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 In Diary of a Ski Musteress

Wanaka is buzzing, all three of our beautiful ski mountains have fresh snow. First, Snow Farm NZ, which is the only place in New Zealand where you can cross-country ski, plus our two neighbours Cardrona Alpine Resort and Treble Cone offering downhill skiing, enjoyed by their distinct tribes of ‘Cardies’ and ‘Coneheads’. 

Cross-country vs downhill?

Choices, choices, to downhill or to cross-country, that, is the question. Cross-country skiing still seems to be an enigma to many Alpine addicts. In fact it is superbly complementary to downhill skiing. Look on it as a different way of enjoying the snow, not a lesser form of skiing. Akin to road cycling vs mountain biking — both are activities involving bikes but offering very different experiences. 

Can I persuade you to set aside your fat skis, yank those unforgiving downhill boots off and come over to the proverbial ‘other side’ to try cross-country skiing?

10 reasons why you may become hooked!

Peace and tranquility

Away from the madding crowds, cross-country skiing can be both meditative and energising at the same time, as you glide through remote, rugged backcountry. 

You can learn the basics pretty quickly

Most people can pick up enough basic skills to get moving on cross-country skis within an hour or two.


Sure, cross-country skiers may fall over occasionally, but cross-country skiing is low impact and far less likely to result in serious injury than downhill skiing.

Easy on the wallet

Cross-country ski trail passes are much cheaper than downhill lift passes, as less infrastructure is generally required.

Soft boots & no helmet hair

Cross-country ski boots are comfy, soft and supple, compared to heavy, clunky, rigid downhill ski boots.

No lifts 

Simply put your skis on and away you go, no more shuffling in chairlift queues, people standing on your skis or enduring cold, windy lift-rides.

Supreme all-body workout

Cross-country skiing builds core strength, endurance and cardiovascular fitness.

Winter training for runners

Cross-country skiing is sometimes described as ‘running on skis’. There are many parallels between the two activities, making them complementary for winter and summer cross-training. 

Stress buster

Breathe in the clean mountain air, absorb the solitude, enjoy the natural surroundings. Cross-country skiing is good for the mind as well as the body. 

You can even bring your dog

Surely the ultimate clincher for cross-country skiing over downhill? What’s not to love about the prospect of skiing with your pup? Dogs can have their own pass and enjoy separate trails, with their humans in tow. Look out for sled-dog marathon races and festivals in August.  


Fear not, I haven’t become a crazed cross-country ski disciple, my plan is to mix it up. On a fresh powder day it is difficult to beat the adrenaline flow and pure joy of carving downhill turns, floating through virgin snow. 

But, cross-country skiing on a bluebird day in the Pisa Range, away from man and machinery, offers exhilaration and a level of mindfulness that is beyond compare.   

Have I missed anything out? Why do you cross-country ski?

Margaret Batty, Ski Musteress, 23 July

Follow ‘Diary of a Ski Musteress’ on Snow Farm NZ‘s and Merino Muster‘s websites, Facebook and Instagram social media pages, plus on Margaret’s Instagram page @BattyIdeas

A bit about me:

After 30 years of commuting, career and city life
in crowded London and travelling to over 90
countries, I moved to wonderful Wanaka with
Gary, to pause, breathe and reconnect with the
mountains – and my muscles…We’re totally
smitten with New Zealand, immersing ourselves
in all four seasons, biking, hiking, kayaking and
skiing, for a precious year-off (an ‘OE’ in our
fifties) before heading back to England,

Attempting the Merino Muster is my nod to the famous Kiwi ‘give it a go’ attitude.

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