Rainbow Ski Field
The beautiful Rainbow Ski field is the only ski field in the Nelson Marlborough region, although it is based at the stunning Nelson lakes (St Arnaud) it is also very close to the Marlborough region as well. The field sits at a height of 1760 meters and has some incredible views.
We headed up to Rainbow for a trip as a family for the first time in 2019, my husband had been waiting to get us up skiing for many years as he used to do a lot of it in his younger years while running a snow and surf shop. But we were never quite ready to tackle the challenge of the sensory issues that came part in parcel with our son's autism. We finally decided it was time to give it a go and we were so glad we did, he loved it!!! There were a few sensory challenges but he tackled them head on and we had a fantastic day, in fact he loved it so much we ended up heading up the ski field 6 times that winter.
So here are our first impressions and tip's on Rainbow ski field -
Getting There -
Getting there is not to hard from either Blenheim or Nelson, it is only about a 1.5hr drive from either direction to the ski field base car park, approx 2hrs total travel time from either Nelson or Blenheim to the top of the mountain.
If you are heading there from Nelson you turn off Tophouse road to the left on to SH 63 and head away from Lake Rotoiti township back towards Blenheim.
Not to far up the road you will see Rainbow road on the right hand side.
If you are coming from Blenheim you drive straight up the Wairau valley for approx 95km till you see the Rainbow road sign on the left hand side, if you get to the Lake Rotoiti town ship you have gone to far.
Once you reach the Rainbow road from either direction you travel 12km up the gravel road to the bottom car park at six mile creek. This is where you can get a shuttle from up the mountain if you have booked one.
Fares for the shuttle: (July 2020)
Adults $28.00 (return)
0-17yr $22.00 (return)
Family $76.00 (return)
If you are driving up the mountain your self SNOW CHAINS ARE A MUST - this a very true mountain road and the weather conditions can change very quickly, so don't get caught out.
Chain Hire Services: (July 2020)
Chain Hire is available from the following locations:
St Arnaud - Alpine Lodge- 03 5211869
Blenheim - Mag and Turbo Blenheim - 27 Grove Road - (03) 579 1645
Stirling Sports Motueka | 201 High Street, Motueka (03) 528 9845
The drive up the mountain from the bottom car park is about 30-40min depending on weather.
The drive up is pretty beautiful with lots of marked out chain areas to stop and put them on. The mountain staff set up signs through the day telling you at what part of the road you need to stop and put your chains on.
Once you are up the top, find a park and it's time to explore. The ticket office and cafe are up to the right. You will find the gear shop, rentals and toilets to the left of that at the head of the car park.
You will also see Mt Robert Lodge at the top of the learners field, this is for the ski school and school groups.
So grab your passes, get your gear and hit the slopes.
Lift Passes; (July 2020)
Adults - full pass $91, full pass with gear $135, half day pass $62
Youth 7-17yrs - full pass $45, full pass with gear $88, half day pass $32
Child under 7yrs - full pass free, full pass with gear $27, half day free
Family - full mountain $235, with gear $355 (Family of 4)
Learners Field -
The learners field is to the left of the car park and has a rope tow on it to take people up to the top, but it is also very manageable to just walk up to the top.
Just behind the learners filed is also the toboggan area with a great wee bowl to play in and have as snowball fight.
Intermediate Filed -
The intermediate filed is just in front of the cafe area and gear shed, it has a platter/poma lift to the top of it. This is a great slope if you have done a few lessons and just need to practice your skills before heading further up the mountain.
Rest of the mountain -
Once you are all skilled up and ready for more of a challenge, jump on the T-bar lift just to the left of the intermediate slope and head up the top of the mountain.
From the top you can head back down the groomed slopes to the bottom, you can hit the terrain park, go to the southern side and come down the West bowl or the Boulder ride, to the right you will find East face track.
Lessons up the mountain -
You can take part in a group lesson or book a private lesson up at Rainbow.
The first time we headed up with the kids we decided to book them in to a private lesson, yes it cost a bit more but it was well worth it. The instructor was amazing with our two kids and managed our son sensory issue will incredible patients and care. We decided for the first trip we would just do a 1hr lesson and it worked out great, by the end of the lesson both kids could put their board on and off, use the rope tow and get them selves down the learner slope - still working on stopping without just dropping to their bums, but I still call that a win.
The next time we headed up the mountain the kids did a two hour private lesson, they did start to get tired by the end of it and definitely needed a wee break after before heading out to practice what they learnt. I found the staff incredibly patient with the kids and really helped to guide them through the steps - well worth the investment to get your kids started on the skis.
You do need to book your private lesson in advance, but group lessons are just purchased on the day at the ticket office, they hold group lessons three times a day.
Lesson prices: (July 2020)
Group lessons (1hr 45min) - Adults $65, Youth $44.
Private Lessons (for one),
1hr - Adults $96, Youth $96, Child $96
2hr - Adult $170, Youth $170, Child $170
Additional people to private lessons $36, max of 4 people.
Tip - Let your kids have a wee play in the snow before they get straight on the skis, other wise they will be to distracted in wanting to through snow balls at each other instead of listening. Also make sure they go toilet BEFORE you gear them up !!! nothing worse than getting all the gear on and hearing those words "mum I need to pee".
There is a cafe up the mountain, with hot food, drinks and other goodies. I would recommend you take some of your own food as well even if it is just some extra snacks.
We had an absolute blast up Rainbow Ski area, the mountain was never over crowed on any of our trips, the staff were always fantastic.
Added bonus of being able to have a wee run around the stunning Lake Rotoiti foreshore before heading home.
If you had the time it would be neat to book some accommodation at Lake Rotoiti, make a weekend out of it, head out and explore the Lake for a day before heading home.
Rainbow has options for all skiers or boarders. It's great fun and an easy day trip from most places in the top of the South Island.
"Rainbow was so much fun, I loved learning to snowboard I cant wait to go again" Meika aged 6yrs
What to Bring
- Lots of warm clothes, check out our snow gear blog to see what you need
- Chains for the car no matter the weather
- Water and lots of food
- A good arm for throwing some snow balls
Time and Distance
Approx 1hr Drive from Blenheim or Nelson to the Rainbow turn off, then approx 40min to 1hr drive up to the field from the turn off.
- Great lessons for kids
- Full kids gear hire
- Toboggan hire on site
Dependent on what you do, it is best to check out the up to date price list on their website under Helpful links
- No Dogs
- Small gear shop
- Gear hire
- Transport up the mountain available