Turn your passion for snowsports in to a career at Central, with the Southern Alps as your classroom. In our stunning Wanaka landscape, you can study programmes in snowsports and adventure.

Seriously into snowy slopes? The demand for qualified instructors is increasing, due to the emphasis on safe participation in sport and a growing adventure tourism industry. Central has the facilities and expertise to help launch your future through our collaboration with Cardrona Alpine Resort in Wanaka.

With our Avalanche Safety programmes, you will be able to apply your advanced knowledge in snow science to ensure the safety of people and assets in alpine areas. The programme is taught by New Zealand’s most experienced and qualified avalanche professionals.

Our Certificates in Snowsport Instruction and Avalanche Safety, and Diploma in Avalanche Studies, are all New Zealand Snow and Avalanche Committee (NZSAC) approved.

Study at Central and enjoy our place of learning in a natural paradise.

New Zealand Certificate in Introductory Snowschool Instruction (Applied) (Level 4) (Ski) or (Snowboard)

  • Wanaka
  • 17 weeks
  • Level 4
  • Starts May
  • Apply until start date

Train in the dry snow of the spectacular Southern Alps and develop skills which could lead to a job teaching skiing or snowboarding in New Zealand or overseas. All classes are taken at the Cardrona Alpine Resort in Wanaka.

New Zealand Certificate in Avalanche Risk Management (Level 5)

  • Online with Wanaka-based practical
  • Twelve weeks (ten weeks online, one week practical and one week reflection/re-assessment if required)
  • Level 5
  • Starts 28 April, 8 June or 13 July
  • Apply until start date

If you love being in the mountains during winter and have a strong sense of responsibility, become a qualified snow safety professional through this programme.

New Zealand Certificate in Avalanche Risk Management (Level 6)

  • Online with training and assessment in Wanaka
  • One to two years (part-time)
  • Level 6
  • Starts dates for online learning are flexible (Field training-22-26 July 2019; Integrated Practical Assessment 2-10 September 2019)
  • Apply anytime

Providing the highest level of professional training available in New Zealand, enjoy the chance to be taught by pros and graduate with the ability to assume supervisory roles in all sectors of the industry.

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Central campus expansion plans gain consent

Plans to expand Otago Polytechnic's Central Campus have received the tick from the Central Otago District Council.

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Professional development events coming up

Find Learning & Teaching Development staff in the Hub on Thursdays - ready to help with any teaching questions you...

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“Otago Polytechnic graduates are hard-working, and love the mountains as much as we do.”

Rachael Milner
Ski and Snowboard School Manager
Cardrona Alpine Resort

American Search & Rescue team train in Central Otago

An American search & rescue team affiliated with the US Air Force has spent two weeks in the mountain ranges of Central Otago on a customised avalanche safety course taught by Otago Polytechnic’s  Avalanche Safety & Snow Sport programme manager Peter Bilous.

The team, who were looking at avalanche safety training options during the months of July and August, found the programme offered by the Central campus online.  They made contact and were impressed with Central’s proposal, which included a professional training plan and a day to day schedule that really stood out as being a well-planned and tailor-made mountain safety programme, perfect for what they were after.

Ryan the team commander said, “We were impressed from the onset with the team from Otago Polytechnics Central campus and the effort they put into making this work for us.  They made sure the training was maximised and met our budget. They were also really good at communicating with us to make sure the customised programme would meet the team’s objectives.”

He also said one of the highlights of the programme was spending three nights in the Bob Lee hut on the Pisa range, “Being able to spend time out in the mountain environment and apply our avalanche rescue skills was not only critical to our learning of the material but also a great opportunity for the team to bond together.”

The team of 13 spent time at Cardrona, Mt Pisa range and took part in some glacier based training on the Mt Cook glaciers under the guidance of respected mountain guide Hugh Barnard. 

The team will apply their training in a search and rescue capacity when responding to avalanches, or to move safely across avalanche terrain in mountain environments, and hope that the programme could become a regular part of their training.

Ryan added that they will definitely be recommending Otago Polytechnic training to other teams also, “The entire experience has been fantastic, the training Peter gave us was phenomenal, and we are very pleased we chose this programme.  Peter has so much knowledge to share and all members of our team have left with much more confidence in their avalanche rescue skills and using these in real world situations.  Massive thanks goes to Peter and the staff at Otago Polytechnics Central campus, it has been a wonderful and worthwhile experience for us all.”


After living in Hamilton doing hairdressing and make-up artistry, Kate Bryant decided it was time for a change. Kate is a passionate skier and had previously lived in Alberta, Canada for a year. That experience of living in the mountains and enjoying the great outdoors helped her realise that she wanted a way to have that kind of lifestyle more permanently.

Kate chose the Certificate in Snowsport Instructing (Ski) at Otago Polytechnic so she could live in Wanaka, work at Cardrona skifield and devote herself to full-time training.

“The best thing I got out of the course was an ever deeper and renewed love of skiing. It has now become something of an addiction!” describes Kate.

Once she graduated, Kate went to Japan and taught ski instructing. She learnt Japanese and secured an additional offer of employment as a raft and canyoning guide. “It’s great. I get to spend my summer doing so many awesome activities such as kayaking, rock climbing, mountain boarding and hiking.”

Asked about future plans Kate says that she is keen to get back into ski instructing and travel more: “Who knows what part of the world I will end up in next!”

True calling

Jim Young has found his true calling in the mountains, and the Diploma in Avalanche Studies from Otago Polytechnic helped him get there.

After leaving high school, he trained as an automotive engineer, but realised this wasn’t for him. Now he’s working as a ski patroller at The Remarkables – and soon he will be off to Japan to work as a ski guide for the northern winter.

The Diploma programme at Otago Polytechnic’s Wanaka campus, incorporates the NZMSC Avalanche Stage 2 Certificate, a prerequisite for most industry management roles. “Otago Polytechnic is the sole provider of this certificate in New Zealand, my diploma has already opened many doors within the ski industry.” says Jim finding work as a professional ski patroller in Queenstown, Colorado and Canada.

The highlight is gaining the avalanche qualifications from such a well-respected institution. “The programme is run by Peter Bilous,” explains Jim, “who is renowned in New Zealand and North America for producing some of the leading people in the avalanche industry.” Jim is now studying for his NZMGA Assistant Ski Guide qualification “This will enable me to further my scope of work available within this exhilarating industry.

Elke Braun-Elwert was born in Christchurch but spent most of her childhood in Lake Tekapo. She learnt to ski at age two-and-a-half on the back lawn, under the tutelage of her father who was a mountain guide.

After studying a Masters of Applied Science at the University of Otago, she recently completed the Avalanche 2 qualification at Otago Polytechnic. Elke works for Alpine Recreation in Tekapo as a ski guide and assistant climbing guide, working predominantly in the Mount Cook National Park. She describes the qualification as giving her “greater awareness and safety in the mountains”.

“I get to spend a lot of time outdoors introducing people to the mountains that I love. It is particularly rewarding taking up new people who get to experience the thrill of the mountains for the first time.

“My whole life revolves around the outdoors. I do skiing in any form I can; I used to ski race, but now the focus is more on ski touring, mountaineering and climbing. Back in 2011 I was very fortunate to complete a first ascent of a new route on the south face of Aoraki / Mount Cook together with Marty Schmidt, a well-known mountain guide, who also studied at Otago Polytechnic. Then for two months at the start of 2015 I worked in Japan as a ski guide.

“My goal is to continue guiding for the rest of my career, and hopefully run Alpine Recreation in the future.”

For Otago Polytechnic Snowsport students, the stunning mountains of Central Otago are their classroom – and may even become their future office.

Budding snowsport instructors studying at the Polytechnic’s Central Otago Campus get plenty of applied learning on the slopes of Cardrona Alpine Resort in Wanaka.

“Cardrona has some of the best skiing and riding terrain in New Zealand with one of the biggest ski and snowboard schools in the country,” says the Resort’s Ski and Snowboard School Manager, Rachael Milner. “Otago Polytechnic students train and work right alongside our fantastic staff.”

In a competitive job market, having the work experience and qualifications that these Snowsports programmes provide is a major benefit, and many former graduates have gone on to work at Cardrona Alpine Resort.

One of them is Otago Polytechnic graduate turned Ski Instructor, Scott Palmer, who is passionate about his job.

“It’s the best classroom in the world!”