Skiwi - Coronet Peak

Queenstown Travel Blog

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Day 2 - decided to try another ski resort - Coronet Peak.  Compared to The Remarkables, I did not find this to be quite as good.  Could have had something to do with the tragic white out conditions on the day that we went.....but nevertheless, the conditions did improve throughout the day, so it was good that we stuck it out so we could compare this to The Remarkables.  Coronet Peak didn't appear to have as many front runs but instead had more trails on the side of the mountain.  This challenged my confidence in my skiing ability and I was quite hesitant given the poor visibility and conditions to be more adventurous by skiing down the side trails.  That was the other crappy thing about poor weather and buying your ski pass for that day.   You can't tell what the weather will be like really until you get to the ski resort.  At that stage, you are then stuck on the mountain and the first bus doesn't leave until midday.  So you go up to the office window to buy your lift ticket and you are told that there are only x number of lifts actually operating at the moment and that visibility is x% and do you still want to buy the lift ticket?  So then you are left with the old damned if you do and damned if you don't decision of will I or won't I buy a lift ticket?  Of course, at this stage, I figure I haven't paid for my bus fare up the mountain to sit in the cafeteria for a few hours and not go skiing.   And unless there was a snow storm happening, I was going to get my money's worth on my holiday by utilising as many days as possible skiing (I am after all an accountant!)

So my day at Coronet Peak was nowhere near as compelling as my first day on the NZ ski slopes.   This was topped off by the fact that Ruth and I decided to make the most of our last run of the day before we went back into town.  The weather seemed to be OK and we had timed our run down the mountain to 20 minutes - the last bus was leaving in 30 minutes, so we figured we could pump ourselves to do a final run down the mountain and just gun it down the slopes.  As we made our way up on the chair lift back to the top of the mountain, we noticed how very quiet it was and it was getting whiter and whiter and whiter.  Within the space of 30 seconds on the chair lift, the weather had closed in quite dramatically.  Of course, by then, it was too late for us to do anything except to get off at the top and somehow find our way back down.

As we prepared our stocks and decided on our way down the mountain, it was eerily calm and very very very white.  At this point, I started to panic, but we realised we had to get going otherwise we would not make it back to the bottom in time to catch our bus back to town.  And I wasn't keen on staying on the mountain all night.  So off we went - straight into a white out.  We had only skiied for about a minute when all of a sudden it became very windy and the snow was falling everywhere quite heavily and visibility was incredibly poor - probably only five metres ahead.  At this point, we couldn't even see the chair lift anymore and we decided that seeing as we couldn't see anyone else around we should stick by the lift which would lead us back down the mountain.  Skiing further on into this white out, we knew we had to hurry to get to the bottom seeing as the weather seemed to progressively be getting worse by the minute.  I was really starting to panic now as I couldn't see very far in front to where Ruth was skiing.  This panic, together with the fact that there was the urgency to not miss the bus and be stuck on the mountain made me lose my concentration - or perhaps it was the fact that i was not as good a skier under pressure as what I would like to think I am!!! - caused me to then stack it in the snow in what had to be the most inopportune moment.  Ruth had already skiied ahead and I then stacked it and took a bit of tumble and lost one of my skis in the process.  Luckily Ruth had stopped to check where I was and saw that I was now struggling to get back on my feet.  The next 10 minutes had to be the most frustrating during any of my skiing experiences anywhere.   Whilst the snow was so soft, it was calf deep for me (partly becuase I am very short!) and as one of my skis had gotten away from me when I took my stack, I had to walk across to go and pick it up and to clip it back on.  The frustrating part was that because I kept on losing my balance in the snow, trying to clip my ski back onto my ski boot, my ski boot was overloaded with snow and I couldn't tap all of it off the boot to fit the ski back on.  This must have gone on for what seemed like hours but which must have only really been for 10 minutes or so.  Poor Ruth was very patient and was waiting a bit further down the hill listening intently to my non-stop string of profanities and my growing frustration at the situation. 

During this time, only one other skier happened to wander past and Ruth tried to get him to stop and to give us directions back to the bottom of the mountain.  He was kind enough to hang around for a few minutes, but I guess got jack of waiting for me to try and get my ski back on to ski down the mountain.  I couldn't believe how stressed I was getting and the snow seemed to be falling harder again.  I can certainly see how if there is a bad snow storm happening how one could easily get disoriented becauase EVERYWHERE YOU LOOK EVERYTHING SEEMS EXACTLY THE SAME AND IS ALL WHITE.  Ruth gets the prize for being the most patient - she kept suggesting she should take her skis of and walk back up to me to help me, but then we were worried that becuase the snow was so deep that she would have the same problem trying to get her skis back on like I was having.  Just then, we both talked about the fact that we would be in so much shit if we couldn't get moving in the next couple of minutes becuase of the weather and we kept looking back up the mountain as we realised that there were no other people skiing down the mountain.  And then, out of nowhere, Ruth thought she saw something moving - so we were both there yelling out "hello" up the mountain to what seemed like a TV snow pattern and there was no reply.  Then, a few seconds later, we could make out a dark line along the horizon of the white that we could see at the top of the mountain and then finally appearing out of what seemed to be the ether, were about 10 snow boarders slowly making their way down the mountain in a straight line.  This has to be the most spookiest and freakiest sight I've ever witnessed at the snow - I was freaking out about being lost in the middle of this snow storm and these boarders, because they were all in a line formation and were moving down the mountain quite slowly due to the poor visibility, and with their snow goggles all on, looked like aliens to me, and actually looked scary to me at first.    Thankfully, they were quite helpful and knew the way down the mountain.  And just then, miraculously, as if it was a sign, my ski finally clicked onto my ski boot.  So away we went - and yes, we did finally make it back down to the bottom of the mountain.  We literally had to run to the bus and made it just in the nick of time.  Must have dozed off on the bus once the adrenalin rush had worn off.......but that was quite a day for me.  Not quite as enjoyable as The Remarkables - and thus I didn't think that I would be intending on rushing back to Coronet Peak anytime too soon.
cygnus16 says:
Whew.....saved by the cavalry at the last minute!
Posted on: Jan 22, 2008
Sunflower300 says:
What a great story, thanks for sharing it.
Posted on: Jan 21, 2008
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