New Zealand: home to hobbits, bungy jumping and insta-worthy views. This wee slice of paradise is about as far away from anywhere as you can get while, for the most part, still having a distinctly average internet connection. Kiwis are an extremely laid-back bunch (unless you challenge the reign of the All Blacks) so don’t be surprised if you see people wandering into a supermarket barefoot or blokes walking down the street in stubbies, a swanndri and jandals midwinter. Unlike Europe, there’s no need to carry wads of cash with you because even if you’re just buying a can of L&P (a drink that's World Famous in NZ) payWave is the go-to.
Although both the North and South Islands have their perks, I may only be a tad bias in saying the South Island is where it’s at. With 77% of our meagre 4.8 million population living on the North Island, the South is certainly a chilled place to be. It’s where being stuck in traffic can mean anything from a four-car queue behind a camper van to encountering a flock of sheep on the move. Roads are patchy, barriers are an affront to one’s driving ability and you definitely won’t get a phone signal in the wop-wops but that gives you all the more time to appreciate the landscape NZ is famous for.
The South Island is home to the Southern Alps which run the length of the Island. As ski racers, you’ll be walking straight into the adventure capital of New Zealand. Queenstown is home to everything from hiking and mountain biking, to skydiving and jetboating, as well as being the birthplace of the bungy jump. There is always a new adventure to be found, especially in this valley. Queenstown houses two great ski fields on its doorstep: The Remarkables and Coronet Peak. The latter of the two being the prime location for most ski racers in training. Unfortunately, the snow Gods have been a little slow on the uptake this season. Our wee 3-5 lift ski fields are feeling the heat this winter which obviously isn’t ideal. Despite the lack of snow, the fields are still chocka with people out for a rip and racers hunting for training. For those of you who would rather avoid massive amounts of ski racers, there are plenty of club fields scattering the Southern Alps. What might be the decider between a proper ski field and these little club fields though is that the majority of them only use nutcracker lifts... (google can explain)
New Zealand is also home to an impressive range of beautiful birds. You might question the need for me to talk to you about birds when you’re on a website dedicated to skiing but you also deserve to be forewarned. My favourite native bird would have to be the kea. They are a species of large mountain parrot, olive-green in colouring with a brilliant orange colour under their wings. Kea are an innately curious bunch with a love of new things. While you might be enjoying the snow and the sunshine, a kea might be having just as much fun stealing food or dismantling the rubber off your car. These cheeky critters have been known not only steal things from half open backpacks but leave the owner questioning the usability of what is left behind. They’ve also learned that if caught, feigning innocent intrigue tends to subdue the person enough that they can return to finish whatever mischief they had started. Though you may deem them a pest, these gorgeous birds are among NZ’s protected natives.
Back to ski racing. Nationals were on last week, although off to a bit of a slow start with the first day of GS being postponed due to poor visibility and interesting conditions. The following day the women competed in the GS amid snow and fog with ISRA’s Alice Robinson and Cara Brown snagging the top two spots overall and myself (Eliza Grigg) joining Alice in 2nd for the NZ podium. Slalom Nationals took place a couple of days later in much nicer weather conditions. ISRA’s Barbara Kantorova skied into 2nd overall with Alice and myself replicating the NZ GS podium. With just two weeks left of this camp, here’s hoping we get a bit more snow in Queenstown to make training even better. I swear it’s usually money by this time of year!
Although the wait isn’t too bad when you’ve got scenes like these on the daily. New Zealand might be quite a trek to get to but I can vouch for it being well worth the effort!
Chocka – Full Jandals – Flipflops Stubbies – Shorts Swanndri – a woollen jersey (or pullover for the American’s among us) Wop-wops - Middle of nowhere
Other words you may encounter:
Carked it – crashed or died Chur – Cheers/thanks Gutted - dissapointed Gummies - Gumboots Knackered - tired Munted – wrecked She'll be right - that will be alright/don't worry Squiz – to take a quick look Tiki tour – taking the longer or more scenic route Yeahnah – no
View from Coronet Peak across Wakatipu basin