SPRINGFIELD WEEKS 1 & 2
What a start to the season, before we had even started packing for our adventures the snow had been falling on a regular basis over New Zealand’s south island. Porters (the nearest ski field where most of our training takes place) have had some of the best pre-season conditions for years, setting us up nicely for the beginning of the course.
I was the first to arrive and make the short journey from Christchurch out to Springfield on the legendary Route 73 towards the snow capped mountains, the stunning scenery almost made me forget the fact that I had just left our hottest day back in sunny London to brave the fresh mid-winter air on the other side of the world. The rest of our small group of 7 soon followed during the next few days, and were equally impressed by the spectacular view from our rooms – looking up at the Torlesse mountain range is almost like being in Lord of the Rings! We are all from the UK with the exception of the flying Dutchman, who you will no doubt hear more about over the coming weeks.
One of the priorities was getting our skis and boots, which most of us got from the local ski shop – Gnomes, a couple of towns away. Nonstoppers get 20% off everything there which is a great deal and saved me loads of money, they are also the best (in my opinion) at fitting boots, very thorough and willing to help even if you haven’t bought your boots from their store. Needless to say the staff are super friendly, as you come to expect in New Zealand.
So the opening day of the course had finally dawned, we were shown round the cosy, homely town of Springfield – a name which as I’m sure you know is associated with the much loved cartoon-come-film The Simpsons, and even has a giant doughnut as a result (much to the disgust of some of the locals). The most important building though, as with any small town, is the Pub where we have our evening meals and the odd beverage. You may think that being a Pub in the middle of nowhere, the food would be pretty average… but you’d be so wrong, it is actually amazing and that’s no exaggeration! The rest of the town includes a couple of Cafes, a Backpackers, a petrol garage, and various sheep, goats & horses.
I’ve just realised I haven’t actually mentioned the most important person here yet, who is of course our host/instructor/driver/entertainer – the famous (or possibly more infamous) Jason Collins. The guy is full of insightful, inspiring, and at times simply terrible, quotes, jokes and conversation starters. A few examples are “I found the limit of my ski” which means he completely wiped out, “the mountain is your friend” used without fail on a daily basis, and “it’s character building” when he wants us to do anything we don’t want to do! He is also an experienced instructor (as you would expect) and has already improved everyone’s technique, and taken us down the steepest black run in the country, and possibly the entire southern hemisphere – which I have to say was as satisfying as it was scary for someone like me, having only skied for one season 4 years ago!
Most of our first week was spent getting to know Porters, which has some pretty impressive, steep terrain and is surrounded by back country and off-piste options. I should also point out that the road leading up to the car park can be quite challenging – with tight hairpins being almost the only places wide enough for the shuttle bus to come thundering past you, added to the significant lack of barriers preventing a certain death should you slide off the edge! Still, it all adds to the charm of the place, which is plentiful. With no shortage of powder thanks to the great early season snow, we’ve been taking full advantage of our free skiing time. There are 3 main T-bar lifts at Porters and the queues are normally very short so you can get plenty of runs in before heading down to the little cafe.
Last weekend, our first here as a group, was mostly spent in the pub getting to know some of the Porters staff a bit better. We achieved this by consuming large amounts of alcohol, beating them at pool, and ultimately being invited into their broken kayak for what I can only assume was some kind of initiation attempt on their behalf! We also met two rather crazy middle-aged ladies, one of them looked like she was about to go on a killing spree as she told us in no uncertain terms what the rules of the pool table are, the other works in the cafe over the road, seems to have a little too much passion about her home cooking and makes sure everyone knows it!
Onto our second week and it’s another action-packed combination of techniques, movements and exercises introducing us to beginner lessons. We’ve also had a look at ourselves on video, which is interesting to say the least, and makes you realise what you’re doing well and what you need to improve. There are also our technical sessions in the evenings where we learn more valuable stuff such as tuning our skis, which reminds me I must do mine tomorrow!
The end of week 2 was celebrated by heading over to the west coast, through more Lord of the Rings & Narnia landscapes, to the magnificent Franz Josef glacier. The 5 hour drive was well worth it, as was the small amount we paid for an afternoon tour. I can’t imagine there are many experiences like walking on a glacier, as we stopped for a quick break a huge boulder of ice came crashing down less than 10 metres away! The pure size and shape of the glacier is something to marvel at, along with the fact that it moves on a regular basis and is sometimes closed due to being too dangerous to walk on.
Well after our energy-sapping afternoon, there was only one thing to do – jump straight in the hot tub! Then it was over to the bar to see the All Blacks beat the Wallabies, priceless (sorry to any Aussies reading this)! And that’s all you get to hear about as what happens in the pub stays in the pub… well, unless you have a broken kayak.
Hopefully this has given you some idea of how good the course is, but if not check out week 3 – coming to you soon from another member of our awesome little group!