Two layers of thermals, two pairs of socks and I’m as toasty as a marshmallow. This country girl’s swapped out the red bands for snow boots.
Heading up to Mount Ruapehu felt like Christmas Day.
I’m sure many across New Zealand dream about visiting the snow-dusted mountains in the Tongariro National Park for the first time.
What felt like (and probably was) the 100th time falling over.
So how did a full day on Whakapapa skifield play out for this complete novice…
I was picked up outside the Snow Depot office in Taupō on Tuesday morning at 7:30am – just enough time to pick up my snowboard gear and get to my first lesson at 9am on Happy Valley.
Nervous as ever, my swollen sock-layered feet trembling in my boots, I was given the “okay let’s get started” instruction from my instructor.
Masashi Tsunozawa starts off my one-on-one lesson for the day nice and easy.
Masashi Tsunozawa is on his 10th back-to-back winter, jumping between New Zealand and Japan. Tsunozawa took to the slopes with ease, with the benefit of 18-years of experience under his belt.
But what patience – I was as stiff as a board and a little bit terrified.
For me the one-on-one lesson was the best way to ease into the sport. I felt safe and as hard as it is to believe, I actually improved.
Hitting the slopes, nervous as ever. Pearly white snow at the Happy Valley ski-field.
After many bails, falls and embarrassing moments, my two-hour lesson ended and it was lunchtime.
I met up with Ruapehu Alpine Lifts Marketing Coordinator, Jess Harnett, and enjoyed a nerve-racking ride up the chairlift as I balanced my snowboard, gloves, helmet and day-pass. Note – the less gear the better.
One of the biggest challenges of the day was getting off the chairlift with one foot tied into the board and the other there for ‘balance’.
My second lesson for the day – now at level 2 – instructed by Jack Goddard.
Not so easy, however, as I painfully fell to my backside and slid down the snow ramp, right to the bottom of the chairlift exit. ‘Sorry, I’m sorry,’ I said as I awkwardly shuffled on my butt to the nearest safe zone, out of the way of the next chairlift to arrive.
Standing atop the Knoll Ridge cafe [New Zealand’s highest cafe] was all worth it.
But with only two options on getting back down the mountain, snowboarding or the chairlift, I took my chances with the chairlift once again. Good news – I was allowed to carry my board and my feet were free.
Stopping for lunch at The Corona Schuss Haus was music to my ears as I downed a bowl of Mexican nachos. The 18+ bar definitely had a party vibe going, I was disappointed I couldn’t get a coffee and I had to choose between beer and soft drinks. If you’re into hot chips and coffee Knoll Ridge or Lorenzs’ Bar and Cafe situated at Whakapapa’s base area is a better pick for you.
2pm came and it was time for my level 2 group lesson with instructor Jack Goddard.
This is where things really picked up for me. I learn how to ride on ‘my toes’. In other words, I was going backwards.
After a few [dozen] falls, I was definitely getting more comfortable, but my body was getting pretty exhausted.
It was time for my 4:30pm shuttle home. Closing my eyes on the journey back to Taupō I reflected on what I had achieved that day.
Apart from some whiplash to my neck and what feels like a bruised tailbone, I’m already looking forward to my next adventure up the mountain.
For me, if it wasn’t for the lessons I would have given in to fatigue, however, the constant repetition and “do it again” attitude helped me improve well beyond my capabilities.
But for now, you’ll either find me resting on my desk at work or soaking in the hot pools to relieve my muscles.