Greetings to family and friends of the SnowSkool 2009 New Zealand course.
We are now at the end of the second week of training and have all settled in well, so it’s time to bring you up to date on what we’ve been doing. We need the first couple of weeks to get settled as everyone recovers from jetlag, acclimatises, sorts out equipment, adjusts to the demanding training schedule and burns off the initial enthusiasm. With that behind us and a routine well established, we’re ready to be in touch on a weekly basis with broad news of what the group’s been doing. The emails will be much shorter in future but we’ve been busy these past two weeks…..
My name’s Marion Fagan and I look after sales and marketing for SnowSkool in Australia. I live in Sydney but am over here in NZ with the group as course leader – having visited before, I quickly volunteered to come for the season. My husband unfortunately couldn’t get the extended time off work so I’m over here with my 8-year-old daughter, Eliza, who is attending the local primary school. Jamie Jones, a Brit who completed the Level 2 instructor training in Canada with SnowSkool earlier this year, is also over here working with the group. Between the two of us, we try and get the group sorted. Jamie goes up the mountain with the group virtually every day and rides with each class (skiers and boarders alike) on training days, observing how they’re going and getting valuable feedback from their instructors. So far, I have been back in town, getting things finetuned for us all. Our company founder, Phil Purdie, stayed in town with us for about 10 days. You can’t keep a good Scot down – we all enjoyed Phil’s energy, experience and good humour, even if it was nearly a full-time job keeping up the lunchtime supply of toasties! He left us last Tuesday to return to the UK.
A quick recap – everyone arrived in surprisingly good shape on the Saturday night. After a quick briefing session and some pretty average pizza (live and learn), most headed into Wanaka for a nightcap. It’s literally a 5-minute walk from the apartments to the centre of this picturesque town and it wasn’t a late night. We had everyone on deck by 10.00am on the Sunday when we all went into town to stock up the pantry and sort out snow equipment. That evening the group came around to our place for a few drinks before we went to the course briefing session from the Cardrona HPC (High Performance Centre). After an early group dinner, everyone hit the sack early, ready for the first day of training on the Monday, which dawned perfectly clear (photo of sunrise at Cardona courtesy of Robin Gould).
Pleased to report everyone was up nice and early and on the bus on time – our driver, John, is a boarding instructor up at Cardrona so he likes to be on the road by 7.30-7.40am. It’s a steep, twisting road up to Cardona, which can take some time after snowfall. Last week, every single student went up the hill every single day, which is an awesome start. There’s been a tummy bug going around this second week so three students each missed a day but they are certainly not skiving off. The level of commitment to their training and each other is impressive. Some have enrolled for optional extra freestyle training on Fridays but most are using this free day to hone the skills they learned the previous week. Most report a dramatic improvement in their own skiing/riding but they have been warned it’s sometimes a matter of two steps forward and one step back for a while, and then it seems to just click. After spending the first week having their own technique critiqued and improved, this past week they moved onto learning how to teach basic skills in preparation for the L1 exams in Week 5. The level of instruction out here is exceptional – all our trainers are highly certified and experienced. They include about three or four Scots, which shouldn’t have been a surprise given the strong Scottish history in this part of the world. Paul’s bagpipe sessions each night just seem to fit right in and don’t seem out of place at all.
After the best start to the season in 10 years, the slopes were in need of a top-up. This came our way with some really good falls on Thursday and more predicted today and next week. There were a couple of falls as the group negotiated the new and unfamiliar fluffy stuff but after somewhat alarming reports from the mountain medical centre subsequent visits to the doctor in town late in the day confirmed only minor injuries were sustained and all will be back up in training on Monday – if they follow medical advice!!!
Three times each week, we provide catered meals to the group. Maxine and Brent from 63b Catering have been doing a great job for us and the feedback is the food has been good – tasty and substantial – ranging from old-fashioned lasagne to salmon with horseradish cream. The gourmet lamb sausages divided opinion – some purists felt a sausage officially had to involve pork or beef, but new taste experiences are part of this life education. We also go out for dinner two nights a week and try some of Wanaka’s many eateries. So far we’ve had Mexican, Thai and regular bistro and pub fare. We’re more than aware the UK pretty much has the best curries and the local fare is a bit tame in comparison, so we’ll leave that one for a while.
Starting this past week, the HPC holds classroom sessions on Monday nights as part of the training so on the way down the mountain, the bus drops the group at the caterers’ own venue. John whips across the road for an hour’s gym session (as if a day giving snowboarding lessons isn’t enough of a workout!) while we have a group dinner. The group’s on the bus at 6.15pm and in the classroom back in town for 6.30pm. It’s working a treat – they’re all very hungry after training and need to eat early. This takes care of meals Sunday to Thursday and the guys make their own arrangements for Friday and Saturday.
Socially, it’s been full-on as well but this hasn’t interfered with training. Phil organised a soccer game in the lakefront park on the first Saturday and by the end, we had two complete sides in full swing. A couple of locals joined in as well as some other British passers-by (there are lots is town, that’s for sure) and the game was played with intensity but good spirit – and in shorts and t-shirts! Bradley and Fraser shone as goalies and the skills of Adam M and Jamie were evident. Eliza was ball girl and I took some photos – glorious sunny day, snow-capped mountains all around, the lake a stone’s throw away. Heaven.
We have put together a schedule of activities for the coming weeks, working around the exam timetable. The Burton Open is on at Cardrona immediately after the L1 exams, which will allow us to see some of the world’s best perform. The following weekend we have plans to take on Queenstown, another picturesque lakeside town that’s an hour away over the Crown Range. Heli-skiing/boarding is on the list as well as some fun activities around Wanaka. New Zealand is home to wild and wonderful adrenalin sports – bungy jumping, canyon swinging, jet-boating – as well as quieter pastimes and everyone is pursuing their own interests. This Saturday night, many watched the All Blacks get done by South Africa (sigh) while on Sunday most went to see Harry Potter in the tiny, wacky local cinema featuring comfy old sofas and even a VW Beetle.
So, all up, we’re off to a flying start. We’re trying to go a bit native and live life like the Kiwis – slow down, be friendly, helpful and respectful to each other and enjoy living in this amazing part of the world. So far so good – the group’s happy, acceptably healthy and working well together.
That’s about it for the moment but hopefully you’ve enjoyed catching up on what’s been happening for the group.
Until next week,
Marion Fagan and Jamie Jones
Interested in finding out more?