Okay cats, first thing’s first.
Dear snow, I’m so sorry for all the nasty things I said about you. I’m sorry I declared my hate for you based on negative experiences in my youth. I don’t hate you; in fact, I might like you a little bit… But don’t get too carried away. I won’t be hopping on the next plane to Banff. I remember vividly how awful living with you can be. But you sure are fun for a long weekend.
While still in America, somewhere around Memphis, I got a very exciting message from my new boss. A Queenstown ski famil was offered to me!
For those unfamiliar with the term, a famil is a trip through my work where suppliers send us to different destinations to check them out. They usually involve a lot of hotel inspections and activities to better our selling abilities. They’re amazing and you get about one a year, if you’re good and you’re lucky. My last was to Cambodia so I was very ready for it!
What I didn’t absorb at the time was just how much snow would be involved. On a ski trip. I know, but was in Memphis and drunk on life, what can I say?
If you’ve ever spoken to me about a cooler climate you’ve probably heard me utter the words ‘I hate snow’. I’d proudly announce it because after living in it for the first thirteen years of my life, walking to school in foot-deep sludge because the bus was at a stand still or having ice balls slipped down the back of my shirt, were not the fondest of memories.
You probably also know just how horrendously accident prone I am. I don’t really have spatial awareness. I’ve always got my blinkers on, as Rooch says. But I’m a yes girl! I love new challenges! Come at me snow!
It was such a good decision.
I did feel a little guilty at first when I accepted it and then thought about those who love to ski that might have taken it in my place, but after evaluating the amazing opportunity I’ve been given to try something new, for free no less, and really challenge myself, I knew I’d do them proud. If there’s one thing I’m not, it’s ungrateful. I know so many people spend so much money to do this and I’m one of the luckiest people ever to get the opportunities I do. Hard work really does pay off in my job!
My last experience with snow was on my NZ Contiki three years ago. The Gods did not want us to go that day. When it turned out it was an optional I firmly shook my head but being the good kid I am I did bend in the end. When we slept through the alarm it really seemed like a sign. Then within five minutes of being there my ex broke his collarbone. I had just got my skis on. I proceeded to slide on my bum down the slope after him and spent the rest of the day in the medical bay. Better him than me… 😉
So! I printed my docs and packed an hour before heading to the airport for my overnight flight to Melbourne. I had a four hour layover in which I slept snuggled on a bench near my gate, in true traveller style, hogging the socket next to me. The flights were fine. I was in the middle each time but I was pretty small compared to the people around me so I didn’t mind. I have my routine of comedy show, eat, sleep until landing down now anyway.
We landed and my jaw fell open. What a ridiculously beautiful airport Queenstown is. The view as you fly between mountains is spectacular.
What I slowly began to realise is that our group was infiltrating a Haka Tour (typical travel agent not reading my docs). Haka are basically backpacker Contiki. We stayed at the Haka Lodge which is definitely my favourite hostel to date. It was barely a block from the centre of town. We had curtains and night lights and a heater!
On our first night we got acquainted with our group and headed to the ski shop to hire our gear. Boots are hard. I knew I’d be layering upon layering so ended up with the most flatteringly large outfit ever. I loved my snazzy new skis though.
With the practical stuff sorted we made our way to the best ice breaker ever (eyyyy) Minus 5 Bar! I’d been here previously with Contiki and it’s just a fun as I remembered. The cocktails go down a treat. Exhibit A:
We then proceeded to eat more pizza than anyone could ever need and I began to realise we were essentially on a mini group tour. I was over the moon. My favourite thing! Not to mention the rest of our group were just awesome.
The next day was the big one: Cardrona. Two lessons. One day to become a ski master. Bring it on.
I loved it there. I giggled as I made my way past the scene of my previous experience and, now knowing how to put skis on, was ready to learn the rest.
I was really surprised at how quickly I picked it up. I put it down to years of being obsessed with my rollerblades. The one thing I couldn’t quite get the hang of was slowing myself down. Ever the speed demon.
Cardrona is the perfect all-rounder mountain. Their beginner section is just perfect and they’ve got slopes for all skill levels.
After completing both lessons we decided we were ready for the big boy slope.
The visibility was really bad by the afternoon but we really wanted to give it a go before we left. What I hadn’t expected was just how quickly I could gain speed up there, and for some reason I lost all ability to stop myself. Several times I flew past our instructor and after a couple of stacks and a nice scenic shot, I did the damage.
After a pretty aggressive turn with no slowing in sight I was now heading straight for a wall so decided to fall back on my butt. The only problem was I still wasn’t stopping. A few boarders were coming down the hill towards me so I decided grabbing to ground would be a good idea and sadly I was going a bit quick for that and my arm pulled backwards. It hurt but not enough to worry with all the adrenalin and I got myself all the way down before realising, hmm… I’ve done something here.
But I made it all the way through the day! I didn’t fall at all! I was bitterly disappointed. I had the most incredible day, and now I could barely hold a pint.
We had a local beverage and some toasted marshmallows at the only pub in Cardrona before heading back to town.
Dinner was a clear choice.
Still the best burger I’ve ever had.
The next day was a tap out on my behalf. I’m pretty upset about not making it up to Remarkables as they look just that, but after a restless and painfilled night I just couldn’t do it. So I watched a couple of series on Netflix including Obsessed (chillingly great) and Lovesick (fantastically British) and I was brought food by the incredible Kate and Al. I mean honestly, who goes on a backpacker famil and gets lunch and dinner in bed? Spoilt! But getting dressed wasn’t much of an option.
We tried Devil Burger and no, Ferg really is better.
Day three and our final snow day: Coronet Peak.
I was Mumma that day and set up shop in the food court with a spectacular view and Mad Love to keep me company. The guys flitted in and out and I was so happy just to be up a mountain again, even if I couldn’t get out there.
For our last night we headed out for a group dinner and a little taste of home at the Pig and Whistle! What followed was a mixing of all types of alcohol, an awesome dive bar, a terrible club and not remembering how I got home. Good job team!
Our last morning Kate and I weren’t flying out until later so we recruited our beautiful new friend and fellow Haka tourist Nikki and went out for breakfast at Joe’s Garage. I sure love my quirky cafes and the food and coffee were delicious!
We followed it with a walk along the lake and one last look at that breathtaking view. It’s just unreal.
Then, with a heavy sigh, to the airport we ventured.
I’m incredibly glad a sore arm is all that happened, and I am so so thankful for the opportunity I had to go on this trip. Not only do I now love and know how to sell the shit out of Haka Tours, but I’ve completely changed my mind about an activity I thought I would hate. I can’t wait to hit the snow again one day. Next time I might spend a little longer on the baby slope; at least until I’ve mastered the art of stopping.
Also, when did all the hot guys start snow boarding? My god…
Thank you Infinity Holidays for being the best company in the world, and Al for being the best host.
What a great adventure.
Now just one more month until Melbourne and Adelaide!