Week 4 started off well with two productive days of personal ski development - which meant laps of T-bar 1 and losing count of the number of ‘smooth, round turns’ we were attempting to pull off. Working on the instructor look paid off by Wednesday, when we got given the coveted red jackets for the first time.
Decked out like true professionals in our new gear (sadly lacking the Porter’s fashion statement furry hoods), we hiked up to the beginner’s area with the intention of thoroughly annoying the real instructors by hanging around watching their lessons. Within a few minutes I found myself in front of three school kids, demonstrating wedge turns and trying desperately to remember the Level 1 progression while pretending to be Jason and yelling things like “Hands up, hands up!” and “Awesome!” up the slope. One by one everybody in our group acquired a student, willingly donated by the instructors. As most of the students were complete beginners, it was a reasonably safe bet that we couldn’t actually make them any worse than there already were, but the hour’s sessions ended on a high, with all of us stoked that we’d actually managed to improve our students’ skiing.
Thursday was avalanche awareness day, and thanks to Shane the mountain man we learned to start looking at the snow with fresh eyes. We managed to keep warm by digging through layers of snow and playing hide-and-seek with the transceivers (and learnt how to use them safely and effectively, of course) and by the time we were finished we were pretty much the last ones on the mountain.
After getting forecasts of more bad weather, we decided to do things the Kiwi way and scrap our plans to spend the weekend at Mount Olympus in favour of a last minute trip to Queenstown. The next morning, we collected our rental car in Christchurch and were sent off by a slightly worried-looking Jason. Come on, Jase – the seven of us on a six-hour road trip with two nights in the drinking and adventure sports capital of the South Island at the end of it? What could go wrong?!
Sheep on the road and rain notwithstanding, we made it to Queenstown and spent an awesome two days enjoying the lake views, shopping and bars – not forgetting the famous Fergburgers. Unfortunately for the more adrenaline-seeking members of our crew, their skydiving was cancelled because of bad weather. We managed to make up for it somewhat in the evening, though, and after a leisurely drive back through mad snow, we finally made it back to Springfield in time for the Porter’s staff bar shout.