasin.co.nz/product-category/winter-rides/


Fun on the snow is unlimited and we have just scratched the surface of some actives you could try this winter. As much fun as you can have is limited to your imagination and if you want to do it, just ‘google’ it and someone somewhere will be hiring, selling, or running a tour.

As said earlier in this feature if you are heading out into the snow you have a responsibility to keep yourself safe and relying on your cell phone is not enough. Ask for advice, get the right equipment and if necessary, get the right training. Anything that looks like it needs training for I suggest you do a guided tour first to see if you like it and if you want to spend the time learning. Snow wherever it is; backcountry, mountain, ski resorts is a lot of fun, but it does need to be treated with respect.

– Now go out and enjoy winter.

Some images and text supplied by clients direct




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