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New Zealand Welcomes All in Winter

Winter is coming, and winter sports and activities in New Zealand are calling. Cool mountains, snow, ice, glaciers and a big warm welcome are what await the adventurous traveller.

New Zealand the beautiful, New Zealand the peaceful… New Zealand the home of extreme sports for thrill seekers. It’s a country full of opportunities to try something new, feel the wind in your hair, and push yourself to exhilarating new heights.

Life with a disability doesn’t mean you won’t get to take part in the adventure and excitement. Many New Zealand operators are opening up their offerings to holidaymakers who live with disabilities, because everyone deserves the chance to hop on and enjoy the ride.

Adapt for adventure

Jezza Williams has been pushing the envelope his entire life. After a severe canyoning accident in Switzerland when he was 35, Jezza pushed through to return to the outdoors and get back to doing what he loved. Slowly he adapted his equipment so that his body, now C5 tetraplegic, could take part in high-adrenaline adventures once again.

There was not much in the range of inclusive or accessible tourism activities in New Zealand when Jezza was getting back into the swing of things. So, he started running small expeditions himself, for people who inquired via his website. His business quickly expanded, and Jezza became a certified go-to for inclusive and accessible travel in New Zealand.

His company, Making Trax, is a pioneering non-profit that connects travellers with inclusive and accessible adventures in the New Zealand wilderness and ski fields.

Jezza Williams and a friend on the ski slopes in New Zealand
Jezza Williams has paved the way to make winter sports more accessible in New Zealand.

Making Trax recommends

Vroom vroom! Queenstown Skyline Luge is open to people of all ages and abilities. Strap in for a downhill racer experience – or take it easy, and gently glide around the corners. At their discretion, the team will assist however they can to ensure guests with disabilities can comfortably and safely enjoy the experience. Find out more.

Feeling brave? Take the leap with Shotover Canyon Swing. Close to Queenstown, this giant rope swing will take you out over a canyon, with 60m of nothing between you and the ground. Staff have experience swinging guests who live with disabilities, and they’ll work with you so you can give it a go. Find out more.

Ski sensations

Whether you’re ski-crazy or a total beginner, the Cardrona Adaptive Snow Sports Program welcomes you. The program provides fantastic support for people with physical, sensory, and cognitive disabilities, adapting both the sport and the equipment to cater to each skiers individual needs.

Enjoy the freedom of skiing and boarding with family and friends. All the gear you need is provided, including modified skis and snowboards, sit-skis, frames, outriggers, and more. The program’s volunteers are on hand to assist instructors for guests with high support needs.

The program is run at Cardrona Alpine Resort, between Queenstown and Wanaka. Find out more.

Two people in a tube ascending, one seated in a sit ski
Everyone can give adaptive skiing a go through the Cardrona Adaptive Snow Sports Program.

Paddle power

On the magnificent Lake Wanaka, you can paddle and glide across the silky waters in style. Paddle Wakana is an inclusive company that works with each client to adapt the experience to their needs. They provide all the gear you’ll need to make kayaking accessible. If kayaking isn’t a safe or comfortable option for you, they also offer a water taxi motorboat to get you out on the water, and you can embark via an accessible marina jetty. Find out more.

A man in a wetsuit with life-jacket standing smiling behind a counter at Paddle Wanaka
Glide across the waters of Lake Wanaka with the support of the team from Paddle Wanaka.

Zip to it!

It’s a long way from the kiddie zip lines of your youth! Ziptrek Ecotours is one of the best zip wire rides in the world. Depart from the Ziptrek Treehouse at the top of the Skyline Gondola overlooking Lake Wakatipu, and zip down through the forest canopy high above Queenstown.

The company will work with everyone who wants to give it a go on a case-by-case basis, and they do their very best to accommodate people of all abilities. The rides run year-round, though you’ll want to wear a few extra layers in the chilly winter months. Find out more.

A young girl in a harness hanging from a zipline above a New Zealand landscape
A view and a thrill like no other! Ziptrek Ecotours is one of the best zipline experiences in the world.

Hit the slopes

Snow Sports NZ is the national advocate for adaptive snow sports. They enable providers to adapt equipment and lessons for people with specific needs, putting accessible support systems in place that allow people of all abilities to hit the slopes. Through this organisation, you can sign up for adaptive ski or snowboard lessons at a nearby resort, give it a try at Have A Go Days, and celebrate with fellow adaptive snow sport enthusiasts at Adaptive Snow Sports Festivals. Find out more.

This story first appeared in Travel Without Limits. You can subscribe to the magazine here.

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