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An Instructor's Top Tips: Getting Ready for Winter!

March 24, 2019
Russ Kauff
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Russ Kauff

Wait, what? It’s almost winter? How did that happen? Even with the number of seasons I’ve spent working as a ski instructor at Cardrona in Wanaka, & in Vermont & Colorado in the USA, the next season always manages to sneak up on me a bit.

Realising that your winter holiday is right around the corner can present some challenges, especially if you’re from a temperate climate & your cold weather clothing is… “Honey, where the heck did we put the thermals!?”

One of my favorite indicators of just how amazing skiing & snowboarding are, is the amount of logistics people put up with without it detracting from the oodles of fun we have. A little bit of preparation in advance can go a long way & doesn’t have to be drudgery. It boils down to getting your equipment ready; getting your clothing ready; getting your body ready; & getting your mind & spirit ready.


Question: If you have your own skis or board, what did they look like when you put them away after your last winter holiday? Do you know? Taking care of your equipment will make it last longer, perform better, & provide you with far more fun. It can be tough to know who to trust to tune your equipment properly, but it’ll be worthwhile to ask around or put your faith in your local ski or board shop. You can also take advantage of Cardrona’s outstanding workshop team (I trust them with my gear!).

cardrona-workshop-ski-snowboard hire

Like your skis & board, your boots behave far better when they are taken care of properly. Using a boot dryer overnight after your day on the hill is a great way to make sure that your boots will be ready to take good care of you the following day. As an aside, keep the buckles of your ski boots closed when they’re not in use – the loosest setting is ideal to keep the plastic in the right shape & to extend the life of your boots.

Lastly, please, I beg of you, do not leave your ski or snowboard boots outside in the car overnight. Bring them inside where it’s warm & dry. They deserve a good night’s rest just as much as we do & they’ll treat you better as a result!


Our Southern Alps winters throw a huge variety of weather our way, & dressing well is vital. If you are determined to arrive at Cardrona wearing the latest & greatest gear, take the time to consider whether your new clothing will allow you to play our sports in bad weather. There are some inexpensive options that make use of the same technology as the most expensive clothing in the trendiest shops, so find a balance of what you can afford to spend to get the gear that protects you from the elements while making you look & feel good while you ride. Your well-loved old faves may still work perfectly for you – use a tech wash to keep their weather-proofing up to snuff.

Cardrona ski -queenstownski- skiingnewzealand

Once you’re confident that your outerwear ready for what New Zealand throws at us, it’s worth taking the time to think about your layers. A common mistake recreational skiers make is to think that it is the number of layers that keeps us warm. It’s not the number but the type of layering that is essential. Having several thin wicking layers (polypropylene, our exceptional Kiwi merino, etc.) under our high-tech jackets is great for keeping us dry, but it’s the thicker insulating layers that keep us warm. Get puffy, people – it’s about insulation, & it’s far better to begin your day too warm than end your day too cold. Down is the classic but there are also numerous synthetic insulating materials that have excellent thermal qualities (like the merino mid-layers from our friends at Icebreaker). One thin wicking layer, followed by one or two insulating pieces, & topped by a good outerwear jacket is a tried & true approach for a wide range of conditions.

If there is one piece of clothing about which I am exceptionally picky & that is essential for a great alpine holiday, it’s quality ski or board socks. It’s worth packing enough pairs of socks to have a fresh one each day you plan to be on the hill, & it’s certainly worth doing an inspection to make sure all of your old favorites are in fine shape before you pack at the last minute. The Cardrona shops sell a great range of socks that will keep your feet happy.


Skiing & snowboarding are so much fun that it’s easy to forget that they’re exercise! Plenty of busy, hard-working people walk out of their offices & directly onto the mountain & have a wonderful time, but a little fitness definitely goes a long way towards making your holiday a great one.

Here are some general guidelines for getting your body ready for fun days on our mountain:

  • Make sure to have a good balance of cardio fitness & strength.
  • Activities that don’t just go in a straight line but move in all directions provide better ski & board specific fitness (as much as cycling & running are superb, it’s helpful to complement them with a broader range of movements).
  • A balance of quadriceps & hamstring strength helps stabilize your knees & makes for easier, better technique.
  • Core strength is what keeps the whole package together – a strong core contributes a great deal to our ability to move around the hill all day with grace & control.


The only measure of a successful ski & snowboard holiday is how it makes us feel, so here are some final tips to make your trip memorable & not stressful!

  • Sort through your old gear & remember how much fun you had last time you wore it in the mountains.
  • Visit our centrally-located shops in Queenstown & Wanaka the evening you arrive so our terrific staff can make sure all the details are sorted as you prefer – our team never fails to spread the joy!
  • Plan in advance for an early start so that you can settle into a great, unhurried cup of barista coffee at one of the many coffee stops at Cardrona, & start the day off right.
  • Have a leisurely lunch up the mountain in Mezz, just because you can!
  • Toast the end of a great day at Base Bar with family & friends as a way of celebrating why you came to Cardrona in the first place.

Take these moments for what they are: the real purpose of skiing & riding in the first place is to have an incredible time!

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About the Author

Russ Kauff

Russ is one of our most experienced ski instructors at Cardrona, & he's handy with the written word too!

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