Snowboarding at Rainbow Ski Area at Nelson Lakes National Park

Scenic drive to the ski area
streams slowly coming to life

I have spent nine months in the North Island and have now come to the South Island for another 8 months. It is September and Winter is now during to an end. The South Island is known for its grand landscapes and mountains and is the place to go in New Zealand for winter sports. I decided to take the opportunity and learn how to snowboard YAAY!

Snow capped mountains

I am based in Blenheim which is in the Marlborough region of the South Island and the closest ski field is Rainbow Ski Area. It opens a little later than other ski resorts, with an operating season from mid-July to mid-October. The lifted area covers an elevation range of 1540 to 1768 metres, and it caters primarily for skiers of intermediate ability, citing a distribution of 25% beginner, 55% intermediate and 20% advanced level. It is not a huge ski area but it is perfect if you are just starting out and is not very crowded.

Learners slope and intermediate slope

From Blenheim it takes about 1hr 45 mins to reach the base car park were you can then catch a shuttle bus to the top for $20.00 return (Pay with cash or eftpos at the ski field). If you decide to drive up, make sure you have chains for your car and drive responsibly.  The ski field is also linked by shuttle to St Arnaud which is 35 minutes away.

Main car park

The official website: has a great section on how to get there such as carpooling and advice as to shuttle times etc. In regards to the shuttle from the car park, they leave on time or just before…. So don’t be late!! I learnt this the hard way. On my first visit I seriously underestimated the time it will take me to drive there. As a result I was 20 minutes late and thus missed my shuttle bus. In such cases, the only thing I can suggest is you ask for a lift  with someone who is putting chains on their wheels and are driving up. New Zealanders are very friendly and I am sure they would not mind, as long as they have space. 🙂

There are three departures: 9am 10am and 12pm

Returns are: 3pm and 4pm

For each time there is on average two buses available, I would suggest you arrive between half past or quarter to for each return time.

Shuttle bus at the base carpark

I have never snowboarded before, so I went to two beginner group sessions. On the web page, it says it is all fully booked but that is not the case. In fact you actually have to phone them to book group or private sessions. I suggest you book a full package: half day pass, group lesson, snowboard and shoes hire. Otherwise you still have to pay out for the board and shoe hire assuming you don’t have your own already which I assume you won’t since it is a beginners class you are booking. For some reason the 10 am classes book up more often than the 12pm and 2pm classes.

My visits usually followed this routine:

  • 10 am shuttle pick up    
  • 10:20 am arrive at the ski field
  • Treat myself to a macchiato at the cafe which is at 1500m
  • 11:15 read a book for 30 minutes
  • 11:45 check in for my class and equipment hire. I go around this time as I only get a half day on the learners slope and half day finishes at 12pm or starts from 12pm.
  • 11:45-12:00 I collect my boots and snowboard. Please note during the first few weeks (peak weeks) your shoe size may not be available until 12:30 so you may have to have a size bigger.
  • 12:00 pm group class for 1.5 – 1.45hrs
  • Continue practising what I learnt for 40 mins
  • Return hired equipment
  • Go to the ladies
  • Go to the return shuttle for 2:30 -2:45
  • Arrive at the base car park around 3:20
  • Drive home

What I took:

  • Helmet and snow goggles which I borrowed from a colleague- Make sure you have a helmet because you will be falling often.
  • A flask with hot water
  • Nuts to keep up my energy
  • Packet of tissues
  • Small book
  • $20.00 for shuttle and some change for food/drink – note: most people take their own snacks and hot water so don’t be embarrassed to take your own sandwiches and tea.

What I wore:

  • Thermal leggings
  • Snow pants
  • Thermal top
  • Long sleeved top
  • Snow jacket
  • Thick ski socks
  • Gloves
  • Wool hat

The days when I went, it was nice and sunny and there was no need for the jacket to be honest. However always check the weather forecast and dress accordingly, wouldn’t want you catching pneumonia. After my first two group sessions I decided to only hire the boots/ snowboard and got a half day pass to continue practising what I had learnt over the previous two weeks.

Note: The first time you snowboard your bottom is going to be so sore from all the falling over the following few days. 😦 


Besides snowboarding and skiing, there is a sledging area which is great for kids with plenty of snow for them to have snowball fights and to create little master pieces. I found this little bear and it is soooooooo cute I just had to take a selfie with it.

How beautiful is the backdrop?
Best snow bear I have ever seen 🙂
The bear stole the best Instagram spot

The cafe is a reasonable size and the menu I have to say deserves two thumbs up. Made from fresh local ingredients there is something tasty for everyone. From Hungarian goulash to double chocolate buttercream gateau. Don’t believe me? Check out the menu for yourself.

Personally I just had a coffee and a small $1.00 doughnut or maybe it was $2.00.


I would strongly recommend visiting Rainbow Ski area, if you are local to the area and would like to learn to snowboard or ski. It is also a great place to visit if you want a day trip that is a bit different than your norm and to take advantage of the season. Even if you do not ski, sitting outside the cafe reading a book and looking at those spectacular views is still worth it.


I hope you enjoyed my post and would love any feedback in regards to how I can improve my posts. If you would like me to write about any clothing or equipment I use please let me know. 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s