On being a ski bum

A life of perpetual winters, swapping hemispheres every six months, dropping everything for powder days, enjoying finely honed skiing skills … the life of a ski bum sounds pretty attractive! For the rest of us, a good year is a week, or maybe two, on the snow. Each winter starts with re-learning how to ski. And just as you are starting to nail it – it’s the end of the season. On a rough count, we’ve had 50 skiing days over the past year. That makes us honorary – albeit temporary – ski bums. We bought 2017 season tickets for Ohau. Our “season” started early July. Lovely fresh cold winter snow. Lovely to look at that is. Actually, it was rather thin, with rocks lurking just under the surface. And gluggy enough to prove our rusty skiing skills wanting.We retreated from Ohau, and waited for more snow. Which thankfully arrived – especially in south Canterbury. The skiing at Mt Dobson was much better.August, and we were joined by good friends at Wanaka. One evening we watched the movie the Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Which seems a perfect title for this photo. But who is who?Back at Ohau in late August with better snow. And gradually improving technique in the deep unconsolidated “powder”.Cross-country in the Ewe Range, above Omarama. Aoraki/Mt Cook in the distance.Ohau on a “powder” day. We suspect that many businesses in near-by Twizel were short-staffed that day.Do we need chains or not…?The real reason why we ski at Ohau. The famous Ohau carrot cake to the right with the equally famous chocolate espresso cake behind. Once it became known that Dave could not tolerate milk chocolate, Jane, the cafe’s wonderful manager made sure that only dark chocolate was used in the muffins. It was sometimes warmer on the ski fields than at night in Tonka.Dark beer is a perfect complement to skiing.Good snow persisted well into October. Our good friend Ian came back for spring skiing. Here he tackles a steep gully at Treble Cone.And a traverse along the summit ridge. Sue in the foreground.And a coffee at Ohau.Summer came … and went. In March, the next ski season looked a long way off. So we decamped to the Canadian Rockies. First up, we skied at Marmot Basin. Here you can see the wonderful mogul runs off the Eagle Chair, and the curving rock strata of Mt Kerkeslin in the background.Marmot has a stunning off-piste area called Tres Hombres. A steep north face ensures the snow stays very cold. And the long traverse trail back through the trees to the main ski area is a heap of fun.This avalanche didn’t respect the signage.Catering at Canadian ski resorts was a step down from New Zealand. But there was plenty of sauce choice!After a week at Marmot Basin, we moved to Lake Louise. Literally. In the next photo, we are standing on Lake Louise, looking towards the enormity of the Fairmont Chateau and the front-side ski runs beyond. All the land in the photo is national park. The level of development in the ski fields (let alone accommodation!) continues to be contentious, with plans to extend the Lake Louise field if they win the bid for the 2024 Winter Olympics.And this is the view in the other direction, with the frozen Lake Louise visible above Sue.Our accommodation – Deer Lodge – was somewhat more rustic. It was tucked away behind Fairmont.Despite being late spring, we enjoyed fresh snowfalls.Lake Louise ski field was often near empty. This mogul field was fabulous skiing – albeit rather tiring on telemark skis.By the end of the day we were knackered.From Lake Louise we moved to Banff and skied at Sunshine Village in the Banff National Park (or, as the locals call it, Banff National Carpark). The resort is on the spine of the Rockies, stretching from Alberta into British Columbia. Beyond the summit in the background is Delirium Dive, a double-black area where you need to be wearing an avalanche transceiver to open the access gate .The somewhat brutalist architecture of the main area at Sunshine. But if you were to turn around you would see a wonderful century-old log cabin which was the original resort base. Now it is a bar, serving deep fried dill pickles and with ice hockey games showing continually. But as was the case throughout the Canadian Rockies, it was managed by an Australian. This particular bloke was from Adelaide and was pining for the Flinders Ranges!More fresh snow! Note the ski ticket: these huge Canadian resorts still rely on manual scanners. The larger New Zealand resorts made the transition to electronic gates years ago.We had a day’s cross-country skiing on the British Columbia side. We agreed that this was the best day ski-tour we had ever done.The sharp rocky peak in the far distance is Mount Assiniboine, one of the highest in the Canadian Rockies. This glorious meadow country is favoured by both bears and hikers in the summer. Drinking beer in the snow – a fully acculturated ski bum!July 2018. A year after we started. Back in New Zealand and enjoying the early season snow at Cardrona, with Mariska.Posted 8 July 2018.

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