I have been trying to come up with some sort of quote or saying to describe how the last few weeks have been for me. If you can picture chaos and me running around like a headless chook that's probably pretty similar to reality. It all started with a whirl wind trip to Wanaka, you never get a random 5 days off in a row on shift work unless it is requested leave, never! Somehow against the odds there showed up a 5 day strip of X's on my roster, some canceled flights for other purposes due to Hamilton's constant low lying winter fog meant I quickly found myself changing my flights to Queenstown for my up-coming week off. There is nothing like a spontaneous ski trip to the Southern Alps! My remaining shifts went in a flash and no sooner was I driven to Auckland and flown into Queenstown to be met by the lovely Gravity Sports rep Jo. I'm ashamed to admit I may have considered taking the day off skiing due to working late shifts and having to get up uber early to catch my flight (I don't do mornings), however with very little convincing from Jo and bluebird skies I was soon on my way up remarks with some of the local ski reps. This was a great decision as we ended up having an epic day involving some hiking with the guidance of local lad Brett Harper to find a barely touched chute above the lake which was the highlight of the day! The Remarks is a great ski area due to its wide variance of terrain and parks catering for every type of skier in the family, not to mention some great views over the Queenstown area.
The next day Jo & I were up early to travel over the crown range to Cardrona to meet the rest of the Volkl crew for a day of demos. As a big mountain skier and Cardrona having a limited amount of off piste skiing this is the part where I think to myself ‘dammit I wish I could ski park' and ‘why do they always build the parks straight under the chair lift I don't want people to see me making a complete idiot of myself', and ‘man I would waaay rather huck a natural feature than jump off that hard packed giant snow formation'. Secretly though I really want to jump in there and do it, however the transition from being amateur to great is not as quick as I would like and risk of injury is quite high at a time where that is not an option. So instead I admired my ‘park rat' friends showing off their awesome acrobatic skills whilst I skied the piste beside. I did not however feel sorry for those friends of mine who had to pedantically rake the features all day, preferring my job of making the most of wide un-crowded groomed runs with speed and aggressive carving turns whilst trialing a bunch of the awesome 2013 Volkl skis range.
Due to Juicy rentals mucking up my car order I was left at Cardrona in true ski bum style to catch a ride with whoever I could fit in a car with back to Wanaka, luckily Neil Hawker came to the rescue and was able to squash me into his giant yet excessively full demo truck. The next few days involved more hitch hiking, skiing at Treble Cone, and catch up with friends over a few beverages at our favourite Wanaka hang out joints such as Kai Whakapai, Curry in a hurry, and Waterbar. Its always great to get back to Treble Cone, one of my favourite ski fields as it has a great range of steep on piste skiing with access to a lot of off piste chutes and powder bowls. Unfortunately I struck it at the wrong time, peak of school holidays and it hadn't snowed in a while. However it was great to get back out there making the most of the snow we had and having fun with friends. Even finding one small pocket of powder in a hidden chute can make a day of average icy moguls seem worth buying that pass! Did I mention the views? I think the main thing I raved on about other than the powder in Austria was the views, well Treble Cone pretty much takes the cake in this category with its awesome views out over Lake Wanaka and up the Matukituki Valley, nothing can take away from this view on a nice day even if there are thousands of school holiday tourists and hard conditions.
My 5 days in the southern lakes area went extremely fast and no sooner had I arrived it was time to fly home back to work. The day before I was to fly out I received a phone call half way up the saddle chair at TC, I recieved a phone call from the World Heli Challenge organiser asking if I wanted to have a chat about doing the event. I just about jumped off the chairlift, literally! No I'm a bit busy to talk sorry, are you kidding me? I skied down that hill with an excessive amount of adrenalin and speed to the bottom just so I could blurt this out to our Volkl rep Henry, I was beside myself and just had to tell someone. Ironically I had been telling a freeskiing friend a few days before that one of my dreams was to do the World Heli Challenge, however I did not expect this to happen for at least a few more seasons when I had recovered further from my back injury and had a bit more comp and big mountain experience under my belt. Initially my reaction was hell yes I will do it this is amazing!.... then sensible Briar kicked in and I had to weigh up the fact that I am bound to a work contract, have not competed since I broke my back, and due to short notice am not as physically or mentally prepared as I want to be for a comp at such a level. But with the opportunity there and with the support of my job I decided to take the offer and use it as a learning experience for my future skiing.
So with a quick trip to Ruapehu for bluebird skies and a cheeky wee summit hike with new girl on the block Anna Smoothy, and a few days working in between, I was back on the road again. Two days driving later I am now in Wanaka, my new home until the 22nd of August for the World Heli Challenge, then I will travel north to the Canterbury club fields for the Chill Series comps. So keep an eye out for progress on the WHC over the next few weeks, and everyone needs to do their snow dances around the country as we all need it to snow again really soon, so get dancing people!!
Thanks for all the support of my sponsors over the past few weeks helping to make things happen, Volkl NZ, TCB Ski & Board Ohakune, and SnowTV. Thanks also to various people around the South Island for giving me rides and places to stay, as well as Racers Edge Wanaka for some emergency boot work, and Outdoor sports in Queenstown for your expertise in Dalbello boot fitting!