6th Sept 2007:
As luck would have it, it snowed the night before and skiing conditions were described as ideal. The bus collected me bang on time and within forty minutes had dropped me off at the local ski field: Coronet Peak.
It turns out there are four main places to go in the area: Coronet Peak being the closest and its main competitor being "The Remarkables". Anybody I've chatted to who has been to both says they are both very similar, but that The Remarkables is an hour's commute time which is noticably longer than Coronet Peak. Even further afield is Cordona and finally there's Treble Cone.
Coronet Peak seemed relatively busy when I arrived and it turned out that there was an international competition being held: bad news if I had wanted the advanced slopes, but it had no impact on me with the beginner slopes.
After getting off the bus, I wandered over to the Ski School part of the complex and found myself chatting with a girl from County Down and another from Tipperary. They were thrilled to hear another Irish accent, though they didn't seem as happy when i did my duty and clarified that Cork was The Real Capital(TM) ;)
After getting my ski-pass from the Ski School I popped over to the equipment rental and collected my boots, skiis and ski-poles. Ski-boots are weird: the hard outer shell and hard sole result in a shoe that has no flexibility whatsoever and each foot step results in a clump-clump feeling. Even the ski-pros taking part in the competition seemed to find the most challenging part of walking around in the shoes, walking up and down stairs, a challenge.
Beginners lessons began shortly after and twelve of us were grouped together under the expert guide of our instructor "Simon", from the UK. Simon's accent was straight out of the TV soap "Emmerdale Farm" and it was hard to keep a straight face at times while listening to his funny accent (which, to be fair, probably isn't half as funny as mine must sound ;) Even funnier though was trying to snap the ski-boots into the skiis while trying to look cool and not falling down on your bum: not an easy thing to do, as you might imagine.
Skiing reminds me of Scube Diving: it seems completely alien initially but quickly becomes almost instinctual. It didn't take long for all of us to learn the basics of moving forwards and backwards, stepping sidways up hills and most importantly of all the best ways of getting back up when you fall down.
With the basics out of the way we spent the rest of the morning skiing down a gentle beginner slope, skiing between ski-poles and crouching down to ski under a barrier. Oddly enough, we weren't taught how to stop until near the end of the morning session(!) but learning "The Wedge" (an inverted V shape) proved to be a big confidence booster.
Each session lasted one and a half hours to two hours which seemed to be just long enough without wearing you out. We began the afternoon session thinking skiing seemed to be quite easy. We then all had a good laugh then when Simon announced that we would be spending the afternoon without our ski-poles: the laughter quickly died away though when we realised he was serious and suddenly skiing became somewhat intimidating again... He also led us away from our beginners play-pen and we took a ride on the "Magic Carpet" (a ruberised conveyer belt) up a long and impossibly steep slope (in hindsight, it was a gentle slope, but it seemed steep initially...) and once we reached the top we nervously looked at the little people down below. The purpose of the afternoon session was practising skiing without poles, being able to slow yourself down in the wedge position and some gentle turns slalom-style: it turned out to great fun! It seemed rather basic when compared to the pros whizzing down the steep slopes, but everyone in our little group found it to be a great buzz. It was very disappointing when the time came to catch the bus back to Queenstown :( I couldn't wait to go back for another go.