Heading to the snow this winter? The kids will thank you forever if you decide on a family holiday at a ski lodge. For kids of all ages, lodge life is the ultimate fun … so join up!
ohau ski lodge
Kids love ski lodges and Ohau is a little gem tucked away near Twizel, nestled by the lake and under the mountain, offering all the fun of family lodge life … with added luxuries. Let this be your gentle introduction to lodge life, and if you’ve heard about the great skiing at Ohau and plan to go for a day, then make sure you book into the lodge for at least one night. It’s the lodge where all the kids get to eat, play and ski together and parents get to enjoy adult company, eat amazing food and sit around the fire. Even better, everyone retires to their own family (hotel-style) room, with car park directly outside and no chores required.
ohau snow fields
Ohau, with nice steep and deeps, is an intermediate/advanced field and has two learner slopes for beginners. While there is only one main chairlift, there are trails on offer everywhere. If the snow is there, then you can spend all day trailing the mountain and, once the weather gets cold, they have 29 snow makers, so you’ll often find the conditions here are better than most.
For my boys, who are really only skiing for the jumps these days, they mapped out a challenging run with about 9 jumps en-route. Not too scary thank goodness, but at one stage there were 5 boys in tow, aged 5–14 years burning down that track. They took a trip up to the summit with the Dads, which was a 20 minute hike. I’m not sure if the kids really appreciated it, but the views down over the skifield to the lake are breathtaking.
The field has a very boutique feel to it, with one main cafe at the bottom, where you’ll meet fellow Lodge friends. The team of instructors are super friendly, and run a very cost-effective programme for the kids. Sign up to the Mountain Goats programme (cost $40) at the start of the holiday or season, then pay only $18 for all group lessons. At that great rate, you can really afford to invest in getting the kids going and tightening their technique. Check out www.ohau.co.nz
join a ski lodge (mountain club)
There are great ski field lodges or mountain clubs to join throughout New Zealand. Generally they are up on the actual mountain (or very near), take around 20–30 people at a time, and you can book in as often as you like (space permitting so book early for school holidays).
what’s the upside?
Cost-effective snow sports, accommodation, holidays with friends, a chance to meet other families who are into skiing/snowboarding, and friends to play with on bad weather days. Kids learn to work as a team in the lodge, liaise with other adults and are given some responsibilities.
A lot of Clubs are right on the ski field itself, so no cars required, just head out the front door and hit the slopes (which means more of a sleep-in). Good lodges are equipped with drying rooms, a workshop to service your gear and gear storage rooms. Some have lockers to store your gear all year round. Most lodges now have a custodian who organises most of the food for three hearty meals a day.
what’s the downside?
Everyone is assigned a chore each day (even kids … which they happily do for the club convenor, but sadly, parents, don’t expect the same happy children doing chores at home!). Guests sleep in bunk rooms (some lodges have family rooms), share bathrooms, you all eat together and spend evenings together in the club (which I really enjoyed, but may not be everyone’s gig). If the club is up on the mountain, you are pretty much stuck there on bad weather days (sometimes multiple days!). Clubs are often on tank water, so quick showers are required.
how to choose?
Join a lodge where family and friends belong so you can all go together. If you have no connection, ask around for recommendations, call a few to chat about how they run and get a feel for how friendly the club is, then when you are next on the mountain, call in and visit. Find out which ones are open to new members, or how long the waitlist is. Most clubs are accepting non-member bookings these days as a way to attract new members, so book in for a holiday and give it a go.
what does it cost?
There is generally a joining fee (normally under $300), plus an ongoing yearly fee (normally under $300) and of course a fee to stay (approx $17–$50 per night, which includes food). Most clubs require members to do a working bee during the summer months to maintain the club and give members a sense of pride and ownership. Some South Island club fields may have a higher rate as it also includes your skiing. All great value for a whole snow season.
In the North Island, most clubs are on Mount Ruapehu. See www.rmca.org.nz for at least 50 club options where you can ski at Whakapapa or Turoa (commercial ski fields), or both (as some clubs have two lodge options).
There are two club fields (ski lodges with their own ski and snowboard facilities) in the North Island, if you’re keen to get away from the busyness of the commercial fields. Manganui on Mount Egmont www.skitaranaki.co.nz and Tukino on Mount Ruapehu www.tukino.co.nz.
Two Mount Ruapehu family clubs currently recruiting are Iwikau www.iwikau.com and Rangatira www.rangatiraskiclub.co.nz, which are both great options because they have lodges on both sides to choose from.
The South Island is a little different, as there are less to choose from, and very few ski lodge options on the commercial fields. The two exceptions are on Coronet Peak, where you can join the Whakatipu Ski Club www.wsc.co.nz or the Otago Ski Club www.osc.org.nz.
Most other clubs are attached to their own club ski field and have their own skiing facilities that the club maintains. For a list of these clubs, go to www.snow.co.nz (go to Industry, then Ski Clubs) or search wikiski.com/wiki/index.php/Club_skiing_in_NZ for a discussion blog on New Zealand club fields.
[byline]by Aana Marinovich[/byline]
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