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Mt Ruapehu

Weekend Skiing and Snowboarding

snow 0 °C

A few weeks ago Todd and Beki suggested that we rent a car and drive up to Mt Ruapehu for a weekend to go snowboarding, as it's something Beki has always wanted to have a go at. I have never had any desire to try skiing or snowboarding as I know I'd be absolutely terrified and ultimately rubbish at it, but Jonny said he'd quite like to go so I thought I'd be brave and give it a try.

Todd and Beki wanted to snowboard but apparently if you've never done anything before then it's best to start with skiing, as it's easier. Also our travel insurance wasn't going to cover snowboarding (indicating that it's obviously more dangerous!) so Jonny and I decided we'd try skiing. We booked everything up and the plan was to pick up the rental car at 5.30pm and then the others were going to pick me up from work, as I wouldn't be finishing until 6pm.

Unfortunately things didn't really go to plan because at 2.31pm there was a 6.5 magnitude earthquake and I was 21 storeys up with the building creaking and swaying considerably back and forth for a good several minutes! It was absolutely terrifying and everyone in the city was quite literally very shaken up! I was told to go home at around 3.30pm and walked home as quickly as I could! There were still a lot of aftershocks going on and there was a 5.8 just after I got home. I had already packed everything I needed but as I was home I was able to change out of my work clothes.

You might think that all this meant we had a head start on our 4-hour drive to the mountains but in fact everyone in Wellington was evacuating the city in a state of panic! Walking home from work the streets were flooded with people and the roads heading out of the city were gridlocked! It was like something from a zombie apocalypse movie! At around 4.30pm we decided to go and pick up the car but there were quite a few people who were there renting cars just to get out of the city! Once we had the car it took us almost an hour to get from the rental place to KFC, which would normally have been a less than 5-minute drive! By the time we had some food and set off, it was no earlier than we would originally have left!

It was a long drive but we got to the lodge just before 11pm and went straight to bed. We were up bright and early for breakfast at 7am and we fuelled ourselves up for the day ahead. By this point I was dreading getting onto the slopes and starting to think this might have been a very bad idea!

The weather was raining and horrible but we got a shuttle bus up to the Whakapapa Ski Area and the rain soon turned to snow the higher we got! We took the ski lift and went to sort out all of our rental gear. Jonny and I already had waterproof trousers and jackets so all we needed were ski boots, ski’s and poles. Someone at work had told Beki that we could rent gloves but that turned out not to be true so we all had to fork out some money to buy some because it was far too cold to go without. By the time we had all our gear (and no idea) it was 9am but our lessons weren't until 10am. We hung around for a bit and I started to get incredibly nervous.

Todd and Beki went off to have their snowboarding lesson whilst Jonny and I had our ski lesson. There were 4 other people learning with us, all of which were complete beginners like us, apart from one guy who had skied before but hadn't done it for 30 years! We walked to the top of the beginner’s area, clipped into our ski’s and tried to get used to the feel of them. The first thing we had to do was line ourselves up and then slide a little way down to our instructor who then caught us and stopped us.

Then we moved on to learning how to stop ourselves. This technique is called the pizza wedge! So you start with a small wedge, give yourself a little wiggle to start sliding down and then you're supposed to angle your heels out and spread your legs to a large pizza wedge and you'll stop. Sounds simple enough doesn't it? Well let me tell you, it bloody isn't. First of all, you have to have your knees bent, leaning forwards and although you need to push your heels and legs out, you're not supposed to put any weight on your heels or the back of your legs to do this! Everyone else had a go and did all right. Then Jonny had a go and couldn't keep the wedge shape so his legs just came apart parallel and didn't stop. The instructor made him do it two more times but he still couldn't do it. Then it was my turn and as I lost my balance I leant backwards and fell on my arse. I didn't even think about it, it's your basic human instinct to stand up straight and lean backwards in order to gain your balance but that is the exact opposite of what you're supposed to do on ski’s! I really don't like the idea of that at all! I'm supposed to just ignore all my human instincts? That's not natural!!! I tried again and by making sure I didn't lean backwards I ended up falling forwards onto my face instead. Great. We all had a few more turns but Jonny still couldn't stop at all and when I sort of managed to do it, it wasn't in a straight line, I ended up swerving wildly off to one side. The instructor said it was because I wasn't moving my feet with even pressure but I'm absolutely certain that I was, I was concentrating so hard! But he wouldn't let us look at what our legs were doing, we had to look straight ahead, which I don't think was helping.

I don't think our instructor was very good at all. He'd been skiing for 30 years but this was his first year teaching and he obviously hasn't mastered the technique in translating to beginners. I think that Jonny and I learn things in the same way so whatever he was doing was obviously not meeting our learning needs because everyone else in the group seemed to be doing fine! It was very frustrating and he was being quite patronising to us and saying that if you do a lot of sport you will find it easier because you'll understand your muscles better. He kept saying that we had to feel the muscles in our legs but he wasn't any more descriptive than that, which is why I think we didn't understand what we were supposed to be feeling. When I do exercise DVD's I can follow the moves and poses because it is clearly described where I should be feeling what, so I think he just wasn't very competent at this.

I was so embarrassed about the fact that out of 6 people I was the only one that had fallen over (more than once) and I didn't like the sensation of being on the ski’s at all and I was frustrated that I couldn't get the stopping right and nothing the instructor was doing was helping me (or Jonny) and I was starting to get very annoyed and upset. Then he said we'd practised enough so now it was time to ski all the way down to the bottom, stop, and then get on the rubber conveyor belt thing to go to the top and do it all again. When we were practising we were only moving a few feet at a time, with the instructor in front of us to catch us if it all went wrong (which so far, it had - every time) but now I had to face going down an entire hill by myself knowing that I probably wouldn't be able to stop. I moved off and almost immediately lost control and fell over. There was no one to pull me up this time so I had to unclip myself from my ski’s to stand up. In that very moment of unclipping myself I knew that I wasn't going to attach myself to those things again. I didn't want to go down the hill. I didn't want to keep falling over. Nothing about this was any fun at all - it was scary and horrible. The instructor came back for me and told me to strap my ski’s back on but I started crying and said I didn't want to do it! He started having a go at me saying that I did want to do it because I'd paid for it and 5 year olds told him they didn't want to do it, not adults. I thought this was very unkind and although I was crying and almost having a tantrum in a bit of a childish way, I don't think he stopped to realise that maybe I was acting like a child because I was absolutely terrified like one. My whole body had turned to jelly and I was having a panic attack. I said that I just wasn't finding this experience fun and he, with a lot of attitude, snapped "what's not fun about it? Well I'll just give you a minute then and come back for you".

Jonny had somehow made it to the bottom and was looking back up at me, puzzled. As he went up on the rubber thingy past me he could see I was upset but the instructor wouldn't let him get off to speak to me, he said that he would have to go to the top and then ski down to me! After a few minutes I decided that I didn't want them to come down to try and convince me to get back on the ski’s because I'd already made my mind up that I couldn't do it so I picked everything up and stomped all the way back to the rental area and gave the ski’s back. They could obviously see that I was very upset so they very kindly let me exchange my ski’s and boots for some snow shoes and a sled for free and told me to go out and try to have some fun! I went back outside still shaking like a leaf and Jonny came to find me. I told him to go back to the lesson and just enjoy himself because I'd rather just be by myself but he said he didn't want to go back by himself. Todd and Beki soon came over having just finished their lesson and were thoroughly enjoying themselves! I was dragging around this sled thing but didn't really know what to do with it and Jonny said he didn't want to sledge with me so I put it back.

Todd and Beki stayed to play around for a bit longer whilst Jonny and I went back to the lodge. I told him again and again that he should just go and enjoy himself and although I would have been completely fine by myself, I think he would have felt bad leaving me! It was a bit of a shitty situation all round really but things felt better by the evening when we had dinner and played cards with Todd and Beki.

The next day the weather was so much nicer with blue skies, sunshine and some cloud hugging the mountains. We drove around stopping to take some awesome photos and ended up driving back up to the Whakapapa Ski Area to get better photos than the ones we took the day before. The ski lift was free so we did a couple of videos going on that and then stopped off a couple more times to take even more photos! It was so much more fun than the day before! Then we decided that we'd better start heading back to Wellington in order to get the car back on time.

Overall it was a bit of a crap weekend for me as I epically failed at skiing in every way possible and sort of unintentionally ruined the experience for Jonny in the process. I am and always have been a real wimp when it comes to stuff like this but I hate being left out and I try to keep up with my friends so I always convince myself I can do it and then get extremely upset and frustrated when I realise that I just can't. On reflection I've realised that I've done this many times now: I tried to do surfing in Australia but had a panic attack as soon as I got in the water; I saw the film Whip It and thought it would be awesome to do roller derby so got some skates and then fell on my arse straight away and hurt my back so bad that I had to see an osteopath; I wanted to try yoga but the only class timetable that suited my schedule was hot yoga and even though I feel dizzy after sitting in a sauna for 10 minutes, I somehow thought I could handle doing 90 minutes of yoga in a sauna and as a result almost threw up and passed out! And now: I thought I could have a go at skiing with a proper lesson with other beginners and but I was the worst in the class and ended up having a total meltdown. I guess this all makes me sound like a rather pathetic human being but the truth is that sports and exercise are just really not my strength but there are other things in life that I'm quite good at and can be proud of. There are most certainly lots of other people who aren't good at sports and stuff either but I guess the important thing is that at least I give it a go, even though I end up humiliating myself in the process!

One thing I did notice on the ski field was that a concept called ski biking exists. It's basically just a bike frame but instead of wheels there are ski’s! I saw quite a few adults and kids riding them and they looked like super awesome fun! I did some research when we got home and it turns out that ski biking is starting to become more well known and it's easier and safer than any other snow sport and you can be at an intermediate level after just a half hour lesson! They say if you can ride a bike then you are already overqualified to snow bike! I can ride a bike, and it's an activity that actually doesn't freak me out or frighten me so maybe ski biking could be the winter sport for me...?!

Unfortunately Mt Ruapehu doesn't offer ski bike lessons or rentals though. Jonny reckons that he'd like to try snowboarding next time (even though he found the ski’s difficult and snowboarding is supposed to be harder!?) but seeing as it's nearly the end of ski season and Mt Ruapehu doesn't do the ski bikes, we thought it would be more sensible to wait until we are doing our working holiday visas in Canada before attempting some winter sports again. That way I will still have something to do so that I'm not left behind or left out and Jonny can have a lesson and then improve on his skills instead of having one lesson now and then not being able to do it again for a year and a half!



For now we are back in Wellington, with everyone a bit on edge because of the quakes! Back to work, but firmly on the countdown until we can start traveling again!


Posted by Jenpen17 16:51 Archived in New Zealand

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