TravelReport from New Zealand, Part 2

FasterSkier FasterSkierJuly 29, 20091

Pavel Sotskov is a recent Dartmouth College graduate who is training and working in New Zealand for the summer at the Snow Farm. He has been in New Zealand since mid June and will be returning to Presque Isle, ME to race for MWSC this coming winter.  He has sent several updates on his experiences.

Does it get any better?
Does it get any better?

Great skiing, beautiful weather, and high caliber skiers continue to be three main markers here at the Snowfarm as I enter my second month in New Zealand. It is hard to believe that since arriving in late June, the skiing has been ideal almost every day, while new snow only came in the form of one small dusting overnight. Even the weather in Wanaka has begun to clear up, exposing the beauty of this ski-town paradise. Without any addition of snow however, the coverage remains complete, with new tracks set everyday. This isn’t done to smooth out digger-marks as much as it is to crush up the constant addition of frost that seems to grow overnight into large flakes. The un-groomed snow is basically made up of huge flakes: something I’ve never seen before. Resembling regulation-sized Kellogg’s Corn-flakes, the un-groomed snow doesn’t pack together even remotely, so most back country skiing is impossible as the snow simply engulfs your ski and lets you fall directly though to the ice layer below.

Race start
Race start (#034)

One note-worthy geological event that did occur during my presence here was the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that shook the south west of the island late last week. The earthquake was one of the strongest recorded in New Zealand in the past 75 years, but since it occurred far below the island, and relatively far away from Wanaka, the effects felt here in town were not severe. Initially, I thought I had unknowingly acquired a coin-opperated bed usually found at cheap 70’s era hotels, but after checking that everyone in the house felt the floor moving around I suggested we go into the driveway. Outside, light posts were shaking, and the ground felt like a surfboard on pudding: not terrifying, but definitely not normal. It was a combination of disappointment and good fortune that in all, the damage was limited to a few Seltzer bottles exploding on store shelves, without any of the cool opening-of-the-earth-to-reveal-magma special effects often seen in the movies.

On course in a skate race.
On course in a skate race.

The name of the game this week is recovery, mainly including mountain biking, running along Lake Wanaka, and going to the gym here in town. I’ve been laying on the biking and running hours since as part of the Winter Games in August, the Snowfarm is putting on a demonstration winter triathlon which promises cash prizes for the top competitors. The 7 km run, 9 km bike, and 7 km ski (all on snow) should attract some experienced multi-sport athletes from around New Zealand, including yours truly. At the moment, my biggest concerns are the transitions between events, as I am notoriously slow at tying my shoelaces: it’s a good thing my Salomon S-Lab boots have the best quick-lace system around.

Classic racing.
Classic racing.

In the weeks leading up to the Winter Games (an exhibition event for all winter sports happening on the South Island in August meant to showcase many of this year’s Olympic contenders) the Snowfarm has been hosting weekly races for all ages. Last week’s sprints were just a day too early to see participation from the US sprinters, but hopefully future races will feature the likes of Freeman and Newell on the men’s side and Liz Stephen and Kristina Strandberg. In all, 10 USST athletes arrived here on Tuesday for their annual on-snow camp at the Snowfarm, with other nations scheduled to arrive in time for the Winter Games in late August. It’s always more fun to ski with athletes of such high caliber, so I am excited to get back on snow and rip it up with everyone tomorrow.

New Zealand
New Zealand

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