Winter Starts – Best Snow for Years

It’s been a busy start to the season. Even though we got in to Queenstown a whole month ago now it seems like it was only last week! There was significantly more snow on the mountains and resorts on the flight in which was quite a relief. In previous years there hasn’t been any snow to speak of.

Early season snow falls in May, temperatures remaining cold and more early season snow has kept the buzz in town that this will be a great season for snow. This season seems to be defying the locals adage, ‘Snow in May never stays, Snow in June still too soon.’ We’ve even had snow to the valley floor before Opening Day!

I’ve been busy training the local high schoolers and new hire interns the ways of teaching at Coronet and how to be effective assistants and instructors. I am also getting my schedule organised for the school holidays and the season.
Some Australian school holidays have already started, or starting on Monday, with the New Zealand school holidays starting next week. For the New Zealand school holidays I will be working on the Ski Clubs Ski Weeks, then after the school holidays I’ll be working on the Wakatipu Ski Clubs 6 Sunday’s Programme.
Both of these programmes are rewarding, as the participants are either locals of Queenstown, or the greater region on the South Island, and are fun to ski with.
Night Ski officially started on Friday night with the Launch Party tonight with Aroha & MC Tali and Hedlok. First Tracks opens on the 2nd July just in time for the holidays.
In August, I have my Trainers Cert. Exam, which is a tough nut to crack. This will be the third season I’ll be attempting the exam, this time for sure!
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Back to the Beach

Remaining focused on Winter, and being ski fit, while living and working on the beach means the next 8 months are going to be challenging. I’ve never been a fan of other people’s publicizing of training regimens, unless you are a personal trainer and especially not my own. For me training is an intrinsic, personal and relatively private activity. In this instance though, I am doing it to hold myself to account. I have often said what my off-season goals are and the response has been, ‘Yeah sure, that’s what you said last time. I’ll believe it when I see it…’ Well, as Bullwinkle said, ‘This time for sure!’

The ultimate goals I have is to pass the NZSIA Trainers Cert exam and the ski element of the NZSIA Telemark Level 3. These are the best part of a year away.

How do I break these overarching end goals in to smaller, more manageable parts that are relevant for both, Summer here and now, and Winter in the future? For both disciplines, maintaining technically accurate mechanics at speed and in variable terrain requires exceptional lower body strength, core stability, and plyometric control. They also require cardiovascular stamina and aerobic fitness at altitude.

There are various outdoor pursuits which can help with Winter that can be done in the Northern Illawarra area. Trail and beach running, swimming in the ocean pools, cycling on the bike paths and strength training at the local gym.

Trail Running in the area has a few facets. First, there is a local, non-competitive, timed 5 km run every Saturday morning. This run is relatively flat along the bike path next to the ocean and will serve to gauge my progress generally. Then there is Beach running, while flat will add some variety with an increased ‘collision time’ (time during which the foot sinks in to the sand, mimicing snow) and will give a thorough work out of the legs. There are also various trails up and along the Illawarra Escarpment for terrain diversity. I aim to run a Half-Marathon in May 2018 in 1 hr 15 mins.

Along the coast there are 8 Ocean Rock Pools and 2 Olympic swimming pools using ocean water. My swimming has never been the best, however, there are a couple of goals I would like to achieve here. First, is to swim 10 laps in the Olympic pools, in 10 minutes. For me, this is quite ambitious, but not unachievable. The second, is to swim 10 laps in all 10 pools. I have attempted this before and got as far as 2 pools and that is as far as it has got.

I have timed the ride between home and work as a sprint and cycled the bike paths with the family. As far as cycling goes this will be used as a form of cross-training and I will time the commute 3 times a week.

Strength conditioning and core stability are best trained in the gym, while plyometrics will be trained at the local sports fields. Even though skiing is very leg-centric, it is important to train the whole body. My upper body is particularly weak and this needs to be rectified. I can barely do 1 chin-up so to aim for 10 by May, as a start, is realistic. As for other base line, starting points, I need an initial assessment before setting further targets.

So there it is, a Summer of training and setting some ambitious yet achievable goals to get involved with over summer and autumn. I prefer to train outside and in a variety of sports. The area we spend summer is lends itself to training and it would be prudent of me to take the opportunity while we are here. As well as spending time with those I need to spend time with!

 

 

 

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!

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

6 Tips for the Start of your Ski Holiday….or Season.

I remember, as a child going on ski holidays, the anticipation of exploring the mountain, thinking that I could just pick up where I left off the year before. I had memories of hurtling down the hill as fast as a could, trying to keep up with my older siblings, or racing them to the bottom. But when we actually got to the skiing bit, my legs seemed like they hadn’t remembered anything from the year before and my coordination was lacking. What was going on?

It was highly frustrating. Of a 5 day holiday, the first 2 days were spent trying to get my legs back. By the middle of the holiday I was back to where I was on the last day of the previous holiday. And then it was the last couple of days that it felt like I actually made any progress. Even though this was the case when I was a recreational skier, these days I’ll have approximately 6-8 weeks off snow between seasons, instead of 358 days between ski holidays and I still take it easy at the start of the season, about 2 weeks, to get my legs back and warm into it.

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Keen on Green to get your legs back

Here are some tips for preventing injuries at the start of your holiday (or season).

1. Start Mellow. If you were skiing Blue runs last year, go to the Green runs. If you were skiing Blacks, go back to Blue. Keeping the terrain easy will help you to focus on what you are doing, rather than where you are going. Skiing with-in your comfort zone also boosts confidence.

2. Start Slow. Yes, you remember beating buddy down the hill last year and you were bought a drink because of it, however that was last year. Going too fast, too soon gives you less response time to avoid objects or people. Also, the faster you go and the more sudden the movement in a way you didn’t intend, poses the risk of tearing a muscle or ligament, amongst other injuries. Slow down, take it easy you have all week (or however long you’re on holiday for). It’s not a race to the Patrol Hut!

3. Keep hydrated. Your muscles will need it. Firstly, they haven’t been used in the same way since last year and you are, more than likely, going to be at a higher altitude than you normally are (unless you are skiing at le Massif, Quebec, at relative sea-level). The combination of lower air pressure and lower humidity means that moisture evaporates from the skin and lungs faster than at lower altitudes. And, it’s been reported that, for some reason, many people do not feel as thirsty in higher altitudes as they should. All great reasons to drink water frequently.

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Skiing at le Massif, Quebec

4. Keep your energy levels up by eating a substantial meal the night before and breakfast each day. Again, the combination of being at altitude, which may slightly increase your metabolism, and physical exercise, in the form of skiing are 2 great reasons to eat without guilt. You need energy to make good judgements and decisions, and to stay alert.

5. Dynamic stretching before, during and after your days skiing. This is really good for keeping warm as well as stretching the main muscles used for skiing. Swinging your legs back and forth, diagonally, and with the arch forward, like kicking a soccer ball, helps to stretch the hip flexor, gluteus, adductor’s & abductors.

6. And remember to call it a day. A lot of injuries are caused by fatigue at the end of the day. And try to avoid the ‘One last run’ syndrome. Your last run should be the one you just did.

If you are thinking of a lesson, I recommend going in the afternoon of your first day. This will ensure that you have enough of your legs back to get the most value. Then for the rest of the time having a lesson in the morning so that you have the afternoon to spend as you wish. Although having said this, a lot of resorts have priced the afternoon cheaper than the morning for this reason. Check the pricing and see what works best for you.

These tips are not a guarantee that you definitely won’t get injured, however, it will be more likely that you will go the distance. Taking it easy at the start of each season has paid dividends for me later on, and I hope it does for you.

What are some of your early holiday warm-up rituals?

Fall brings the Winter…

It’s Amazing how much snow makes a difference. And not necessarily just snow, but how much snow. Till 9am Wednesday morning, we had 35cms. Not the biggest of dumps, but considering 2 weeks ago weather and conditions reminded me more of a drizzley Vancouver Island in spring, a notable dump. Transforming the mountain, from idyllic mountain hiking, to the pre-season snow, cat-packing and preparing the pistes for skiing and riding.

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5th November, Needs Snow.

Although there was no snow on the bottom half of the mountain and it felt like an alternate
reality (this was the first time in 10 years I’ve returned there was absolutely no snow at the village), getting an idea of what we ski over was enlightening. The size of the rocks and the sheer amount of snow needed to open the resort was quite a lot more than I had anticipated. I had heard stories, however, it was good to see it with my own eyes. And the transformation has been comforting.

Hiking around the mountain without the amount of snow that I’m accustomed to was, as I said, enlightening. Amongst the rocks, were streams and creeks that were starting to freeze over. When they started to freeze, the water level was higher, leaving an ice-shelf resembling the consistency of molten glass that had set, leaving layers as the water level dropped. Some were thicker than others and the patterns that were left were reminiscent of psychedelic, monochromatic blown glass.

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Water frozen at different levels as the water subsides

Having such a large dump from relatively minimal coverage means that there is a lot of snow to plough from roads, car parks, drive ways and paths. However, it also means that there’s a back log of piste packing as well. All the creeks, drainage, dips, gullies and any thing else that needs snow packed in it, gets’ snow pushed in to it and smoothed off, like masses of frigid plaster, eventually creating a delicious, consistent, groomed surface we’ve grown so accustomed to skiing on. Some resorts do ‘Summer Grooming’, which removes large rocks, logs and other materials which would poke through a shallow snow accumulation so that we can either ski earlier in the season, or on less snow, or both.

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28th November. Have snow, needs to be groomer packed.

Before the snow fall (when it was relatively green), there seemed to be a lack of confidence as to whether we would open on the week-end, however, the snow during the last week has, hopefully, set the base for the season. The groomers have pushed snow and filled in the creeks, dips, gullies and the pistes will be prepared for the Opening Day tomorrow. And there has been a certain buzz in the Village, as new and returning staff prepare for the up-coming season. As it seems that we are back to the seasonal average of snow, things are looking up! Now that we are open, let’s go for a ski!