Winter solstice is officially June 21 - we are furthest from the sun and begin the long cold grind to spring. It's tempting to curl up in front of the heater or fire to escape, but why not embrace the season, rug up in warm coats and boots and experience the snow, the ice and wintry vibe? There are numerous ways to enjoy the big freeze - and some of them involve staying warm and dry indoors.
Antarctic and Arctic Adventures
The North and South poles are places few of us will visit, but explorers Paul Nicklen and Joel Sartore have lived and worked there. They'll be in New Zealand for National Geographic Live, two presentations which allow the explorers to share stories and experiences about life on assignment with National Geographic. Into the Icy Realms sees biologist and photojournalist Nicklen talk about the remote and extreme in pursuit of some of the most elusive polar creatures while intrepid explorer Sartore travels to some of the world's most beautiful and challenging environments and lives to tell the tale in Grizzlies, Piranhas and Man-Eating Pigs. Nicklen speaks on July 29 at the ASB Theatre; Sartore appears at the Auckland Town Hall on August 23.
• To find out more, see the-edge.co.nz
This winter sport, thought to have originated in the 1500s in Scotland, is played on ice by participants who wear special shoes with Teflon soles rather than skates. Players slide 20kg smooth granite stones across sheets of ice towards a target area - the house - which is divided into four rings. Two teams, each of four players with two stones each, take turns to slide the rocks toward the houses aided by team members who "sweep" the ice with specialised brooms to aid the rocks' momentum. The scoring is the same as in bowls. Most famous in Naseby, in the depths of Central Otago, but you can play it here. Auckland Curling Club president Ian Ford says curling is a tactical game which involves strategy and teamwork rather than brute strength and with around 700 people in New Zealand participating, it is growing in popularity. Brittany Taylor, 20, played her first game with her family when she was eight and has since represented New Zealand. She says curling is a great family sport, albeit one you have to wrap up for. The right facilities are only indoors in Auckland, so the club meets at Paradice Avondale on Sunday evenings from April to October. There's a secondary school competition on Thursday nights.
• To find out more, see the NZ Curling website at curling.org.nz
Curlers may describe their sport as the coolest game on ice, but ice hockey fans would probably have a thing or two to say about that. The New Zealand Ice Hockey League's 2013 season, which includes five teams, is now under way with regular games at Paradice rinks at Botany and Avondale. This weekend the two local teams, the Botany Swarm and the West Auckland Admirals, face off at Paradice Botany with games at 5pm on Saturday and Sunday. For those wanting to play, the Auckland Ice Hockey Association runs a learn-to-play programme and beginners' league as well as a number of age group competitions.
• To find out more, see aiha.co.nz
We've spent a bit of time rink-side lately and have discovered ice skating is cool. But there's a whole legion of folks as comfortable on a pair of ice skates as on their own two feet, who already know that. If you'd like to join them, we're fortunate to have two ice skating rinks (Paradice Avondale and Botany) in Auckland offering learn to skate classes for toddlers to pensioners. The New Zealand Ice Figure Skating Association (NZIFSA) has developed the Kiwi Skate Programme for people of all ages to learn basic skills and/or improve their confidence on the ice. Kiwi Skate also includes sections dedicated to fun games and activities.
Paradice is bringing back the Aotea Square Ice Rink for winter 2013. Last year was the first time there had been an outdoor ice rink in Auckland. It was so popular, attracting 25,000 visitors, that it returns this year opening on Thursday June 27, bigger and better. The rink will be 10 per cent bigger and activities include free ice skating lessons, skating demonstrations, snow sculpture making, competitions and themed weekends and evenings. The marquee is covered, so skaters can skate no matter what the weather.
Skiing & SnowboardingThinking about going skiing for the first time? Be prepared by attending the Beginners Clinic at Snowplanet, the only indoor snow resort in Australasia. The clinic includes two one-hour ski or snowboard lessons and an introduction to snow sports equipment and clothing, advice on where you can buy or hire snow gear, where to stay and general information about making the most of your time on the slopes. You can also ski, snowboard, tube and/or toboggan at Snowplanet 365 days a year. It features a 200m-long slope plus a terrain park with jumps and rails, ski line and a beginners' area. Other services include rental equipment and clothing, lessons, coaching, and conference facilities. Racing and freestyle competitions on Saturdays until October.
• To find out more, see snowplanet.co.nz Clinics Saturdays and Sundays, 10am - 2pm throughout June, booking ph 09 427 0044.
Sled dog racing
Though this winter sport is most popular in Northern Hemisphere, there's a small but dedicated team of 200 to 300 aficionados in New Zealand. The 14 clubs, in the North and South Islands, meet regularly to race on dry land or snow. Teams of dogs, usually the striking siberian huskies or alaskan malamutes, work alone or in teams pulling a sled or wheeled rig with a driver (musher) standing on it. The team that completes a marked course in the least time wins. Now it's June, the dog sled racing season is all go because the dogs can't race until the mercury falls below 13C (otherwise they risk overheating). Bob Storey, president of the NZ Federation of Sleddog Sports (NZFSS), says the activity is a fantastic one for dog-lovers looking to spend more time with their animals, plus it's family-orientated and exciting. In the North Island, the Kaingaroa and Waitarere Forests, the Sacred Hill Rifleman's Vineyard and Waiouru are the most popular venues for sled dog races.
• To find out more, see NZFSS's website at nzfss.org.nz for more details and upcoming events.
Sit back, relax in reclining seats and - without leaving Earth - prepare to take a tour around the planets, stars and constellations in the winter night sky. The Stardome Observatory & Planetarium, in One Tree Hill Domain, offers a regular presenter-led Winter Night Sky talk which is held at 8pm Wednesday-Sunday throughout June, July and August.
Snow makes an indoor appearance as one of the world's most enchanting shows storms into town. Russian clown Slava Polunin created Slava's Snowshow 30 years ago and has since taken it around the world to the delight of audiences. With stunning special effects and traditional and contemporary theatrical clowning, Slava's Snowshow is on from July 10-14 at the Aotea Centre's ASB Theatre. It is one of the international highlights of The Edge's Winter Showtime programme of family events, including a range of theatre and musical events plus the National Geographic Live talks and the Aotea Square Ice Rink. As well as Slava's Snowshow, the programme includes Seasons, by Wellington-based Capital E! National Theatre for Children, which uses music, song, dance and puppetry to take the littlies on a journey through the season. Ideal for 2-7-year-olds with ticket prices from $8, Seasons plays on Tuesday July 2 and Wednesday July 3 at 10am and 11.30am.
• To find out more about Winter Showtime, see the-edge.co.nz