If you’re someone who is at home in the mountains - and can imagine making them your office – Tai Poutini Polytechnic’s Ski Patrol programme is for you.

Over the last twenty years, the programme has produced some of the country’s finest ski patrollers.

Wanaka is one of New Zealand’s best ski destinations and is home to much of the programme’s practical training. Wanaka offers some of the most advanced skiing and riding terrain, including natural pipes, large open faces, steeps, mogul fields and great back county ski touring.

Avalanche and pre-hospital emergency care training is offered in a realistic working environment and includes practical experience and theory that is based on industry needs.

Our graduates are sought after by the global ski patrol industry and have gone on to work overseas in Canada, Japan and Europe.

We aim to produce graduates who are work ready. We aim for consistently high levels of situational and self-awareness, a strong work ethic, and a mature attitude to teamwork and leadership ability. Combined with skiing ability, these are the minimum skills required to gain a ski patrol job.


Picturesque Wanaka, in the South Island of New Zealand, is home to much of the course.

Wanaka is a popular holiday destination with domestic and international tourists year-round, due to its skiing, mountain biking and rock climbing opportunities.

The small town is also the gateway to Mt Aspiring National Park, which is internationally renowned for its magnificent mountain-related activities.

Five amazing ski resorts are within a ninety minute drive of Wanaka and students will be placed at one of a variety of New Zealand ski areas for a six week work placement section of the programme.

  • Level:
  • Credit Value:
  • Awards:
    New Zealand Certificate in Snowsport Patrol (Level 4) and New Zealand Certificate in Avalanche Risk Management (Level 5)
  • Location:
    Wanaka plus nationally for work experience sites
  • Method of Study:
    Blended learning. Full time (1200 learning hours)
  • Holiday Duration:
    1 week
  • Teaching Duration:
    26 weeks
  • Total Duration:
    27 weeks
  • Start Date:
    26 March 2018
  • End Date:
    28 September 2018
  • $6,995

  • Domestic Breakdown
  •   Tuition Fee:
  •   Student Service Fee:

Core Elements


Learn how to interpret meteorological phenomena and identify its effects on avalanche geography and Snowsport operations.

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Summarise meteorological information from a variety of sources
  • Collect, record and communicate meteorological data to industry standard
  • Apply meteorological information to operational safety decisions

Physiology and Health

Develop skills, knowledge and attitudes to apply physiology and health knowledge specific to a snowsport environment.

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate knowledge of human anatomy and physiology within a snowsport environment
  • Predict and manage impact of environmental factors on physiology in a snowsport environment
  • Demonstrate role specific personal fitness and capability
  • Demonstrate commitment and adherence to workplace Health and Safety
  • Evaluate and apply appropriate feedback and communication models

Alpine First Aid Scene Management

Gain experience and necessary judgement to safely manage an alpine first aid scene.

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate the ability to maintain patient safety in an alpine environment
  • Manage patient transport safely in an alpine environment
  • Provide effective on-site support of lead patrol attendant
  • Gather and record incident occurrence data to industry standard

Slope Management

The aim of this course is to provide students with the skills, experience and judgment needed to manage and communicate hazards on a Snowsport Area.

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Assess conditions and identify hazards in a whole mountain context
  • Continuously evaluate, mitigate and communicate hazards in adherence with Snowsport Area SMS
  • Demonstrate basic knowledge of Snowsport Area locations and systems
  • Communicate effectively with all stakeholders and operate within scope of practice

Mountain Skills

Develop the skills and know-how required to safely move around and navigate the alpine environment using various forms of transportation and equipment.

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Ski or snowboard proficiently on all-mountain terrain in varying conditions
  • Move safely in a mountain environment using touring equipment, ice axe and crampons
  • Run a toboggan safely on intermediate terrain
  • Demonstrate sound judgement in negotiating all-mountain terrain, including role modelling snowsport area behaviour codes
  • Demonstrate effective management of personal and patrol equipment

Mountain Search and rescue

Learn how to safely and effectively contribute to alpine search and rescue operations, including an avalanche burial rescue and chairlift self-evacuation procedures.

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Participate effectively in a small party avalanche burial rescue
  • Apply knowledge of the structure and roles of a full operational emergency response including CIMS
  • Demonstrate chairlift self-evacuation procedures

Snow Science

Gain an understanding of the nature of snow science and its effects on avalanche occurrence, to produce snow safety and avalanche mitigation plans.

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Identify and evaluate the nature, triggers and effects of avalanches
  • Collect, record and interpret snow stability and avalanche occurrence data for a snow safety programme
  • Apply snow stability and science data to personal, operational and avalanche mitigation plans

Avalanche Geography

Learn how to summarise geographical study and apply it to human factors and avalanche occurrence.

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Recognise avalanche terrain and identify safe travel routes through a variety of terrain
  • Apply appropriate factors and methods to evaluate stability and danger ratings
  • Recognise and evaluate human decision making factors in relation to avalanche hazard
  • Operate within scope of practice

Snow Blasting

Safely identify, handle and deploy explosives in a snowsport environment for safety purposes, include avalanche management.

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Identify and evaluate explosive products used in Snowsport Area Operations
  • Assemble and deploy explosives safely for the purpose of avalanche control
  • Identify and discuss regulatory legislation appropriate to operational scope

Programme Structure and Workload

The integrated approach of the programme allows for a combination of teaching, work experience and self-directed study to be delivered over a compressed timeframe.

The programme is guided by the needs of the industry, which looks for students who can work independently and have the ability to maintain work ethic for typically long workdays. This means programme delivery hours will incrementally increase over the timetable to 10 hours per day and will include both independent tutor guided and self-directed learning for students.

Online learning, class lectures, small-group tutorials and/or practicals, on field training, scenarios, reflective practice, role play, presentations, demonstrations and self-directed learning all feature in the programme.

As the programme moves into the winter period, a six week internship of ten hours or more per day will enable students to put their newfound skills into action with a working New Zealand ski patrol.  

The programme includes the delivery and assessment of two national qualifications, which are taught concurrently - the New Zealand Certificate in Snowsport Patrol (80 credits at Level 4) and the New Zealand Certificate in Avalanche Risk Management (40 credits at Level 5). The level 5 qualification was previously known as Stage 1 Avalanche. Details of these qualifications can be found on the NZQA website.

Upon completion of the programme, students who achieve a passing grade in Meteorology, Snow Science, Avalanche Geography and Mountain Search and rescue, will be granted the NZ Certificate in Avalanche Risk Management (Level 5).

The NZ Certificate in Snowsport Area Patrol (Level 4) will be awarded to students who achieve a passing grade in all courses in the programme.

Method of Study

Blended learning. Full time (1200 learning hours).

Further Study Paths

  • New Zealand Certificate in Snowsport Patrol Leader (Level 5)
  • For additional outdoor qualifications and diploma please visit www.tpp.ac.nz
  • For additional qualifications and guide training options please visit the New Zealand Mountain Guides Association website

Career Opportunities

Highly respected, the programme provides specialised training in the specific skills required for a first year ski patroller.

The programme allows for various careers, sets strong foundations for related careers in the outdoors, including the ski guiding and avalanche safety industries, a variety of adventure tourism, safety management, summer guiding and/or instruction operations, The Department of Conservation, alpine search and rescue, education roles, ambulance officer and/or paramedic.

Many patrollers in fact balance their winter work with these types of careers, academic pursuits and/or trades such as building, accounting etc.

Entry Criteria

Applicants must meet the following criteria:

  • Be over 17 years of age as of May 1st of the year they enter the programme to meet the legal requirements of handling explosives during training for snow blasting.
  • Evidence, acceptable to the programme leader, that the applicant meets or exceeds NZSIA level 5 in skiing or snowboarding (or proof of overseas equivalent).
  • Applicants must hold a current (completed within six months of programme start) First Aid Certificate, which includes NZQA units 6400, 6401, 6402 or equivalent.
  • Learners must be able to demonstrate evidence of ability to use avalanche transceivers, shovels, and probes. Competence may be evidenced by a document signed and dated by a graduate of the New Zealand Certificate in Avalanche Risk Management (Level 5) [Ref: 3490] or recognised equivalent, or higher graduate stating that the learner meets the criteria.
  • Applicants for whom English is a second language must meet IELTS (or equivalent) Level 5.5 or above.

As an alternative, appropriate video footage of the skiing and and/or transceiver entry criteria can be provided to the programme leader. Industry people acceptable to the Programme leader can also vouch for the applicant’s ability. It is important to clarify with the programme leader beforehand what is required.

When the number of applicants who meet the entry criteria exceeds the number of positions available, applicants who meet more of the selection criteria than other applicants will be given priority in selection.

Selection Criteria apply

  • Prior work experience in the Snow Sports Industry (paid or voluntary) especially volunteer ski patrolling or trail crew
  • Prior general experience in outdoor activities e.g. downhill skiing, snowboarding, cross country skiing, tramping, mountaineering or rock climbing
  • A strong and confident skier who is able to continuously ski black runs at a snow sport area all day
  • Skier rather than snowboarder

Special notes

  • Special Entry may be granted where evidence exists that the applicant can successfully complete the programme. Please contact the Polytechnic for details.
  • If applicants are unclear about their ability to meet any entry criteria they can contact the programme leader for clarification.