Ski FAQs

All our trips are adventures and there's always a myriad of things to think about even before you pull on your boots and click into your skis!   Aspiring Guides has been guiding in the New Zealand Southern Alps since 1990 - so there's not many questions that we haven't answered before.   Here's a list of some of the most frequently asked questions from our clients grouped by category:-


If you don't find your answer here - please feel free to contact us directly.



How big are the groups on our ski/snowboard tours & courses?

As a general rule: the more technically advanced / more complex the terrain - the lower the guide to client ratio.   All professional mountain guides contracted to Aspiring Guides are qualified professionals and operate under the terrain guidelines issued by the New Zealand Mountain Guides Association.
Our maximum group size for introductory ski/snowboard backcountry tours or courses is typically 1 guide with 6 clients. We write this as 1:6 guide ratio.   For ski snowboard touring in glaciated terrain this ratio is 1:4.



How hard are your ski / snowboard touring trips? Am I fit enough?

Technical Skiing/ Boarding Ability
For any group ski / snowboard backcountry tour or course you need to be an intermediate or advanced level skier or boarder.  You are expected to have had experience skiing / riding off trail ("off-piste") and away from groomed runs at resorts.    You don't have to be an expert skier or rider but you do need to competently control your skis or board on a wide variation of terrain from gentle slopes to steep coloirs and exposed ridgelines and in snow conditions that can vary widely from hard icy conditions to deep heavy powder. 

Unless you are travelling hut to hut, generally we avoid skiing or riding with a full pack and instead base each day's skiing from one hut / or central location. So while pack weights are light on most days of your tour, your pack maybe up to 15kg on your first and last day and you need to still be able to tour uphill and control your skiing / riding downhill while wearing a full pack.  

Experience with touring equipment not essential but recommended
While it is not expected that you have experience utilising the specialised equipment for backcountry touring (ski touring bindings, skins, splitboards etc), some prior experience is an advantage.  If you wish to book on a multi-day trip we generally recommend that you take at least one day prior to become familiar with the use your gear (whether you hire or own). Booking a 1 day - Treble Cone Backcountry Day with us is often a great idea!

If you are a private group or booking a 1:1 privately guided trip - your guide can handle any variety of ski level or experience - even if you would rate yourself as a beginner skier! 

Fitness for Ski / Snowboard Backcountry Touring
There are no ski lifts in the backcountry!   Touring is 80% uphill with the incentive of an untracked exhilerating ride to the bottom for the remaining 20%.    

Endurance Fitness is crucial - both mental and physical.   You need to be able to keep moving at a steady pace for 6 - 10 hours while carrying and skiing with a load. And you must be able to sustain this effort over multiple days - very few of our backcountry ski / snowboarding trips require only one day of effort!

One of the best ways to get "endurance" is sustained hiking under load.   Short intense work outs at the gym are only slightly helpful.  Big hikes ie., > 10 hrs on rough terrain with a pack is best.   Long days cross country skiing and hiking trips of 4+ days are ideal training.   But we understand that this type of training is pretty hard to get as a city dweller.     Stair hiking with a 15+ kg and 20+ floors works remarkably well.  But nothing beats getting out of the city to national park areas and mountain trails whenever you can.   

If you have any questions at all, please contact us - we can send you information about a full training program for ski / snowboard touring in NZ.



How heavy is my pack for a ski touring trip?

Generally our winter trips are based from a hut. Most days there is only need for lunch, snacks, water, camera, jacket. When relocating or touring out, you may need to carry 10-15kg which includes personal gear and some food. 


How long are your backcountry ski / snowboard trips for?

We have trips from 1 day to 12 days. See the descriptions of individual trips on our website.


I am travelling on my own. Can I still book as a single?

Most of our mountaineering ascents are conducted on a 1:1 basis, so no problem there.

For all other group climbing, skiing or WildWalks hiking trips, we have a 2 person minimum number to operate a trip.   If you are travelling on your own, try to organise your itinerary to match up with the dates scheduled for the course or trip listed on our website.  

If you can't join a trip on our scheduled dates: then you have two options:-

  1. Book a private 1:1 trip for any dates you wish or 
  2. We can book you as a single and we will try to match others to your dates. If we cannot find at least one other person for the dates you want, one month before the start date we will give you a full refund or offer you an alternative trip 1:1 for a fewer number of days. 


What do we eat? I have a special diet, is this OK?

One thing we hear every trip is "the food was great! I never knew it was possible to eat so well on a climbing/ skiing/ hiking trip".  We put a lot of work into supplying you with wholesome meals with a variety of healthy and tasty ingredients and snacks catering to common preferences.  

Where possible, we provide fresh vegetables and real coffee. However, there will always be limitations when cooking in an alpine or wilderness environment.  Meals like salads are limited or not possible to provide. Some trips/ courses are not recommended for people with very restrictive or complex dietary requirements.  If you do have a restrictive eating regime we ask that you disclose this to us at the time of booking and we may ask you to provide us with an advance copy of what you would typically eat on a wilderness trip.

For highly specialised diets requiring special food purchases - we may ask that you attend our offices on the day before your trip is due to commence.  If you are joining a scheduled group that doesn't have food requirements, we may ask you to shop & pay for some of your preferred dietary requirements.   You will also be required to carry this food and your guide may ask you to assist in the preparation of any separate meals required for you individually.   


What equipment do I need for a trip?

At the end of every trip description on our website, we provide detailed information about the equipment required for the trip. Typically this includes a checklist which you can use to "tick off" your gear, a document giving more detailed explanations as well as some of our best "guide tips" and a video to visually explain some of the terminology.

For our climbing and skiing trips we have 3 categories of equipment:-

  • Compulsory items - this is equipment you must have with you. You can either purchase or hire depending on the item.
  • Trip Dependent - these are items that maybe needed but will depend on the venue for the trip and prevailing conditions.  Most times this cannot be decided ahead of time.   Our best advice is that if you already own the items listed in the trip dependent section & you can fit in your pack then bring them along.   Things like your own rock shoes and snow goggles are good things to bring - but disposable eating utensils can easily be obtained in Wanaka.
  • Optional - these are items which you can choose to bring or leave behind. But we think you should at least bring your camera!!   Your trip will to some of the most breathtaking locations on the planet!!   

Feel free to contact us with any questions you may have about the suitability of equipment to avoid purchasing or carrying unncecessary equipment.


What time of year do your ski snowboard backcountry trips run?

Most of our trips run from late June to late October. Check the webpage for the trip you are interested in for scheduled dates.

Ski / Snowboard Touring  & Snowshoeing
The NZ ski season typically commences late June and ends early October, however backcountry touring is at its peak in Sept - late October.



Where do we meet?

Our offices are at 58 McDougall St, Wanaka, a 10-15 minute walk from the centre of town. Here's a google map of our office location.

Unless otherwise instructed, for summer trips your guide will meet you at 8.30am on the morning of Day 1 of your trip. For winter trips we usually meet at 5pm the evening before the trip starts. We will confirm this meeting at the time of booking.

If you require pick up from your accommodation, please let us know.  

At this meeting your clothing and equipment is checked and the final details of your trip are discussed. There will be time for last minute purchases if required.



How does the Aspiring Guides Weather Contingency work?

Aspiring Guides is the only NZ Guiding Company that offers this bonus to its clients. You can defer your trip for one day and not waste any precious guiding time. You will start the next day with the full number of days allocated for the trip still available.   Effectively your guide is holding themselves available for 1 extra day of guiding at no extra charge.

While one day may not be the cure for all bad weather situations, sometimes a one day delay at the start of your trip can make all the difference.   If you want to take advantage of this bonus, make sure you allow for this extra day in your itinerary.

The bonus one day weather contingency applies to all Summer Ascent based trips, any Winter trips (whether ascent, course, ski tour or Wildwalk) and also summer Wild Walks: NZ Glacier Hiking and Rabbit Pass. The Weather Contingency does not apply to any Summer Climbing Courses.  As you will appreciate - no matter what the weather there is always mountaineering skills you can learn indoors.

But please note:
The one day Weather Contingency applies only to the start date of your trip. This means your trip could start a day later if your guide recommends and you agree to choose this option. It is important to understand that once a trip begins no weather contingency days are included. There are no refunds for bad weather during the trip.


What about insurance for my backcountry ski/ snowboard trip?

Good travel insurance is essential. In addition to medical/accident cover we highly recommend purchasing travel cancellation insurance. In some instances, our clients have injured themselves in totally unrelated accidents or had a family emergency which has meant that they have had to cancel their trips at short notice. Unfortunately we were unable to resell their places and had to insist on our cancellation policy. A bad situation for everyone! But it’s also one that can be avoided with relatively cheap travel insurance. You may have your own preferred travel insurer. If not, here are some suggestions.
We do not recommend any company over any other.



What if I don't fit in with the group ability or otherwise?

This tends to be one of the major concerns of clients going on group trips. However, in our experience, it is very rarely a problem. Due to our small group size we largely avoid compatibility issues.

However, almost all of the trips we are offer are physically demanding.  It is very important  that you are realistic in the self-assessment of your skills and experience.    If you are not familiar with the NZ mountain and wilderness environment it is hard for you to judge how you will go.   However, our Chief Guide and all our guides are widely travelled and can give a good assessment before you join a trip whether your experience in other countries will work well for NZ conditions. 

If you are joining a group, tolerance is an important personal quality.  Tiredness from lack of fitness or sleeping in an unfamiliar environment can take its toll over a long trip.  But it is important to remember that while you might be the fastest, you might be the weakest at tying into your harness, crossing a river or making turns in deep powder snow.  Inevitably every person on a group trip will have their own unique strengths and weaknesses.    An upbeat temperament & accepting attitude go a long way in the mountains.

If you are really concerned about your compatibility with others and you have not done many group trips then we are happy to offer private options on request.


What if someone is injured?

Obviously every situation is different.  But in the case of a serious accident the guide will notify our base and a rescue will be started, usually by helicopter. Injuries are covered by the New Zealand Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC).  ACC pays for the majority of costs incurred in evacuation and treatment of injured people. They do not cover you in case of illness. For more information concerning what ACC covers click here. We recommend that you have travel insurance that will cover you if you need to be repatriated to your home country.


What if the weather is bad for our trip? Do I have to pay?

New Zealand is famous for its changeable weather. The mountains here are characterized by long sunny fine periods mixed with sudden and sometimes heavy rain or snow. Our experienced guides are well equipped to provide the best possible trip and have many years experience in judging the conditions.

Travel in bad weather is an art in itself. By using Aspiring Guides you give yourself the best chance of success dealing with whatever the weather may throw at you. We also offer a bonus one day weather contingency on ascents and winter trips that require helicopter access. This means your trip could start a day late if you choose to use this option.

If the weather remains adverse and prevents the trip from operating as originally planned, you have the opportunity to carry out sub alpine adventure and skill development activities. The Guide fee applies and any trip costs not utilised will be refunded.

It is important that you have read and understood our booking terms and conditions. Once a trip begins there are no refunds.



Where do we stay when we are on the trip?

Depending on the trip we use a mixture of camping and mountain huts.  

Mountain & DOC Huts
For climbing and WildWalks trips the huts are public and administered by the Department of Conservation (DOC).  They provide open plan bunk sleeping & "long drop"/ composting toilet facilities. There is a communal cooking area and tank water supply. Most high alpine huts have eating utensils but no other cooking facilities and we provide stoves & fuel.  There is no plumbing or electricity and no shower or separate bathroom facilities.  No high alpine huts have heating.  It is not possible to reserve bunk space in these public huts.

Ski Touring Huts
Aspiring Guides has a number of small basic huts which are reserved for their private use. The huts are very small as they are transported by helicopter to their location and have simple bunk style sleeping, but no indoor toilet or shower facilites.  They also do not have heating.

Camping is generally in 2 or 3 man tents with sleeping on a thermarest or closed cell foam pads. For Wild Walks trips, we have some pre-placed camps which also have a communal cook tent.

Alternative accommodation out of the mountains
If your trip comes out of the mountains early (typically due to weather issues), we will provide similar shared bunk & bathroom style accommodation until the trip finishes. You may choose to stay elsewhere if you wish, but you will be responsible for settling your account directly with your chosen accommodation and we will refund an amount to the nightly charge for use hut or camping as if you had stayed in the mountains.


Where is a good place stay before and after the trip?

Even though Wanaka is small it has excellent accommodation options for all tastes. We recommend the Wanaka Hotel for good value traditional hotel style accommodation right in the town centre. But there are also many other places that may suit your tastes and budget.   If you'd like us to make a booking for you please let us know.

Click here for a list of accommodation, and click here for map of Wanaka.

Unless you will have your own transport - we don't recommend staying at accommodation further than walking distance to our office. There are no local bus services.   We can provide a pick up & drop off service if you book this in advance but for any accommodation properties located more than 5km from the town centre there will be a $20 per trip fee (up to 5 people).



Can I leave my extra bags and valuables with you while we are in the hills?

Yes, no problem.  We have storage for anything you aren't taking on your trip.  There's no electricity, internet or phone connection available on any of our trips - so it's best to leave most of your electronic gear with us for the duration of your trip.


Can I rent a car in Wanaka?

You can rent a car in Wanaka but there is no facility for dropping it off in another town or city. To do this the vehicle must be rented in either Queenstown or a larger city such as Christchurch.


Do I need a car?

No. Most people use shuttle bus transport or a taxi service from Queenstown Airport to Wanaka.  If you stay in accommodation in central Wanaka then you will not need to rent a car. Most cafes, restaurants and activities are within easy walking distance.


How do I get to Wanaka?

The closest airport to us is in Queenstown.  There are regular shuttles between Wanaka and Queenstown airport (one hour drive).  For shuttle and taxi information:

Queenstown -Wanaka
Ritchies Connectabus
Yello Taxi Service
KT Sightseeing Taxi Service

Christchurch - Wanaka
InterCity Coachlines



Where can I leave my car?

While free long term parking is available in Wanaka, we cannot provide off-street secure parking for your vehicle while you are on a trip. You should ensure that any valuables are stored with us in our office.   If you are returning to the same Wanaka accommodation after your trip it is often worth asking if they are happy for you to leave your vehicle with them. 


Where is the Aspiring Guides located?

Aspiring Guides is based from the small & scenically beautiful town of Wanaka. Situated on the shores of Lake Wanaka, on the South Island of New Zealand, Wanaka is the gateway to Mt Aspiring National Park - a World Heritage Area.

Wanaka is a 1 hour drive from Queenstown (which has an international airport for flights from Australia), 5 hours from Christchurch (with an international airport) and 3 hours from Dunedin. Wanaka has ample accommodation to suit all budget types and a wide range of outdoor sports stores necessary to equip you for a mountaineering, skiing or hiking trip with us. 

We are located at 58 McDougall St, Wanaka, a short 10-15 minute walk from the centre of town.




How do I book a trip? How do I know if the dates I want are available?

You can book directly through our website using our online booking form.

Please make sure you include details of the trip you want to book and the dates that you prefer.

Provided that we have minimum numbers (ie., generally 2 persons) we will run all trips listed on our website.  If you have dates that don't match our scheduled dates or you want to check whether a particular trip or course is running - please contact us


We cannot confirm your place on any scheduled group trip or your guide for any 1:1 trip until we receive your payment of a NZ$500 deposit.  The balance of the trip price is due 60 days before the start of your trip.  If you are booking within 60 days of the trip start date then the full trip price is payable to confirm your booking. 

All bookings are subject to the our company Terms & Conditions relating to cancellation & liability issues.  Please make sure your read our Terms & Conditions carefully before booking your trip with us as you will be asked to confirm that you have read and agreed to them before your booking is finalised with us. 


How do I pay?

We offer a number of different options for you to make payment for your trip:-

  • Web-based Foreign Exchange Dealers
  • Bank Transfer - NZ Domestic & International
  • Credit Card - Visa, Mastercard only (2% fees apply)

Click here for a full list of payment options and details.


How much do trips cost?

See each individual trip descriptions for any trip or courses. All prices are in New Zealand Dollars and include the government 15% Goods & Services Tax (GST).
There is a currency converter on all trip pages to give you an estimate of the trip price in your own currency.


What happens after I pay my deposit?

Your deposit confirms your trip. We then respond by emailing you a booking confirmation.  

Your trip balance is due 60 days before your trip commences. We will contact you to arrange final payment.

Approximately 4 weeks before we are due to meet you we contact you again to give final trip details. This email will also prompt you for any outstanding paperwork and ask you for a copy of your equipment list, your travel information, and accommodation booking here in Wanaka, etc.


What is included in the price?

Generally the price includes your qualified and friendly guide, all meals and snacks, park fees, hut fees, communications with Aspiring Guides Operations base and 15% Goods and Services Tax. Most technical equipment is included but transport costs like vehicle, jetboat, helicopter and/or air plane costs are not always included and vary with individual trips. See each individual trip description to see what is included or excluded from the price.

Pisa Range Tour 3-day:  "Geoff did a great job! He guided us to some great terrain, the best snow, made regular assessments of the snow pack and also showed us what avalanche dangers to look out for (that is, irregularities in the snow pack, concave and convex slopes, slope gradients, etc.). Also Geoff was a really nice guy, and we got along well with him, which we think also contributed to the success of the trip. Moonlight Skiing on the second day was the highlight!"

Rees Family, UK

What did I love about the ski tour? All of it! I had the biggest grin on my face, I think my face muscles were going to cramp!

Jesse Sago, Australia

I took part in the one and half day avalanche awareness course with Aspiring Guides and learnt so much!! All the staff and guides are super lovely people, very knowledgeable and experienced, and I came away from the course with some awesome photos, very achy legs and most importantly a new respect for the mountains! The course taught me a lot about avalanches, and in the field we practiced things like safe travel techniques, recognising avalanche terrain, and the proper use of shovel, probe and transceiver in a rescue effort. I would highly recommend this course and the whole company for anyone wanting to experience the wild outdoors!

Bethany, New Zealand

Favourite part of the trip was being in the mountains and having skiable terrain (for all levels) at your front door.  It was a positive experience and I would do it again.  Aspiring Guides are very professional, friendly and safe.

David, Australia, August 2017

My mates and I went on a single day backcountry tour in the Wye Saddle/Wye creek out the back of the Remarkables on 16 August 2017. It was 3 days after a storm that delivered 30cm of fresh snow. While the resort was tracked out days before, our guide took us to some stashes where we found some fantastic fresh turns. Some of my mates had not been in the backcountry before and the guide was very helpful in showing them how to use the Alpine Touring gear and skins. He also conducted a quick training session on avalanche safety gear. We had a truly fantasitc day with Andrea.

David T, Queensland, Australia

Really enjoyed the course with Aspiring Guides. We covered a lot of information in the prep evening, but it never felt rushed or too much to take in. Bronwyn, our guide for the course, was very helpful and allowed everyone time to ask questions and give our interpretation of what was being discussed. The field day at Cardrona was a great way to put the evening's theory into practice. Again we were given plenty of time and help to get to know and use the equipment and the rescue scenarios were informative and fun. This was a really enjoyable course and the knowledge I learned and shared with the great group of people who participated will surely be invaluable in my future ventures into the backcountry. Aspiring Guides and Bronwyn delivered above and beyond of what I expected.

Deb, Australia

I was looking for a challenging back country snowboarding opportunity for myself and my 12 year old son. It was a father and son trip so I wanted it to be memorable, fun, but also a big learning opportunity. Splitboarding was something neither of us had done.  The opportunity to stay at Robrosa Hut was ideal also. Day 2 was an absolutely beautiful day with great snow, total isolation, and the whole mountain to ourselves. The trip wouldn’t have been the same without our guide Jimmy's good nature, knowledge and professionalism. Ben and I now have a well embedded mantra of “what would Jimmy do” whenever decisions need to be made. The backcountry is a perfect metaphor for lifelong learning given the varying conditions on a daily basis. Jimmy was able to make that very clear to Ben in a very teachable way.

Michael, Australia

The course met my expectations and pushed me quite a bit beyond my existing experience & knowledge levels.  I felt completely confident & at ease at all times with our guide Andrea. I really enjoyed the  safety tutorials/classes (avalanche safety, snow anchor theory, skinning technique, steep ski descents), the practical tips & hints on a range of techniques & activities (eg ski crampon usage, belaying without a belay device), the awesome terrain & landscape, and Andrea's cooking. I was impressed by the calmly positive & friendly attitude of all the Aspiring Guides team I interacted with - no big egos or haughty manners!  Thanks for a great time, Andrea & everyone. You have a very slick, smooth service that really provides great value for $.

Kirk, Australia

Great extension on the shorter one day Avalanche Awareness Course. Going to different ski areas/ terrain provided new experiences/ observations. Anyone considering Avalanche Stage 1 needs to have completed this course. Great, excellent communication, skills, encouragement, fun.

Stephen, Wanaka, New Zealand

Positive ski mountaineering experience and beautiful glacier environment! Great experienced guide in Dan, super professional,  extremely hard working. Food was great and plentiful. 

David, California, USA

Thanks so much for such an awesome few days in the Pisa Range - remote location, amazing conditions, Dan, our guide, was super informative re snow conditions, safety and general mountain tips. Loved skiing a line and looking back up at it and then the relief of making it back to the top again - that satisfaction of getting some great lines after you have done all the hard work to get there!  And thanks for the big, hearty, warm meals.  Smooth and professional operation, amazing experience.


Poppy & Joel, Australia

Mark was full of great stories and advice. I really liked his practical approach to assessing snow conditions, reading maps and slopes etc.  He was always keen to chat about snow, mountains, judgements etc. Climbing up to the ridge of Remarkables with a strong NW wind and looking down at the slope thinking.. oh #$@!... but then working though our learnings with Tubbs to make an assessment and then actually committing to it was really rewarding... also learning more about skinning uphill and reading conditions. I feel more knowledgable, yet realistic that there's so much more to learn and get time in the mountains. There's so much to know and it's super interesting. Four days is just the tip of the iceberg, but it really supports everything else I know about the outdoors. It's great doing the back country skiing (of course) but learning all the time about the NZ mountain weather and snow just adds to the bigger picture. 

Nik, New Zealand

A relaxing getaway with an old mate combined with a cool lodge and back country skiing. Awesome slopes.  Staying at WhareKea Chalet was an amazing place with awesome facilities and luxury beds with a view of the milky way!  Back country ski touring with a guide in remote locations takes all the stress out of making decisions.

Murray, Hamilton, New Zealand

It was a wonderful learning experience. It was great to learning safe travel practices for glaciers,  ski the glaciers and experience the mountains of NZ.  Trip of a lifetime! It opened up a whole new world to me.

Aaron, USA

It was perfect. Couldn’t speak highly enough about the guides and the trip. Top draw.

Bill, New Zealand

Did not previously appreciate the risks and feel significantly more competent and aware in the back country now. Great course! Would recommend to anyone looking at doing more back country.
Thanks for a great 4 days!

Andy, New Zealand 2018

I would 100% recommend Aspiring Guides, it was a once in a lifetime trip for me. 
Our guide Dan made sure we got the most out of the conditions that were available to us and actually it meant we got to experience three different back country areas instead of just one so it worked out better than I even hoped for. Despite being the least experienced ski tourer in the group I felt comfortable and safe at all times.


Friyana, United Kingdom 2018

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