Treble Cone is surely king of the mountains for skiing in NZ. Aana Marinovich’s kids thought it was like skiing on ice cream – light, white, and oh so sweet!
While you might assume that Wanaka’s Treble Cone (treblecone.co.nz) is just for advanced skiiers (with its endless terrain and steeps for snow sports), there’s also a plethora of children shredding and skiing under the expert eyes of a fun and knowledgeable team of instructors. This field has a great aspect for kids with its warm, north-facing home basin that’s well protected from the cold southerly winds.TC is a top commercial field, but still has that friendly feel of a club field. There’s no herding anyone around, and no stress at all. The staff love children, and with two (free) learner slopes, and a few lucky schools that troop in for lessons each week, our kids loved the whole vibe.
It seems that two things keep kids happy on the snow – food and fun. It’s also really easy to get dehydrated on the mountain, so teach children to ski and board with Camelbaks, or keep water handy. Treble cone has three café offerings, all with good food options. The Triple Treat for grab-and-go style food (we found the stuffed potatoes were a great option for kids), the Cheeky Kea for burgers and café food with indoor seating, or eat up the mountain at the Altitude Espresso and Pizza, which serves Allpress coffee. If you prefer to bring your own, there is a jovial picnic vibe in the courtyard at the bottom café. You can store your backpack or chilly bin in one of the open cubbies in the café entrance (it’s all quite safe).
When to shred
You can start to snowboard anytime, but because it requires core strength, and there is a lot of falling over involved (in the beginning), it is most suited to kids over 7 years. For kids who do balance sports like skateboarding, scootering or wakeboarding the technique seems to come more easily. For littlies, Treble Cone rent out riglet boards (basically a pull-along snowboard).
tc kids love jumps
Learner Rainbow and seesaw jumps– Free Nice’n’Easy platter (where it all begins)
Easy Boxes– three on Easy Rider (that get progressively harder), and one on the entrance to Pete’s Treat (Saddle)
Bigger jumps (including a volcano) – The Jazz Parkat the end of The Bullet (Saddle)
Natural jumps– basically everywhere; just follow the young groms for inspiration
Ages & Stages
Remember, babies can’t tell you if they are cold, so make sure they are really warm, with as little skin showing as possible. Don’t ski with a baby because of the risk of falling or having another skier crash into you. You can park your pram in the café courtyard if you want to watch the slopes while on baby duty.
Parents can make use of the daycare facility ($12 per hour) for this age, but will need to stay with their child. There are plenty of books, toys, change tables, and other kids to play with. Many parents share care, swapping an hour on the slopes and then an hour looking after the children, so they can both ski some of the time.
3 and 4 years:
Kids can stay in the daycare facility, and will spend two hours indoors, and an hour outside learning to ski or snowboard in a semi-private lesson with an instructor.
5 to 15 years:
Older kids can either choose morning and/or afternoon lessons, or take a full day option that includes lunch, and even have an early drop-off in the morning
Free on tc
Dedicated learner's area
Snow sports and equipment hire for kids under 6-years (well virtually, there’s a $8 charge that covers multiple days)
Helmets for kids
Snow passes for people over 75 years (perfect for grandparents)
Basin Express Chairlift pass (with all lessons)
Tour around the mountain
Open lockers for storing your backpacks
Ice cream: Patagonia (hands-down the best chocolate and caramel ice cream we’ve ever eaten!)
Healthy takeaway salads: Soul Food
Burgers: Boaboa (think pork belly and coleslaw)
Meat pies: Albert Town Tavern (lamb shank or chicken and baked on Wednesdays)
Italian: Francesca’s (very busy, so make a booking)
Mexican: Burt Ritos Caravan (tacos and burritos outside under the fairy lights or take away)
Movies: Paradiso (homemade ice cream, hot cookies and comfy couches) or Ruby’s (slighty more glam)
Market: Thursday night “Light Up Wanaka” market (5pm – 8pm) for roasted chestnuts and Pembroke Bakery deliciousness (get in early as they sell out)
Coffee: Kai Whakapai
Hot Chocolate: Urban Grind (comes with a slab of Whittaker’s chocolate)
Top tips For gearing up
Wear merino for under layers; it’s warm and breathes well (requires less washing).
Wear long, thinner socks in boots (merino is great), as thick socks can rub and bunch.
For comfy feet, make sure kids don’t have pants, thermals, or socks bunched in their boots.
Balaclavas work well as a hat and neck warmer combined. They warm the whole head and don’t get caught up in the helmet catch.
Make sure kids' gloves are warm and waterproof (buy extra spray) and take a spare pair (one to ski in and one to play in the snow).
Invest in a Thermic Dryer for gloves and boots (at times ours seems to run 24/7)
Driving up the mountain
The road up to TC isn’t too bad (for a mountain road), but I am still happier in a four-wheel drive. We rented a vehicle from Budget (budget.co.nz). If you’re like me and struggle with chains, then you're going to love the new Thule Easy Fit chains (thule.co.nz/snow-chains). We sometimes catch the Yello (yello.co.nz) bus from Wanaka, which picks up around 8am every morning, and returns at 4pm. Otherwise, leave Wanaka at around 7.45-8am to make sure you get up to TC early enough for a good parking spot.
When to go
Try to avoid the July school holidays if you can (long queues and less car parks), and go in August for a quieter resort and reliable snow. Then, of course, the locals’ best-kept secret is the fantastic snow in spring, and TC is now open for the first week of the September school holidays.
Stay in Wanaka
Our favourite spot in Wanaka is The Oakridge Resort (oakridge.co.nz). The chalets are really clean, modern, and spacious, and have a full kitchen. They accommodate up to 6 people, have a carpark, drying room facility, and are in the quieter part of town (on the ski resort side). Best of all, they have fantastic hot water pools (with a waterfall) and seven hot tubs. We never suffer a single sore muscle, and the kids absolutely love playing in the pools. On rest days, this makes for a fun day, not to mention very restful (post soak) evenings. They also have a restaurant and bar, if you want to have a drink in the hot tub, or have friends over and don’t want to hang out in your chalet (certainly ours was rather messy).
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