Hit the slopes

Come winter, dustings of freshly fallen snow transform parts of New Zealand into a magical wonderland. Embrace this seasonal landscape by hitting the mountain for some skiing or snow-boarding. How about sledging or simply building a snowman in the backyard or local park? Want to try something different and get the adrenaline pumping? Extreme winter sports will get the heart racing.
Wintery elements can still be embraced even for those living in slightly warmer climates where snow doesn’t reach. Auckland’s Snowplanet provides hours of good fun, racing up and down the man-made slopes. Investigate your town’s nearest pop-up ice-skating rink and allow yourself to be entranced in the romance winter can bring, if you let it.

Hug a hottie

Sometimes it’s the simplest of things that warm the heart and put a smile on your face, like cuddling a hot water bottle or a wheat bag. Hottie

Be prepared

The skinny slivers of land that make up New Zealand are often battered and bruised by wild weather. We’ve already had a share of storms this year but more are inevitable. Do you have what you need to survive comfortably? Are you ready for the next power outage? Will you and your family be OK if you’re cut off from services for a few days? Consider gathering what you need now and stocking up your home and your car with essentials.

For your home you need:
A torch and spare batteries, candles and matches, a power bank to charge phones and other devices, bottled water, non-perishable food, extra pet food, a comprehensive first aid kit with antiseptics and essential medicines.

For your car you need:
A torch, a power bank, bottled water, blankets, a rain or wind-proof jacket, a first aid kit.

Soak it up

Wallet, keys? Check. Togs? Check! Swimwear needn’t retreat to the bottom of your drawer in winter. Keep your bathers and a towel in the boot of your car for spontaneous hot soaks. Lucky us; New Zealand is home to more than 100 hot springs from Ngawha in the north to Tekapo in the south.

Raining again? Or just too cold to venture outdoors? A day spent cooking can be positively therapeutic. Even though you’re inside all day, being busy and productive keeps cabin fever at bay. Bake something indulgent, or pump up the slow cooker. Not only will it produce hearty, healthy concoctions perfect for the cooler months, but it will fill the house with delicious, warming aromas. How comforting is that?

Safety check: Driving on snowy or icy roads is extremely treacherous even in a four-wheel-drive. Vehicles can lose their grip on the road very easily and once they start sliding it can be next to impossible to get them back under control.
Ideally, don’t drive in such weather. If you must drive, check the status of roads on AA Roadwatch before you set off. Double your following distance, reduce your speed and take particular care in the early morning or evening when wet roads can ice up. Chains

If your vehicle starts to skid on a patch of ice it is best to attempt to steer into the direction of the skid. Remember that even cars equipped with Automated Braking Systems (ABS) will need far greater stopping distances and in certain circumstances (such as when snow is on the road) ABS become ineffective. In all low-grip conditions, steering and braking should be gentle and light.
If you’re heading to the mountains, carry snow chains. If you haven’t used them before, practice fitting the chains before you head off. If you become stuck, stay with your car, stay warm and call for help.

Get a grip

If your car gets stuck in mud or slush, you need to create some traction. If you have access to kitty litter, that works well – throw some behind your tyres. Placing sacks or carpet off-cuts – even your car’s floor mats – tightly behind the tyres might also do the trick. Alternatively, call the AA Roadservice for help. cat

Book a bach 

The bach is often associated with the classic Kiwi summer when it’s all about sunbathing, reading in the shade of a blossoming pohutukawa and cooling off in the nearby waves.  Come winter, the desire to book a few nights in a bach is carried away on the chilly breeze... Fireplace

It needn’t be this way; there’s joy to be had on the coast in the heart of winter. Consider renting a bach or crib with a fireplace and spend the weekend reading on the couch or playing board-games in the light of the crackling fire, a pot of tea and plate of hot scones within reach. Winter is excellent for wild, windy beach walks and for soaking in outdoor bathtubs under the stars. A change of scenery is always refreshing.

Mix it up

Fruity beverages don’t need to be reserved for summer; turn your favourite tipple up a notch. Make mulled wine, a hot lemon and honey brew or a turmeric, cinnamon and warm milk tea.

Dust off the decorations...

If you manage to get people to visit, despite the cold, why not have some fun and put a theme to the evening? Host a mid-winter Christmas party. Dust off the decorations, plump up the faux tree, play some classic carols, and settle in for an evening of good food and company.

How about a talent quest? Lights, camera, action!  Coax the family, extended family, close friends & confident neighbours into coming over for a spot of showing off. Encourage the kids to practice magic tricks and puppet shows and wow them with your song and dance routines. Magic

Share stories

When do we ever read aloud anymore? There’s simple pleasure to be had sharing stories at any age or stage. Gather into a warm room and read aloud a Kiwi classic. Short stories are a good option – and New Zealand has many super-talented writers. Think kind of like a book club, where everyone gets to enjoy the same story, and then discuss it at the end.

Why not try:
Pounamu Pounamu by Witi Ihimaera
Short stories by Katherine Mansfield
Blindsight by Maurice Gee
Maddigan's Fantasia by Margaret Mahy

The New Zealand Guild of Storytellers is dedicated to preserving and practising the precious art of spoken word. The guild is made up of master orators, professional tellers, teachers and librarians waiting in the wings for your next night in. Immerse yourself in a compelling tale, become enthralled in a piece of poetry or have a bit of fun with rhyme to the tune of guitar. Invercargill librarian Elizabeth Miller established the guild after witnessing first-hand how stories enriched the lives of adults and children alike. Let the art of a good tale ignite the imagination.  

Why wait until spring to do the cleaning? What better time to find a project than when you’re holed up at home? Use your winter time inside to sort through photographs, take up knitting, clear out cupboards or upcycle old furniture. Duster

Put pen to paper

Remember the absolute joy of receiving a post card as a child, addressed to you from that fabulous aunt on an exotic tropical vacation, or that one lucky childhood friend on holiday with their folks? We still get a pang of excitement in adulthood when we sift through the mail – water bill, electricity bill, phone bill, rates – to find, what’s that? A hand-written letter!

These days, it’s easy to neglect the pen and paper in favour of a quick text or Facebook message. We say: bring old-school back and inject nostalgic joy into the lives of children you know! Whether it’s to a niece, nephew, grandchild or young neighbour – and you don’t need to have visited somewhere foreign – just get writing! Letters

Face time

In winter it’s all too easy to hide under a blanket on the couch with Netflix broadcasting from your laptop and snacks by your side. It’s too cold, too dark, and well, just too hard to make plans right now. But what if there was a way to see friends and family without the need to take off your slippers? Press pause on your show and open up Skype or Facetime. Schedule a time, or keep things spontaneous; either way, having that contact with loved ones is a sure way to beat the winter blues, without even leaving the comforts of home.

To demist your windscreen on wintery mornings, the best option is to turn on the air conditioner. It acts like a dehumidifier, drying the moist air. Select the windscreen setting to direct the A/C air to those vents, or use the specific windscreen demist button if your vehicle has it.
Cool air will more quickly demist the windscreen – but that’s not so comfortable on cold winter mornings. Heat will also do the trick but it may take a little longer as the warm air will, initially,  cool and condense back onto the glass.
If you don’t have a climate control air conditioning system, having the windows down will help clear the screen. This is because the dry, cold air from outside reduces the amount of water vapour inside the car, stopping the screen misting up. Once the windscreen has cleared, you can warm the car gradually to a temperature that suits.

Screen time

Going to the movie theatre is special. There’s nothing like slumping in your seat, gazing up at the screen, knowing that for the next hour or so your attention will be totally absorbed in the scenes unfolding. Why is it that watching a movie at home doesn’t evoke that same sense of indulgence? Perhaps it has something to do with the pile of washing or the dishes waiting to be loaded into the machine... But with a little extra effort, at-home movie nights can be as fun, if not better, than going out. Invite people over, ask everyone to each bring a dessert to share. Hang a sheet and project a film onto it. Scatter cushions, pillows and beanbags on the floor. Listen, that’s rain on the roof – but we don’t have to go out!

Our picks:
Hunt for the Wilderpeople
What We Do in the Shadows
Eagle vs Shark
Goodbye Pork Pie
The Piano
Sione’s Wedding
The Hobbit

Fill a thermos with hot soup for a car picnic. Load up the back seat with cushions, pillows and blankets and drive west to watch the setting sun. Thermos

Here’s a way to inspire a winter walk: offer to take the dog of an elderly friend, relative, or neighbour. If it’s chilly outside, chances are both pet and owner aren’t getting out much. The benefits: you’re helping a friend, you and their pup get a dose of fresh air, you go places and meet people you wouldn’t normally, and what could possibly be better than sharing time with a happy, grateful furry companion? They will love you for it! Dog

Embrace the elements

There’s something about a stormy beach stroll that really invigorates the senses and makes you feel totally and utterly alive. It’s something about the rain stinging your cheeks, wind biting your ears or sand whipping your ankles. A bush walk is an equal tonic – or head for an exotic forest and collect pinecones. Hunting and gathering is something younger walkers find pleasure in, too. Once home, they can get creative with whatever they’ve found, making creatures or decorations… Pull on a woolly hat, wrap a scarf tight, slip into a coat and brave the wild elements.

Reported for our AA Directions Winter 2018 issue

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