Winter has arrived, again!

The first post of the season is a little overdue, but it’s here now. It’s been an interesting start to the season. When we flew in on the 22nd, May, we flew through a blizzard. The Remarkables and the Southern Alps were covered in snow, Coronet Peak opened on time and it looked to be a very promising start to the season. However, rain and constant warm temperatures slowly but surely reduced the snow pack, leaving the lower mountain and beginner areas bare.

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Coronet Peak remained closed for two and a half weeks, from the 22nd June through to 9th July, re-opening just in time for the NZ School Holidays. During this time I was on the Trainers Cert workshop at Cardrona for the first few days, then worked across the valley at the Remarkables, which was nice for a change of view. I have worked there before on an ad hoc basis at the end of the season a couple of years ago.

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The Coronet Express started spinning at 8:00 am on Saturday morning, 9th July for First Tracks pass holders, with the other lifts operating into the evening, including the beginner conveyors and the Meadows chair, providing access to the Big Easy.

The Greengates chair continued to run for sightseeing and tubing from 10:00 am – 3:00 pm, giving the chance to soak up stunning views from the Ice Bar.

Night Ski also kicked off for the season on Saturday from 4:00 pm and from all accounts it was an awesome night with the airbag on the deck, a DJ spinning tunes and warm braziers burning.

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Unfortunately, we have no control over the weather, but, this should be the start of a Colder Low pressure weather system that has a few cold fronts and southerly winds later in the week. Hopefully, winter is here to stay!

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Ski to Sea Change

A huge life-change has led to my first taste of summer since 2008. For someone who thrives on winter, has worked back-to-back ski seasons for eight years, and has largely been responsible for only myself, this change has taken some adjusting. Rest assured though, it’s been fulfilling: the catalyst bringing me to home territory, south of Sydney in the Illawarra region of Australia, was the arrival of my daughter.

Emira* was born last August, in the middle of the New Zealand ski season. Like many newborns, she had a few minor issues at the start, but after a couple of weeks managed to settle into a routine of sorts. Since then, Emira has had swim lessons (the youngest in the swim school!), participated in local library reading groups, been cruising the area in our bike-trailer, as well as pretty much melting the heart of everyone who meets her. The last 6 months have been an adventure that has changed my perspective and priorities! I am sure many of you can relate.

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Bulli Beach Cafe

Currently I am working in a beach-side cafe as a chef and continuing training for the ski season in New Zealand. Having worked in kitchens before embarking on my career in the ski industry, this was a relatively easy change to make. It has been good to have skills to fall back on to provide a consistent and relatively stable income. The big advantage? A beach café is dependent on season and weather, allowing me to return to Coronet Peak for the southern winter!

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Looking North from Sandon Point on the commute home.

Cycling along the coastal bike path between Thirroul and Bulli, provides a scenic ride to and from work. And the Northern Illawarra in general lends itself well to training and maintaining a respectable fitness level. As well as the undulating bike paths there are bush tracks that ascend the escarpment – great for high intensity running – and ocean-side rock pools to provide more variety for swimming. Rather than staring at a black line in a chlorinated pool, it can be more interesting to swim in salt water with fish and other marine creatures!

Coledale looking North

Coledale looking North

It is strange to have a summer after 15 winters, however, it has been fun and rewarding. My partner and I are embracing the changes, and this year are planning to introduce Emira to her first proper snowy winter – in Queenstown for the 2016 season!

*For Privacy reasons, I have used a pseudonym

The Scenic Route from CHC to ZQN

It’s curious when travelling in inclement weather how people blame a service provider for not providing the service as it should have been provided. I’ve travelled predominantly between Australia, New Zealand and Canada, arriving in the latter two at the start of winter. This is a time that is notorious for volatile weather and is prone to delays, cancellations and alternative means of transport.

I have fallen asleep on a plane in Vancouver, starting the last leg of my journey to Kelowna (this was after a flight from Sydney) and woke up thinking that we had landed. After all, it is a 45 minute flight from Vancouver to Kelowna and could be excused for making the assumption I had missed the whole flight. Alas, we hadn’t moved. There was a blizzard of sorts (yes, in Vancouver) that had dropped approximately a foot of snow on the tarmac and the airport staff were hard pressed to clear it to get flights moving.

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A rare sight, snow at Vancouver Airport

Vancouver can be a busy airport and I was astounded at the blame a portioned to the airline for this. No flights were moving, from any airline, however, there were some that seemed to think it was all Air Canada’s fault. I wondered if they had looked outside and saw that ALL the planes at the airport were grounded. ‘I’ll never fly Air Canada again’, some harped on. ‘Worst airline in the world’, this line lost credibility, though, when they admitted they hadn’t flown with any other airline. Sure, I must admit that it was a less than desirable experience, but it wouldn’t have mattered which airline you flew, whether it be West Jet or United, even Yukon Air was grounded. And maybe it wouldn’t have mattered which airline they were on, they still would’ve said ‘I’ll never fly with this airline, again’. We did start to taxi though after 4 hours of stagnancy. Just starting to move seemed like we were on the final descent, the home straight. It was only a 45 minute flight, after all.

Christchurch Airport before take off.

Christchurch Airport before take off.

And if the weather prevails, however, either at the commencement of the journey or at the destination, an airline may use alternatives to air travel. Buses, or Coaches, are used if it isn’t too far, however, a 45min-1hr flight could turn in to a 5-6 hour bus ride. Again, not ideal, but better than sitting around waiting for the weather to pass. Most people, when travelling for whatever reason Need To Be Somewhere and sometimes it’s best to keep moving, regardless of how slowly.

And when the road closes due to snow and ice, you may be put up for the night in the nearest accommodation. And some times the closest accommodation is further than anyone would like. Driving by bus two thirds of the way to your destination, to then be told the closest accommodation is back where you started, leaves the driver of said bus the unenviable task of bravely dispelling potential mutiny by some, which is made easier by the good humour from others. The driver then keeps his professional cool, focusing on the humour and drives his passengers safely through the torrential rain. And it was Rather Good to have a hot buffet dinner and a couple of drinks at the bar of the hotel that put us up at the last minute for the night.

These inconveniences are compounded, though, by tight travel schedules. Missing Thanksgiving with the family or missing two to three days of that once in a life time trip to Queenstown at the opposite end of the planet are important enough to be frustrated about. So is the potential of missing out on signing up for employment. I did miss out on a dentist appointment, though, but that won’t get me much sympathy, more a shared sense of relief than anything. It’s merely delaying the inevitable. Which is my point I suppose, the destination will still be there when you get there, it’s just the experience of the journey that changes. And the views from the plane the day after were worth the redundant bus ride!

Lake Pukaki and Ka Tiritiri o Te Moana beyond

Lake Pukaki and Ka Tiritiri o Te Moana beyond