After a big, late night out there was only one thing that would possibly have dragged us out of bed this morning: our chance to ski NZ! We were heading to Treble Cone, a skiing area about 45 minutes from our hostel which promised some extreme skiing conditions: 45% of the runs were classed as ADVANCED. With Josh a beginner, and Shil a skiing virgin, we knew it would be a fun day, especially since I would be playing instructor to Shil, whilst on my snowboard. Interesting.
The early start meant we snoozed through a pretty breathtaking ride from Wanaka to the Treble Cone lift station. In the end, it just made things all the more spectacular when we opened our eyes at the foot of the slopes and drunk in the view. Having been a little concerned at the cloud cover as we left Wanaka - a concern that was soon overcome by sleep (clearly it really played on my mind) - it was breathtaking to find ourselves above the clouds with the slopes bathed in sunlight. I can honestly say that despite a hell of a lot of skiing in Europe and North America over the years, the view was one of the best I've ever seen. Blue skies with a blanket of cloud just beneath us. Wow.
We soon bought our lift passes, Matt getting his on account of STA as per usual, and took the chairlift from the bottom. Shil is a really sporty lad, so Josh & I were convinced that he would pick up this skiing lark very quickly but getting off the lift at the top proved to be a telling preview for the next couple of hours. As we reached the top, Josh, Matt & I calmly slid off the lift and out of harm's way as Shil went careening on down the slope and collapsed in a heap. It's hard to remember starting out skiing (I'm told I was 3 or 4 at the time) but it just hadn't occurred to me how strange it must feel to a beginner: you're buckled into cramp-inducing boots and clipped onto two sticks designed to slip easily on the snow.... and you're supposed to be able to control this... How the hell do you stop? In fairness, Shil had found by far the easiest way of slowing down with his little tumble, and he would use this skill to great effect throughout the run down.
After providing a short and sweet example to Josh & Shil of how to ski, Matt felt the need for speed and ditched us temporarily while I set about teaching Shil the basics. This was the moment when I realised how little I ever think about what I'm doing on skis and found I was a little lost for words. Before long, after a few anxious moments and plenty of falls, I took the reins quite literally and held Shil's skis together in a snow-plow in front of him and we made our way slowly down the slope. It must've been quite a sight. Snow-plow is definitely the most uncomfortable position on skis but before long Shil had the hang of it, and I took this chance to get in a few extra runs, responsibly leaving Shil all by himself (Josh had gone ahead now he was back in the swing of things) and telling him I'd meet him in an hour or so!
By this point I'd noticed the obvious difference in how the slopes we graded in NZ compared to Europe: no reds - they were replaced by black diamonds, and double black diamonds being the equivalent of a European black. A couple of runs later it also became apparent that the greens here could definitely be blues in Europe, while most of the blues could have been reds: Josh & Shil were dealing with some pretty tough skiing for beginners! Before meeting with the lads for lunch I got in quite a few runs, particularly enjoying Cloud 9 - which was made all the more impressive by the low blanket of cloud - and a short burst of fresh powder near the peak of Treble Cone. I had to hike up for 10 minutes for about 100m of powder but it was totally worth it - I could still not believe the novelty of skiing at the end of July! I admired the view and had a few too many kodak moments before the descent and lunch beckoned.
On the way back to meet with the lads, I found Shil halfway down the same green we'd been working on earlier and he was really starting to get the hang of things. Clearly abandoning him helped him get to grips with it all. That is probably a reflection on my non-existent teaching ability!
After lunch I went off skiing with Matt and after hearing about my little hike in the morning we decided there needed to be a repeat performance. Our lazy lunch meant that this would be the penultimate run of the day, but if anything the view was even better and since Matt had his SLR with him, the photos were too! After faffing about at the top, we soon hit the powder after the Ski patrol joined us and chivvied us along - this part of the mountain was due to be closed. A black or two later and we were back at the minibus with Josh & Shil, looking forward to some rest. It had been an awesome day's skiing.
The bus journey followed much the same pattern as in the morning as we collapsed on the seats and slept our way back to Wanaka. We couldn't quite shake off this tiredness when we got back either and had a little snooze in the room before we ventured out for a curry. Despite being truly knackered, and in most cases pretty bruised, Matt, Josh & I decided that it would be a crime not to head to the bar but we only had the energy for a couple of rounds!
Next up was Queenstown, the adrenaline capital of New Zealand, arguably the adrenaline capital of the WORLD.
Things can only get better.
Sweet as you like.
Dan / Burge