One of the first thing my kids asked me when we moved to New Zealand last December was – “Can we go to the snow now?”
With a three kids in tow, and our youngest being only 3 years old, the idea of trying to do a whole week at the snow and skiing felt far to hard this year. We decided to make their first trip to “real snow” to be focused on just having fun … snowmen, snow angels and tobogganing. My 5 year old spent weeks telling everyone she was in charge of the carrots! For the snowman of course …
I booked us into a great place to stay about 25 minutes from the Mount Ruepehu ski fields. A converted hay barn on a farm kind of in the middle of nowhere. It is listed HERE in Airbnb. What I loved about it was that it created an experience of it’s own beyond our intent to go to the snow.
We could go for walks around the farm, take a walk to a river nearby or sit upstairs and watch the cows being fed each afternoon. There was no TV and I did not pack any technology for the kids on our holiday so hours were spent playing UNO, reading, creating make believe games or reading. The thing that really stood out for me was how happy the kids were and how little they fought with each other. Truly beautiful time.
We only had 2 days available for our snow time before we were due to move on for a visit with Grandparents. Weather in the mountains can be very unforgiving so we hoped to get at least one good day.
Gale force winds, hail, limited visibility. Any one in their right mind would have stayed home by the fire but with 3 little girls who had firm expectations of seeing snow that day we decided to head up the mountain and see what we could do.
Bundled up in all our warm gear we drove up just into the snow line and found a safe place to pull over. We jumped out and spent 15-20 minutes dodging rock on the toboggan, making snowballs and then jumped back into the car totally frozen. Kids super happy though.
We stopped in at the historic Chateau for lunch and a hot chocolate on the way back to the farm. Lots of UNO played that afternoon!
15cm of snow fell overnight in the mountains and sunshine greeted us on the farm. We got moving quickly to make the most of the conditions. It was so different driving up and actually being able to see the mountains!
Happy Valley is the beginners area at Whakapapa (Mount Ruepehu). There is a free chairlift that gets you from the road down into the valley which the kids thought was pretty exciting. We spent 4.5 hours in beautiful sunshine (although it was -2C when we arrived) tobogganing, building snowmen, snow angels and generally having fun.
Some important things I learned:
- Having 2 adults on duty was essential. My 3 year old got cold quite early and I was able to take her into the cafe for 30 minutes while big girls kept playing. It also allowed us to have one adult at top and bottom of toboggan run to help mange safety.
- Toboggan run is lots of fun but comes with high risk of injury. So many people speeding down it with no idea how to slow down, steer or stop. At one point my 8 year old had her legs knocked out from under her at high speed as she got off her toboggan. I honestly thought she might have broken a leg in that moment.
- You can never have too many jelly snakes on hand in the snow!
- Don’t forget the day pack! Somehow my husband and I neglected to put the day pack in the car which meant as kids warmed up and wanted to strip off layers I had no where to store them.
I have to say this day far exceeded my expectations for a snow trip with the kids. I was going to be happy if we survived an hour up there together. So to have 4.5 hours was simply great.
Do you take your kids to the snow? Do have some more tips for me so we can go again for a longer stay next winter?