Our BSA group arrived from Melbourne to Christchurch on August 25th. The views coming into New Zealand were spectacular. The country is covered with large, bright blue lakes, and although we didnâ€™t land directly amongst the mountains, their sharp peaks were visible from the window between the clouds.
By the time we made it through customs, ordered lunch and went to our hotel, it was late afternoon. The customs regulations for both Australia and New Zealand were extremely strict. Both countries, in their isolated locations, have developed such unique ecosystems that any foreign organic material could collapse the balance of biodiversity on their islands.
Some of us that arrived early to Christchurch were able to take a closer look at native New Zealand species, as we visited the city's botanical gardens. Since we were in the Southern hemisphere, winter was getting close to its end, so some of the gardens were relatively empty, but there was a wide range of year-round trees that I had never seen before.
We drove into downtown Christchurch for dinner. One noticeably different aspect of New Zealand, compared to other countries where I've dined, is their depth of alternative diet options. Practically every restaurant or cafe visited on this trip has had a gluten free and vegan menu, which made life much easier for our group.
The following day we set off on our five hour drive to Arrowtown. So far, I havenâ€™t seen an area of New Zealand that isnâ€™t scenic (or covered with sheep) and of course this drive was no exception. We stopped at the beautiful Lake Tekapo and Lake Pukaki on the way there and back.
Those staying in Queenstown or Arrowtown usually ski at either Coronet Peak or the Remarkables (actually visible from Coronet Peak). The other ski area that Arrowtown/Queenstown visitors can access is Cardrona, located a little further from the valley than the other two. Our race series (once again two slaloms and two giant slaloms) was held at Coronet.
This trip wasnâ€™t my first time skiing in New Zealand, in fact I had been to Coronet Peak at the same time last year. Unfortunately, that trip was cut short when I dislocated my shoulder, training GS on the very hill where we were about to race. Naturally, I was a bit anxious coming back to that piste, but my nerves were calmed when I rode the first chair up and saw the amazing colourful sunrise.
The races at both Hotham and Coronet were part of the Australia New Zealand Cup (a high standard for racers). The series at Coronet was even more competitive than in Hotham - there were several racers who had been in the top ten of World Cups, from countries such as Austria, Germany, Italy, Slovakia and Switzerland. Even Ted Ligety entered into the slalom race, though he decided not to ski his second run.
The spring conditions of constant freezing and melting snow had left the hill pretty icy - which was actually a positive, when you consider how many racers were entered, espicially on the men's side, numbering 70-80. The harder the snow, the better the course holds up, and the more fair it is to all competitors, even those running later. Even with the hard snow surface, the boys with the higher bib numbers were left with quite a rough course.
From our group, we had two personal bests, but I believe that the New Zealand segment of this trip was more about experience than results. We were definitely one of the younger teams there; the majority of our group was only second year FIS (with two first years and one third year) while some of the winning racers had already had five or more seasons. Our coach Simone advised us to watch the winners and the fast skiers to see how they were skiing during the race and also to observe their preparation before it.
We spent the last day after the races walking around Queenstown. There were many souvenir shops, and plenty of All Black rugby team paraphernalia. I was also pleased to hit what I think of as the three most classic Queenstown destinations: Ferg Burgers, the Cookie Time Cookie Bar and the shore of Lake Wakatipu. Throughout the week we had also explored downtown Arrowtown which was significantly smaller than Queenstown, but very charming with its shops and array of 15 or so restaurants.
New Zealand was the final destination of the summer, and as of now I am travelling back home to Vail, Colorado, to start my final year of High School. This summer has undoubtedly been the busiest of my life, but I have had such an amazing skiing and travel experience.
I am very grateful to BSA for organizing all these ski camps and canâ€™t thank them enough for this rewarding summer. I also want to thank my ski equipment sponsors (Atomic, POC / 2pure, Reusch, Tenson, Slick Willy's, Leki) as this sport is not cheap. Finally thank you to those reading this blog. I hope that I have given you a decent understanding of ski race travel in the summer. It is highly recommended!
|Visiting Lake Pukaki|