Sure, those little kids may fly past you down the beginner slope. But learning to ski as a grown-up is easier than you may think.

There are, however, a few things to consider.

For a start, older learners seldom want to spend their entire day on the slopes. Learning to ski can be tiring, both mentally and physically, so a destination such as Queenstown, which offers more off-slope activities than you can poke a ski pole at, is ideal. Hit the slopes in the morning then head down the mountain for a jet boat ride, relaxing spa treatment or a spot of wine tasting in the afternoon. After all, you're supposed to be on holiday.

Getting started

Perhaps the most daunting thing about learning to ski as an adult is that somewhat bewildering first day. As adults, we're used to being in control but those first few hours on the mountain can make you feel like the new kid at school – everyone seems to know where to go and what to do except you. Don't get stressed trying to work things out for yourself. Head straight to the Guest Services counter to find out where to go and to buy your plastic ski pass if you haven't already purchased one online or in town.


This pass operates the automatic lift gates and can be used to hire rental gear, purchase lessons, view your ski stats, and more. It's easy to use and does pretty much everything except make hot chocolate. Once you've got your lift pass sorted, it's time to pick up your hire gear. Borrowing from a friend is fine but it's best to limit this to clothing. Poorly fitted boots will hamper your progress and beginners' skis are shorter and easier to manage than regular ones. Don't be shy about asking a staff member to help fit your boots and skis.

The author, Tiana Templeman, celebrates her first green run. Photo / Supplied
The author, Tiana Templeman, celebrates her first green run. Photo / Supplied

Book a private lesson

Having a private lesson makes all the difference on your first day. One-on-one time with an instructor is great for building confidence and you'll make rapid progress. An hour or two of private tuition should have you skiing down the beginners' slope in no time. Signing up for group lessons after this is fine as you'll be well on your way.

Give yourself time to rest at the end of each lesson before hitting the slopes again. It's easy to get carried away with the fun of it all but taking regular breaks is important as it helps to prevent injuries and keep the fun factor high.

Your first day or two will likely be spent gaining confidence on the beginner slopes and riding the magic carpet, a slow-moving rubber travelator that serves as a lift for beginners. Once you can stop by making a wedge with your skis and know how to turn, it's time to take the lift to the top of a green run.

Ready for lift off

Most beginners joke that riding the lifts is harder than learning to ski. Sliding into the correct position on icy snow is definitely an acquired art and you'll probably fall down at least once. Don't feel embarrassed as this happens to pretty much everyone and staff are well-practised at stopping the lifts. These carry four skiers so you are likely to be on there with people you don't know. Tell them you're a beginner and ask for some space so you don't take them out when you exit the lift.

That first exhilarating green run is a major achievement for most beginners and thoroughly addictive. Before long you'll be the one offering words of encouragement to that nervous first-timer sitting beside you on the lift.

Choosing the right ski field

Queenstown has four ski fields within a 20- to 90-minute drive of town.

Coronet Peak is just 20 minutes from Queenstown and has a ski lift with a magic carpet that's ideal for beginners.


Cardrona has a laid-back friendly vibe that makes newbies feel instantly at home and a great choice of affordable restaurants.

When your legs need a break from skiing, head to The Remarkables and go sledding.

Treble Cone is 90 minutes from Queenstown and best known for its intermediate and advanced runs, but there is also a beginners' programme.

Road conditions can get icy in winter so a 4WD is the best option if you're hiring a car. For those who aren't keen on driving with snow chains, there are regular bus transfers available.

Treble Cone, Lake Wanaka. Photo / Martyn Williams
Treble Cone, Lake Wanaka. Photo / Martyn Williams

Tips for first-time skiers

• Gloves and goggles aren't available for hire so bring your own.

• Sunglasses are fine in lieu of goggles if the weather is warm.


• Dress in layers and wear a long T-shirt to protect your arms.

• Long socks are essential for preventing boot rub.

• Allow time to collect your gear and get sorted before your lesson.

• Bring a small water bottle that will fit in the pocket of your ski jacket.

• If you're not having fun, call it a day – there's always tomorrow.