Until this year I had never been up in snowy mountains, let alone snowboarding or skiing. It has been on my bucket list for years but the closest I had ever gotten was a trip to Switzerland in summer where the weather was terrible so the mountains felt wintery and dramatic. So when we rocked up in New Zealand during mid-winter I was in awe of the snowy mountains lining the backdrop to the north and south island. When we arrived in Queenstown the scenery really hit its peak, the weather had improved and with the clear skies I could now clearly see all the mountains surrounding us.
We had always planned to do some skiing or snowboarding when we hit Queenstown but it all depended if we had the money left for it. New Zealand, like Australia, is expensive and although we had a very tight budget that we managed to stick to, being able to ski came down to skipping out on the drinking sessions and nights out. Was it worth the sacrifice? Most definitely, even if the day didn’t go quite as planned…
We booked our ski trip with Nomads Hostel and then picked up all of our gear the night before – I chose to have a lesson so I would be getting a board and boots on the mountains; however my boyfriend wasn’t having lessons so he collected his board and boots from the town. There are plenty of shops and travel agents which offer deals on snowboarding so I won’t go in to all the pricing and such but I paid $167 for one day including two lessons, rental gear and transfers.
The day started with an early bus ride up to the Cardrona Mountains. From Queenstown it took an hour and 15 minutes – the whole journey was full of beautiful views especially when we hit the mountain climb. Part way up we hit a massive cloud and couldn’t see any further than a metre outside of the bus, it was crazy. Thankfully we made it up safely and the cloud was a lot thinner at the top giving much better visibility. Given that I had never been to a ski resort before, the slopes looked exactly as I had imagined but the resort part was much smaller – it was just for food and drink though so that probably explains the size. Our bus driver pointed us in the direction of rental equipment and we were soon kitted up! By 9.30 we were on the snow only to realise we had nearly an hour before our lesson started.
Not wanting to just sit around during that time we went up the magic carpet and tempted our luck on this small slope, I mean how wrong could it go? Well, I couldn’t stop, steer or control my speed – I knew how to go fast and that was it. The mess around just resulted in me throwing myself on the floor a lot and wondering how on earth I was going to master snowboarding?!
At 10.20am our first lesson started; our instructor Kirsten was great, she started very basic but that seemed to be the best way. We got a feel for the board and just had one foot strapped in to practice the first turning moves and how to stop/go. It was only after we mastered these simple moves that we strapped two feet in and learned the hardest part: how to stand up, which I was terrible at! We then went to a small slope below the magic carpet to put into practice everything we had learnt. We tried out stopping and starting – and how much pressure was required, going down horizontally to start with and then slowly putting in some turns. My only complaint about the lesson was that being a group of 11, if we wanted her help it took what seemed like forever to get her attention. For the last part of the first lesson we went up on to the magic carpet and practiced the moves over and over.
When I met my boyfriend for lunch I was really feeling positive and confident about it all. We grabbed some overpriced lunch from the main café although there were several different places to eat. After refuelling we were ready to hit the slopes again; I had a little while to spare before my second lesson so decided to go and practise the moves from the morning. I was doing great at going down controlled and being able to turn in the direction I wished until… I went to stop, lost my balance and fell down funny on my tailbone. I sat on the slope, probably in everybody’s way for what felt like forever, willing myself not to cry and gain some composure. I got myself off the slope eventually, took a seat to the side and tried to be brave. After everything I had learnt I knew the worst thing would be not getting back up there and trying, so that’s what I did. The only problem was I had really scared myself from the fall, and the motion of trying to stand up on the board was really hurting my now injured back. Eventually after painfully giving it a go or two I gave in to the pain and went off to take some photos of the slopes.
I then spotted the medical centre and as there was pain in my back from just walking, my boyfriend took me into the centre and that’s where we spent our afternoon. Me lying down on a bed with ice on my back, drinking tea – luckily I hadn’t done any real damage except bruising myself. Needless to say I missed my second lesson and wasted the afternoon away from the slopes. It was a disappointing end to an activity I had been looking forward to for such a long time. Thank goodness this little accident hasn’t put me off forever and miraculously my back was feeling much better the next day.
When 4pm rolled around we went out of the medical centre to see the entire complex starting to clear out. It was crazy how quickly everything got shut down and soon everyone was piling into cars and leaving the slope for the day. I couldn’t believe how quick the whole process happened.
Cardrona is a great mountain range which has slopes for everyone: they do beginner and intermediate lessons for adults and children – both skiing and snowboarding. We found it to be a very family friendly place as well as popular among us backpackers; it certainly made me wish I had been brought up doing this kind of thing. Despite the unfortunate end to the day I cannot wait to try out snowboarding again.