Work a Ski Season at Rainbow Ski Area

Discover information on working a season at Rainbow and browse winter jobs

New Zealand Rainbow Ski Area

Rainbow is a cool little club field, around 45 minutes’ drive from Saint Arnaud Village, and around 1hr 30min from Nelson and 1hr 40min from Blenheim, on New Zealand’s South Island.

There is a super friendly and local vibe at Rainbow as it’s not one of the major international ski resorts in New Zealand. The hill is generally pretty uncrowded and you can go off looking for powder stashes without being surrounded by other riders, though Rainbow’s overall terrain is quite a small area to play in.

Getting There

You can drive up the mountain, but note it is an alpine road so carrying chains is a must, and the road is quite windy.

Rainbow also offers a shuttle service from the bottom of the ski field road up to the resort, if you do not want to drive.

The closest airport is in Nelson. The hill is relatively isolated compared to other club fields.

Town and Resort Vibe

Saint Arnaud is where all the staff live as there is no on-mountain accommodation. Saint Arnaud is west of the mountains of the Saint Arnaud Range and 90 kilometres southwest of Nelson near the historic Tophouse Settlement. It is situated at the northern end of Lake Rotoiti.

The town is pretty sleepy, and even in winter it is not buzzing with bars or restaurants, unlike Queenstown or Wanaka. It’s definitely a local’s feel, but that has advantages in getting to know the community throughout the season. It has a few small hotels and motels, a few bed and breakfasts, a general store and a couple of bar and dining options with a cosy atmosphere. Don’t come to Saint Arnaud looking for a big party season, but rather look to enjoy NZ’s serene alpine lifestyle.

Blenheim is the closest major town with a population of around 26,500. It’s known as a gateway to the wineries of the Wairau Valley.

Nelson is a city on the South Island with a population of around 53,000, and which faces Tasman Bay. It’s known for local arts and crafts stores, and art galleries.

Season Dates

Typically, the season starts in June, and finishes at the end of September. For 2020, it will be end of July (24th) until the end of September (27th).

Average seasonal snowfall is around 3 metres (according to the resort) and the best months for snow are July and August. August is the busiest month and September is the quietest at Rainbow.

Mountain and Terrain

One T-bar essentially accesses all the terrain Rainbow, which is pretty-much shaped like a horseshoe bowl. The gentler terrain is straight down the middle, with the steeper lines on each side of the bowl. There is a bit of hiking and traversing to get to the terrain in the outer bowl, which makes it a little easier for skiers than boarders at Rainbow. The further around you go, the shorter the pitch back to the base.

As a breakdown, the terrain is beginners 25%, intermediate 55%, and advanced 20%. The terrain is mostly open (no trees) and very alpine in feel.

There is a little bit of grooming at Rainbow, but not a huge amount, though even a little is more than a lot of club fields, to be fair.

The backcountry is easy to access from the ski area. There is terrain for both entry-level backcountry, and a little bit for experienced riders through Powder Valley as well as the West Bowl. Be sure to be backcountry safe out there. The sun does tend to hit the best backcountry areas of the hill, however, so the snow can get a bit mushy.

Snow-making facilities include four TechnoAlpin  & one Demaclenko Evo 3.0 Snow fan guns, as well as several SMI fan guns to ensure there is snow-making. This is generally required to establish a solid base and supplement natural snow each season.

The terrain park has at least two kickers and 6-8 sliding features.

Ski School Information

The ski school is around 8 or so instructors, with schools of up to 120 kids coming through at a time.

Rainbow offers group lessons, private lessons, and coaching programmes for all levels of skier or snowboarder, from novice to expert.

When you sign up for a group lesson you will be assessed and assigned to a group with other skiers/riders of similar ability to you. Private lessons are tailor made to you, and that’s one of the benefits of skiing lessons at a small hill.

Guide price (group/private lesson)


Adult Child (UNDER 7) Youth Student Seniors
Group Lessons:
Single group lesson (1 x 1h 45m) $65 N/A $44 $44 $44

Private Lessons:

1 hour private lesson “The refresher” $96 $96 $96 $96 $96
2 hour private lesson “The standard” $170 $170 $170 $170 $170
Each Additional Person (max 4 $36 $36 $36 $36 $36


Outside Skiing

You might find yourself at one of the few bar options in Saint Arnaud for a drink, pool table, fires and if you strike it on the right night, possibly live music.

Ice skating, water skiing, wakeboarding and mountain biking are all popular activities in the area. There are loads of fantastic walks and mountain bike trails in Saint Arnaud, great coffee in town and a large lake to check out (Rotoiti).

You could also check out the boat museum in Saint Arnaud, or kayak on the lake.  A little further in Nelson there is go-karting, art galleries, cafes and beaches. Blenheim is renowned for its wineries, there are also Museums, the Omaka aviation heritage centre is great for all ages.

Ski shops and workshops

Torpedo 7 in Nelson is great for a ski shop nearby. Rainbow offer tunes and repairs on the hill.

Shopping and groceries

There is a store in Saint Arnaud, with basic groceries and alcohol sales. If you are after a full supermarket, Richmond, Nelson, is the closest to Rainbow Ski Area.

Seasonal Accommodation

There is staff accommodation offered with employment, which is through a range of options from backpackers to full homes

For visitors, there are accommodation options in Saint Arnaud that range from apartments, rooms, and backpacker accommodation to lodges, and Airbnb-style accommodation.

Nelson, Marlborough and Saint Arnaud are the main visitors to Rainbow, but Rainbow also gets visitors from further afield

There are noticeboards at the store in town which will also have accommodation options for seasonal workers and visitors.

Seasonal Employment

For seasonal workers, the following jobs are available.

  • Lift operators
  • Groomer drivers
  • Ticket office
  • Instructors -Ski and Snowboard
  • Rentals
  • Barista
  • Road crew

Application Process

  • March/April is usually a good time to apply
  • Positions tend to fill by April
  • International applicants are accepted. You will require a working holiday visa or need to have a visa that enables you to legally work in NZ for the duration of the season
  • The process is usually that there is an online application, followed by a meeting usually held through Skype.

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Ski / Snowboard Instructor roles

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