Last year I rediscovered my inner ski goddess, after a hiatus of more than 5 years whilst I'd engaged in scuba diving holidays on some of the most biodiverse tropical reefs of the world, not to mention my six and a half month sojourn through SE Asia. This year confirmed for me the incredible attraction of hurtling down a steep mountain only to climb back up and do it again! Bob described what keeps him skiing as that sudden acceleration at the start of a turn that's like a jet taking off. Others talk about making those first tracks in virgin snow, known as freshlines, for others it's the sheer joy of enjoying fresh snow, even better when it's powder, in a beautiful environment.
I'm not good enough yet to appreciate freshlines, but I do know what Bob means. But it's more than that.
I've been to New Zealand skiing 4 times. Twice I did a group tour visiting Mt Hutt, TC, Cardrona, Coronet Peak and The Remarkables. These are the mainstream resorts on the South Island, but there's also numerous smaller commercial and club fields that extend from Arthurs Pass right down to Queenstown that rely on rope tows, t-bars and the notorious nutcracker (I've seen the bruises!!) to get you up the slopes. It's also pretty common in New Zealand to do a bit of walking to get to the top of a run, and back country touring is extremely popular. But when I decided to come to New Zealand last year there was only one choice: Treble Cone.
The first two times I came to TC they still had the t-bar in the Saddle, and it was a long traverse to get over to the chutes. I have fond memories of my second trip when I took a private lesson with Thierry, now the Mon-Thur bus driver but back then my ski instructor, who taught me to stop thinking, keep my head up and just feel my turns, as he led me relentlessly down those halfpipes time and time again. Lara, my instructor last year, taught me to breathe. Funny little detail that one, but quite useful!
What has me wanting to return again to TC is:
1. obviously the skiing. It's steep, challenging and relatively uncrowded, mainly because it doesn't have much beginner terrain, which keeps the riffraff away. Too many times have I been broadsided by out of control snowboarders on the slopes of Thredbo and Perisher, such that I get a bit nervous around a group of them. I'm hoping this paranoia can be lifted by a few more visits to TC, where the snowboarders are awesome riders, and a pleasure to watch doing their thing.
2. location, location, location! That view over the lake, from anywhere on the mountain, plus the views over the back country to Mt Aspiring from the summit and from the view point at the top of the Matukituki runs, is priceless. You get to ski all day surrounded by spectacular beauty!
3. the coffee. Seriously, it's really good coffee...
4. the people. Every year I make a few more friends amongst the locals, who are incredibly friendly and justifiably proud of their mountain. Nancy, who I skied with a bit last year, was unfortunately away overseas this time, but I expect I'll ski with her again next year. And hopefully with my new friends from this year. I also like that everyone's a bit daggy, there's no fashion parade going on here, unlike the pretentious mob that frequent Thredbo Village. Peter (one of the Friday schooldads) and I spent a bit of time chuckling about this, only for me to find out later just what Peter did for a living!
5. the town of Wanaka. Small, quaint, quiet and friendly, with all the facilities I need, plus the best cinema in the southern hemisphere. Those cookies are to die for!!
6. great instruction. I've always had lessons at TC, and I've always had great quality instructors. And my skiing has improved accordingly.
I was explaining all this to one of my friends, who noted the similarity to what it was like visiting Geraldton every year on windsurfing holidays. For five years I came here every year, made more and more friends each summer, and then eventually moved here. As did every other windsurfer in Geraldton, we're almost all blow-ins from elsewhere!
But that's where the similarity ends. No way am I moving to Wanaka!!