Archive for June 14th, 2007

Road to joy

I suppose I meant to do a daily blog, for the time the guys were here. Like the ‘big trip’ but with more snow. But it never really happened. I could blame tiredness, I could blame long conversations till 3 am, in a different age I probably could have even blamed Drumcree but to be honest I just got a bit lazy.

So anyway. We drove from Hanmer Springs to Methven (at the base of Mt Hutt) in a morning and kept wondering when the snow was gonna start. For those who have skied in Europe then you’re well drilled, with the flight, the bus trip to the chalet, the sudden realisation that you are in fact sleeping in a lavatory in the local service station and not the log chalet you saw in the brochure. But ultimately you end up staying in the snow.

Methven, the local alpine resort, was in the middle of the Canterbury Planes (imagine what they look like), and full of sheep and cows. There were mountains in sight, but they looked like a really angry version of the Mournes and not something you’d want to carve parallels down.

By this stage it was lunch time and we wanted to at least get a brief ski in so we braved the mountain road to the field. Another brief point to folk who have skied in Europe. The road to the resort may well be windy and your bus will be piloted (the correct term as he thinks he’s flying a jet fighter) by a grumpy Frenchman with a moustache. But the road will at least be tarmacced and have those wonderful crash barrier things at the edge.

The road to Mt Hutt is gravel. Well there’s gravel underneath. There’s mostly snow and ice on top. About half way up we have to stop to fit ‘chains’. Initially I am dubious, but when I see what lies before us I think maybe I need ‘spikes’ not just chains. Phil does us proud, and gets us safely to the top.

On the way down we see a car with both front wheels over the edge of the cliff. A stanchion from a flimsy fence being the only thing to stop it going over. The driver looks as white as… well…snow.

It is the first day of the season and alas only two of the big runs are open. But they’re good runs and we’re keen. We run bets (we seem to run bets on everything, from when the car will break down next or what time Spud will need to pee again) on who will fall over first. Phil wins with a spectacular 3.5 secs and falls over almost as soon as he clears the chair lift. Me and Spud breathe a sigh of relief that it wasn’t us.

So good to be back skiing. A wonderful, completely bizarre sport, that requires such a stunning amount of effort to actually exist that you wonder how you can ever justify it. A bit like a girlfriend or the human race. But it’s simply wonderful, to be gliding over smooth, pisted slopes in the sun, staring down at the Canterbury Plains to the ocean. One of the few countries you could be surfing and skiing in the same day.

The other joy of skiing in NZ is that (almost, apart from the Irish apparently) everyone speaks English as a first language. So you get into all kinds of chats with folk on the chair lifts. The three of us end up on a lift with a Kiwi in a ‘Mt Hutt’ jacket who chats to us about where we’re from and what we’re doing here. I end up with an all expenses paid job offer to be a ski patrol doctor for a couple of months. This would fulfil one of my two great medical career paths – the other being a cruise ship doctor, with hat and uniform and the whole nine yards.

Phil tells him he’ll be back in 5 years. I tell him I’m going back to Ireland for the ski season (as in the duration of the ski season, not the Irish ski season). He asks why on earth I would want to do that, and I wonder why…


June 2007