Broken River Diary

From WTMC Journal 1995. Republished in the July 2013 Newsletter.

Back: Jan, Tod, Roger, Angela, Mike, Jan, Alan. Front:Sarah, Sue, Kara.
Back: Jan, Tod, Roger, Angela, Mike, Jan, Alan. Front:Sarah, Sue, Kara.

Saturday 5 August
Wet, cold morning in Wellington. Met team at airport, assembled impressive pile of luggage, flew to Christchurch with most of it. Wet and cold there too – skifields all closed, so no rush. Mike’s boots and Angela’s sleeping bag off to Queenstown, van driver nearly arrested by airport security staff for taking liberties with parking zones, headed off to Riccarton to borrow a sleeping bag, buy food and liquids – heard porter hights was opening – off to Gnomes of Darfield to hire boots and better chains. To Porter Heights for lunch and skiing in the clouds. Lovely snow, would have loved to see where I skied!

Saturday evening
To Arthur’s Pass Youth Hostel, group melding and mellowing over dinner followed by a walk to explore the village; humour spot when our fearless leader harassed a possum found minding its own business by the road – poor scared beast retaliated and tried to climb the nearest tall object, ie Roger, who showed amazing agility when under threat – turned out the possum was the local police officer’s pet.

Sunday 6th
A chilly start – Tod wanted to see snow on the trees, and he did – about 20cm of it on the entire landscape all the way to Broken River turnoff. A chain mishap en route left us with three useful chains, and one of them suspect, heavily laden rent-a-dent struggled on the access road, so we abandoned ship and walked the last kilometre or so. Felt a little sorry for the unknown punters who did likewise, and trudged heavily laden up the road for 20 minutes to discover they were at the wrong skifield!

Broken River here we come. Untold gratitude to the instigators, designers, and builders of the inclinator which carried our gear up the hill and made the final drudge up to the lodge tolerable. A quick lunch then off to ski! Yet another trudge to the ski shed and access tow, and that horror of horrors, the nutcracker – after several very nervous false starts a kind local named ‘Whale’ deftly clipped the first timers on and we made it to the skifield.

Caught glimpses of old hands Sue, Roger, Allan and Jan by now enjoying Broken River snow. What snow it was: knee deep powder such as seldom seen in the North Island. Very difficult to ski down, even harder to get back up the run. Those pulleys on the nutcracker proved highly intimidating, I wondered why I had come. A whole week to go, I’d better learn to cope or it would be a long week, I told myself. Everyone else could do it. At least falling didn’t hurt.

Sunday evening and another trudge to the van and back to retrieve more gear and some of the liquid substances purchased in Christchurch. A meal and some liquid cheered everyone up.

After dinner a formal welcome and introduction to the staff, plus the do’s and dont’s of Broken River life. Met ‘Joe’ the Scottish snowboard instructor and ‘Jason’ the Canadian ski instructor. Sorted ourselves into lesson groups, I was once a level 3 going on 4, but that was on groomed snow a million miles away. Decided to be a 2 going on 1 for first lesson – good call.

Monday 7th
Sue’s soon-to-be-famous porridge started the day. A beautiful bright, clear, calm morning, back to do battle with the nutcracker and THAT snow – lesson proved helpful and actually learned to turn AND keep skis on – a good start to the week. Managed to keep up with some other Tongue and Meats for a while; forgot to pace myself and should have stopped at 3 instead of 5pm – having too much fun to stop – staggered back to the lodge thoroughly exhausted but much happier; discovered the sauna. Bliss!

Jan Goodwin
Jan Goodwin

Tuesday 8th
Snowing and windy, no skiing today (aching thighs were grateful). Know I should have worked more on fitness. A day of resting, reading, cards, eating and socialising – didn’t even go outside. Ski tuning session in the evening in lieu of lessons.

Wednesday 9th
Still snowing but looking more hopeful; went up late and skied. Lesson was an ‘all in’ fun session – everyone thoroughly covered in snow – snowed most of the afternoon, but not too cold for fun. Average of three skiers out most of the time. Games night at Linden Lodge; Roger and Kara revealed hidden talents and won some points. Bribery and corruption failed us; we lost, but had a lot of fun doing so.

Thursday 10th
Perfect day, photos at sunrise, more porridge, then off to ski awesome fresh untracked snow. A day for fun and more photos. Wanted to photograph own tracks but couldn’t stop skiing (or turn) to get camera. Lesson on the baby tow today for my group; using gates certainly showed up the flaws, and great fun. A group excursion to the top for photos and to watch the sun go down. A superb clear, calm evening with a full moon for a bonus – perfect conditions for night skiing. At 6:30 a quick stop for an excellent barbecue prepared by the hardworking skifield staff, then back to ski, and ski, and ski. Went in at 8:30 for coffee and came out to find the tow had stopped; only three tired skiers left by then. My first experience of night skiing, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’m sure I ski better in the dark! Others kindly agreed with me.

Friday 11th already
Not much week left. Learned it is not called a snow plough, it is a Power Wedge and it is OK. The words carrrrve, carrrve, carrrve etched into my brain (that is Canadian for edging); by now some impressive moguls to ski around; experienced Roger’s unique version of ski instructing, and ALMOST mastered the ‘backwards uphill snowplough’. Another magic day – staggered down to the lodge in twilight again.

Saturday 12th
Last ski at Broken River – why do holiday weeks fly by so fast? Crowds of visitors today; at least 50 more skiers crowding the slopes; had to wait twice to get on the tow. Even had to find my tow ticket; poor man laughed when he saw it, mangled specimen it was by then, victim (like me) of many dunkings in the snow.

Last back to the lodge to complete the dreaded final pack-up and trudge down to the van. Opted to ski down. Should have realised when the old hands walked down that it wouldn’t be a clever idea. “Power Wedging” down a narrow trail of very firm snow proved tough on skied out muscles and not as much fun as it looked. A subdued group dug the van out and loaded gear on board, most of it anyway. This time Allan’s boots had vanished.

Saturday night, drove to Flock Hill, cosy bunkrooms, and some serious eating and drinking.

Sunday 13th
Another chilly start – loaded up again – then off to Porter Heights (by popular demand) to see what we had skied a whole week earlier. It was not to be. The rent-a-dent expired, and most of us spent the day sitting amongst the tussock by the road waiting for our replacement vehicle, alternately eating, wandering, chatting, studying and playing cricket in the sun. Some went skiing, courtesy of Porter Heights staff. Help finally arrived and thanks to some skilful piloting by Captain Bolam, we made it to Springfield and a new van. Back to civilisation and the airport in time to check in and make a quick trip to Cathedral Square before winging back to Wellington.

The agenda said ‘Monday 8:30 back to work, still buzzing and ready for work’; a quick phone around some of the punters revealed work was far from anyone’s mind.

What an amazing week! Plenty of snow, good weather (only 1 whole day and 2 part days lost due to the weather, out of a potential 9 days). Long hours of skiing, a lively group of punters, interesting locals, cheerful, hardworking skifield staff taking excellent care of us; all the ingredients of a wonderful 9 days. May there be many more Broken River trips.

WT&MC has had a long association with Broken River Ski Club and it proved to be a popular decision to arrange another trip. The punters were: Sue Webb (a perennial BR skier from Auckland), Tod Rutter (a natural at snowboarding), Allan MacLachlan (Club President and 2nd timer), Kara Mulvein (all the way from the UK to sample life on a club field), Jan Goodwin (been there often, classy skier, and now snowboarder), Sarah Higgins (skied like we all wished we could), Mike Gilbert (skied since a baby, working on snowboarding), Angela Emmerson (another convert to snowboarding), Marilyn Duffy (scribe and first timer to Broken River) and last but not least, our hardworking leader Roger Bolam, whose wit and wisdom kept us all on our toes – we may have to go back to perfect that uphill snowplough!

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