This was to be my first summer in four years and I quickly decided I had been dropped by the wrong kind of aircraft (my preferred kind being one with a spinning top and feet) into some sort of civilized concrete jungle of buildings (my preferred location being a peaked land form covered in fresh snow). Many skiers and boarders take the occasional summer holiday to escape from what can be a grueling training and competition regime following winters from southern to northern hemisphere repeated year after year. However this for me was not entirely by choice after badly injuring my knee in the 2013 World Heli Challenge I had to make the disappointing call to cancel plans of returning to a Europe for northern winter. I needed to focus on rehab as well as what I like to call my “real world job” as an emergency nurse, because skiing is my Neverland, if only we could live the ski bum life forever and not have to conform to the demands of society and financial dilemmas. After four months of faking my accent to fit in at the Ice House gym AKA Australian Winter Olympic Team training territory for my rehab sessions from expert physio and pilates instructor Nic Allen of Winter Sports Physio, I now have what feels to be like a pretty normal knee again. Boy am I stoked! My knee was feeling strong, snow was starting to fall and I began to get withdrawals from the land of the long white cloud, Aotearoa New Zealand. Melbourne was a great time but it was time to go home.
As I flew in the Queenstown on my excessively priced Air New Zealand flights (remind self to book earlier next time) the rain was pouring down, clouds boxing us in creating a very grim gray scene I normally would be not so excited about. But boy was I happy, the air was fresh, mountains in my site, and best of all my amazing mother had just driven fourteen hours down from the North Island to meet me with my wheels for the season. As I departed the airport with my coat heavier than my carry on luggage due to the pockets being stuffed with various heavy items I could not fit in my bag (they never weigh your coat) I was hit with a mixture of feelings; adrenalin, happiness, excitement, hope, and most of all belonging, I was home! The drive across the Crown Range to Wanaka was as spectacular as usual despite the still gushing rain and brought back many memories of spontaneous road trips to Queenstown for skiing, disc golf, shopping, and of course that usual night time activities twenty-something year olds get up to in ski towns. Once settled into Wanaka, old friends met and all usual watering holes had been visited it was time to get our skis on. This was where all those airport feelings of adrenalin, happiness, and excitement were reduced; mostly just left with the last one, hope.
I was supposed to commence work at Treble Cone ski field on the first of July, instead we waited, the warm temperatures and rain impeding havoc on the little snow that was there to begin with. Snow makers were working hard to improve the snow conditions and repair trails but there is only so much they can do and the temperatures were far to warm to play the snowmaking game. A week after our hopeful opening day we finally were able grace the slopes of the mighty TC, boy was it a sorry sight. Basically we were in spring season brought forward, tussocks were far to observable and the thin trails snaked down in a man-made fashion that is the opposite of any off-piste freeriders dream. On the plus side we were open, and the weather was beautiful for the school holiday visitors to Wanaka so they were able to enjoy the slopes everyday as our snow line was still receding in the sun. I hate to admit I am wrong in fact I like my friends to know I am always right, however here was the point where I started to admit maybe I should have stayed in Victoria Australia for a bit longer where they were having record snowfalls of up to two meters on some ski fields. My instagram and facebook feeds became depressing to look at clogged up with Australian face shots and powder glory runs whilst here more rain fell and more spring warmth hung around us like a bad smell. New Zealand ski field earnings were way down and there was even some talk of re-closure in places, you know its getting desperate when ski patrollers are doing a heap of work roping off exposed rocks and tussocks and talking of the lowest snowfall seen in the last 15 years.
Over the past month I have been repeatedly telling my friends I need to write an article already, but the problem I have been faced with is there has been very little to write about due to the lack of snow and general events going on with a lull following a big Olympic season. So I have been left with telling this, a very wordy explanation about my arrival back to winter (or spring) and the fact we have no snow and the skiing and snow industry has been very sub-par.
Here is the point I get very excited about the fact we have just had a few great storms grace us with their presence both here in the southern lakes area but also up north on Mt Ruapehu. I have just experienced some of the best ‘in bounds’ skiing I have ever done in New Zealand and you can never be more stoked when the storm clears for your days off, bluebird powder anyone? With a few months of winter foreplay and powder teasing the Wanaka locals were ready to blow fifty shades of winter style and local ski fields experienced record days as every man and their dog wanted their own piece of the fresh snow. Not only were there locals galore but a hoard of tourists and pro’s, yes the professionals were out in full force. The Treble Cone summit played host all at one time to the Atomic ski team, Legs of Steele crew, All Us in Winterland crew, NZ Snowboarder, Diaries Down Under, and Team TC Athletes, all trying to get the shot of the season. Not to mention everyone else who owned some form of helmet camera, iphone, or other media-snapping device trying to get his or her fair share of powder slaying evidence. I have never in my life seen a queue so long to hit summit rock and the epic ‘I want to go bigger and better’ effect, each rider needing to outshine the previous dude or lass who back flipped or spun of it. Heli ski companies were raving about 10/10 days and Wanaka finally had its usual frothing on winter vibe back.
The continued snowfall over the past two weeks has rejuvenated the season not only in terms of the snow base but also snow lovers attitudes, business income, and the confirmed running of events that may have had to cancel if more snow had not arrived. We are back on track for a great second half of winter and have many exciting things on the horizon including Chill series, NZ Freeski Open events, The World Heli Challenge, and the Mt Ruapehu extremes. Time to get back out there, take care on the slopes and enjoy the snow!
Words by Briar Peters
Sponsors: Volkl Marker Dalbello NZ, Opus Fresh, BLAK Apparel, TCB Ski Board and Bike