travel

A Ski Season in New Zealand’s North Island…

Hey all, sorry for the complete lack of posting the last few months, I’ve been busy living, working and playing at New Zealand’s largest ski area Mount Ruapehu. If you’ve ever done a ski season you’ll probably know how ridiculously intense, crazy and awesome it is. If you haven’t you should really fucking do one!

To be fair I went in with a little bit of trepidation to say the least. The day I arrived it was pissing down with rain as I, quite literally, drove through Mordor to the lodge in a tiny village in the middle of nowhere that was to be my home and I panicked. Big time. I really worried for those first couple of days what the hell I had got myself in to.

But although National Park is pretty tiny and Slalom Lodge, my home, was 5km outside, it turned out to be the best of places, full of crazy beautiful people and weird, weird happenings.

It took a week or so but as the lodge filled up for the season, the work kicked in and the snow came to the slopes I fell head over heels in love with the mountain.

Customer Services it turns out is not for the faint of heart. Three weeks into the job the crazy busy school holidays hit us and I found myself working all the hours, seeing very little of the snow or my skis and sobbing into my housemates shoulder after one too many beers at the stress of it all. Because, don’t ya know, everything and I mean everything is customer services fault, the busy queues, the ticket prices, the bad weather, the car parks being full… literally everything. Even without the mania of the school holidays there were some rough days to be had. Turoa, the ski field on the other side of the mountain lost their highest chairlift due to an avalanche and that bought a ton more customers to our side of the mountain and on busy days we were getting at least 2000 more customers than we were equipped to deal with. It became all hands on deck and after getting the 5.45am bus up the mountain, dealing with the epic queues and yelling guests for the first half of the day, I spent afternoons up at the schuss bar helping run food and make margaritas, and getting bought down the mountain by the cats after all the lifts had closed off to get the very last of the buses home.

Honestly work was chaotic. But we still had our fun. After one particularly hectic weekend the big bosses gathered us all after the slopes had closed and dished out beers. On another morning mid crazy school holidays we were all greeted off the bus at 6.30 am with breakfast burgers. We had staff appreciation every month which varied from beers and burgers to sledging on the beginner slopes, to night skiing, to full blown parties at Tussocks pub. We had our lows (and they got pretty damn low) but at the end of it all they just made the highs all the more sweeter and despite the chaos and frustration there were oh so many highs!

When we did get the days off it turned out that even though we seemingly lived in the middle of nowhere there is heaps to be doing. First and foremost there is of course the skiing, and with Mount Ruapehu having the best snow in years there was some epic fun to be had. Here you can “Ride the Maunga” and ski on an active volcano! Bonus there are two sides of the mountain to enjoy. Whakapapa, where I worked, which is obviously the best, has a wider range of runs and gullies whereas Turoa is amazingly wide and open and cruisey. Enough fun to satisfy any skier.

I was lucky enough to be living with some bloody lovely ski instructors who put up skiing with me and my rusty skills and one of whom was kind enough to even let me wangle myself a private ski lesson with him. As a result my skiing got to improve crazy amounts after a nearly five year gap off the skis. Even without the instructor friends, the mountain offered free group lessons to all staff which meant I got to spend a fun afternoon mostly on my ass attempting to learn snowboarding and eventually discovering that I am most definitely a skier!

Off the mountain there was, with a little help from the car, plenty to fill the closed mountain days (and the days when you just needed a break from the slopes) with. This area is packed full of adventures, there are glow worms, hikes, waterfalls, an alpaca farm, carrot town (or to give it’s real name Ohakune) which has a giant carrot and a carrot park that provided us with far more entertainment than was normal! There’s a pretty challenging golf course to be taken on in National Park village as well as a climbing wall that thoroughly defeated me and my lack of upper body strength!

For the nights, Schnapps it turns out is where it’s at, and tight ass Tuesday is the night to gather and drink and eat cheap ribs! And, as there always is with ski seasons, there was a fair few house parties to be attended.

Richard, the owner of our lodge turned out to be quite the legend and he threw us some pretty epic events, including but not limited to a seventies themed party with insane amounts of jelly shots and a snow jam where we literally had a ski jump off the roof of the lodge! As I sat one night around a banquet table full of roast dinner pissed off my face on whisky shots, cheering to Slalom lodge’s greatness and planned storming of National Park and surrounded by some of the loveliest (and craziest) people I’ve had the luck to call friends, I knew I got it pretty damn good.

By far the biggest downside of doing a ski season is the heartbreak when it all comes to an end. And true to form a whole heap of tears were shed as all the goodbyes were said. Because we really did get the best bunch of weirdos. A crazy whanau and a crazy season that despite all the emotional meltdowns I would do all over again in a heartbeat.

Seriously guys if you’re thinking of taking some time out, go do a ski season! You’ll learn some new skills, make some wonderful friends, have a whole heap of insane fun and maybe kill your liver a little in the process! And if you do decide to do a season, try New Zealand on for size trust me you won’t regret it!