Tales From Down Under: A Junior Skier’s Trip to New Zealand

FasterSkierSeptember 15, 2010

This summer, Andrew Nesbitt, a rising senior at Gould Academy traveled to New Zealand on a trip organized by Alexei Sotskov.  Five junior skiers from around New England made the journey.   Andrew sent regular email updates to family and friends in the US, providing a first-hand account through the eyes of a junior skier.  Perfect conditions, hanging with the US and Canadian National Teams and an epic storm were just some of the highlights.

Thursday, July 29

We arrived hear yesterday about 12:30 PM and went skiing on Extra Blue. What a change from the hot weather that we have been having in New England. The high temperature here yesterday was 31 degrees at the Snow Farm lodge which is at about 5,000 feet.

The scenery here is like nothing else I have seen before – every time you turn around there is something beautiful. The lodge looks out over mountain ranges. All you can see are mountains covered in snow. The grooming is also great, matching Jackson as the best I have ever skied. The snow is very light and dry. I guess Extra Blue is all they have used this season, maybe a little violet too.

Snow covered mountains

The Japanese Team arrived today, and the Canadian and American teams are here, including Andy Newell, Kikkan Randall, Kris Freeman, Simi Hamilton, Morgan Arattola, and Liz Stephen and the coaches Matt Whitcomb and Chris Grover. We live on the same floor as them. The Canadian team was on the same plane as us from LA – that group includes Chandra Crawford, Alex Harvey, Ivan Babikov, Devon Kershaw and a few others, mostly men.

Friday, July 30

This morning we went for an extremely windy and foggy pre-breakfast run for about half an hour, came back, and went upstairs to breakfast. At breakfast while Justin and I were waiting for Kikkan to be done with the toaster Matt Whitcomb (USST head coach) introduced himself to us. Seems like he is a really nice guy. Right now the Canadian men are eating breakfast literally right in front of us! All of them!!

Alexei had us doing classic drills yesterday while we were watching the US team blow by us in their time trail. I also found out yesterday that members here can bring their dogs skiing. First skate session today, and a run down in town this afternoon.

Sunday, August 1

This morning we woke up to winds sustained at about 100 kilometers per hour and sleet, which changed to snow by breakfast and then rain by about 11. The locals say this was the worst they have seen all winter, something like this does not compare to anything we have in New England. Justin made it 6 minutes on the morning run I made it about 4 minutes. I think Shelby said she made it 2, the weather really blows here.

Instead of going for a ski this morning we played 10,000, (a dice game) with a good part of the US team – Kikkan, Liz, Noah and Simi. Shelby won and I was second. We beat the US Ski Team.

After beating the US Ski Team we went into Wanaka to use a fitness center and sauna. We got there as the Canadians were leaving.

We went shopping. I bought some stuff and drove back to the ski center where the wind is still blowing about 50 km per hour.

Monday, August 2

Today is our first off day, Alexei is taking us into Queenstown.  We are not just living next to the US Ski Team,  we are hanging out with them too. Amazingly they want to know about us!

Liz, Simi and Chris Grover are the most outgoing. Matt Whitcomb, Jack, Maddy and I had a long talk about compartment syndrome, which Freeman has had twice because he does not stretch. Corey Stock also recently had sugary for it. Whitcomb also predicted that at the Sochi Olympics Chandra and Kikkan will be on the podium.


Carl, the groomer here went to Gould Academy class of 1978. He does a great job. The Americans are pretty excited about the grooming right now. The Canadians seem to be pretty excited about Monopoly, It is hilarious they get so competitive with each other. Liz, Kikkan and Chandra at one point were sharing money and Babikov said “girls should not be allowed to play Monopoly.” I think he was upset that Chandra was winning.

The clouds cleared by the end of the day yesterday and we got an awesome sunset. I think in a few minutes we are about to get a great sunrise.


Tuesday, August 3

We went in to Queenstown on our off day yesterday after watching the US and Canadian ski teams do some sprints, which was really sweet.

Queenstown is about a 50 minute drive for us. We had lots of fun, bought cool stuff and took great pictures. This morning we classic skied with some light intervals – 7×3 at L3, our first interval session of the trip. We used some Rode Blue klister binder with Rossa and Violet on top of that. 2 hour ski this afternoon.

We have had some great sunsets and sunrises here. Pretty cool stuff. I just heard Carl, the groomer say he groomed for 19 hours after the storm. All I can say is he did a great job. It is pretty warm here but the snow on the trail is still firm and fast which is a lot of fun to ski on.


Wednesday, August 4

Last night we played spoons. It is a card game if you don’t know. I sat next to Alex Harvey on my right and Ivan Babikov on my left. After spoons we went to play Monopoly. I have never seen anyone get more competitive in that game than Devon Kershaw. All the Canadians are pretty competitive about Monopoly but Devon more than any other.

Friday, August 6

The FIS weekend has started today with a 15km classic for men and a 10km for women. Along with the North Americans that have been here for awhile there are athletes from Russia, Korea, Japan, Venezuela and of course Australia and New Zealand.

Devon Kershaw won, his luck in Monopoly does not translate to skiing, Kris Freeman was 2nd and Ivan Babikov was third.

Justin said he started too fast, I don’t what happened in my race – whether I was dehydrated or did not do well with altitude or nervous or what, but it was not a good race for me. The basket on my pole popped off during the race and Justin Wadsworth (Canadian head coach) gave me a pole out on the trail. My wax was prefect, fast going down and great kick going up. As far as I feel about the race, first of all it is August, I did not get lapped, I did not finish last and it is still August.

Our girls felt pretty good about their races. Maddy skied with Sarah Murphy for a while. Sarah is the host nation’s only biathlete and skied at the last Olympics. I was pretty impressed.

Morgan Arritola and Liz Stephen skied together the whole race, Liz ended up winning by .4 of a second. A Japanese athlete was third.

Sprint tomorrow and 10km free on Sunday. The Americans and the Canadians will not be participating, YES! The Canadians are still playing Monopoly.

Sunday, August 8

I had one of the best days of racing possible and one of the strangest nights. It was the freestyle sprint. It worked like an Eastern Cup – you have a qualifying race and then heats. I was flying in the qualifying. I felt light, relaxed and great and I was last to qualify for the heats.

I found out who else was in my heat – me, Pavel Sotskov, Ivan Babikov and the first qualifier…..Andy  Newell.

So I stepped up to the line and thought “holy shit.” I just wanted to ski relaxed and enjoy this moment. It is not often that Liz Setphen gives you tips on which lane to pick. I think it was about the time of my heat that it started snowing really hard – about 11 o’clock. Simi Hamilton won with Newell in second and Alex Harvey in third.

Maddy was the highlight of our day. She was 2nd in the B final, 6th overall. Chandra won, Liz was second and Esther Bottomley of Australia was third. Kikkan did not race because she felt sick. “Something hit me” she said, and Alexei wanted to know who. The women’s race ended at about 12:30 and at about 1 the wind started to blow.

About 3:30 Alexei sent us down to the Snow Park, which is the freestyle ski and snowboard facility about 3km down the road from where we are. Alexei said we were going to hang out with some local kids and there would be a hot tub there. The wind is sustained at 70km per hour and it is still snowing really hard. Ben Koons was in charge of us. He skis for Dartmouth and the New Zealand National Team in Vancouver. We played spoons again – the kiwis are not nearly as competitive as the Canadians and we did go in the hot tub, but by the time we got out it was dark. The wind was now blowing 90km an hour and it was still snowing hard.

This nice couple who owned the condo that the local kids were staying at were trying to drive us back, but they could not see 2 meters in front of them. So we went back to the lodge and ate diner, and were told that some one who worked at the Farm was coming to get us.

We called and found out that it was not going to happen. We were set up in a ski dorm in the same building as the restaurant that we ate in. We had some place to stay! We woke up this morning and it was still snowing – not as hard and the wind was not blowing. We made it back to the Farm in time for breakfast.

We got stuck in a blizzard 3km from where we wanted to be because Alexei told us there was going to be a hot tub. WTF? I think the 10km skate is being held at 12 local time but I am not sure what Carl is doing with the grooming.


Monday, August 9

Yesterday was another good race despite the snow conditions – so new and soft. It was a freestyle race and it was just hard to get a solid kick off on the snow. There was this one long and steep hill on the course that was in awful shape and it just plain hurt. Again I felt relaxed, but because of all the new snow Carl was only able to get a 2km loop together, so we did it 5 times, which in a way was good because every time you come through the stadium I would hear Liz and Matt Whitcomb cheering for ME!

I ended up 3 seconds behind Justin. I was more happy with the fact the Matt congratulated me after the race. I kept trying to think if that really just happened. One of the US ski team coaches raced yesterday. It was fun to see him having a good time. Maddy and Molly also raced well. Shelby was not happy with her race but Alexei changed her mood pretty quickly.

We went to Anna Hogg’s house for dinner. Anna went to Kimble Union with Molly her freshman year. It was a great meal – pasta, garlic bread and an awesome trifle.

Today we are going to the ocean, but snow looks prefect. However the US Ski team leaves today which is too bad because they have been so much fun to watch and hang out with.

Wednesday, August 11

This is my final update from New Zealand.

We just had our last ski here at the Snow Farm. The snow is beautiful, dry, and the skiing is really great, but it is supposed to rain again on Thursday. We have all had an amazing time.

I have been on snow for 10 months this year, If we get on snow in September that would be 11, Jeremy is trying hard. I missed skiing in May by 2 days and during a school Tuckerman’s trip I had other things to do.

I think the coolest part was hanging out with the national team and realizing that they too are real people, and racing a sprint against Andy Newell – that was pretty cool too. I think I am ready to come home. Tomorrow is also Shelby’s birthday.

Mom, pick me up at exit 11 for the VA hospital off I89 in White River Junction. There is a McDonalds, and Jack says that is the best place to meet. I’ll call you when we get close.

New Zealand

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