A huge thanks to the team at Snowplanet in Auckland for not only getting me ready for the ski slopes of Oregon, USA, but for probably going some distance in making sure I made it home in one piece. When I got a call from my editor at Let’s Travel magazine asking if I could ski in order to head to Oregon for a series of articles, I answered truthfully: “Yes! I’m no expert, but yes!” I’d skied a handful of times over the past 20 years and while I wasn’t a pro, I was sure I’d be fine.
And then I started thinking about it. Just how many times had I actually skied? Was I as good as I remembered? It had been a little while. With that in mind, I contacted the good folks who run Snowplanet in Auckland. The only indoor snow facility in New Zealand, Snowplanet caused quite a sensation when it opened back in 2004. As I’d later write in Let’s Travel, Auckland is a city where instances of snowfall are so rare they’re as much myth as reality. With the nearest snowy mountains a four hour drive south, it was and is a novelty to have so much of the white stuff in New Zealand’s largest and warmest city.
Located a 20-minute drive north of the Auckland CBD, Snowplanet is an 8000 square-metre facility that’s open 365 days of the year. With a temperature hovering around -5 degrees celsius inside the giant walls, the obvious absence of wind-chill means it feels noticeably milder than that.
I was given a full lesson from Justin Stoddard who is the assistant manager of Snowplanet’s ski school. Like all the best coaches forced to deal with as-yet unfulfilled potential in his proteges, Justin managed to let me know what to do without sounding patronising. Things like remembering to lean-forward, even when you want to slow down, take a bit of practice. There’s also the oddity that I can turn from right to left without trouble, though from left to right I tend to find myself flying down the mountain way faster than I ever intend to go.
Fresh snow is produced at the centre every few days, as are new jumps and challenges for the more advanced skiers and snowboarders. There’s a beginner slope with a moving mat to take you a third of the way to the top and it was here I grew my confidence before catching one of the platter lifts further up. The whole experience was a reminder of the fun I miss from the days of PE classes in high school where you’re forced to do something new and you realise how rapidly you can improve. All that’s needed is a bit of practice and somebody to point you in the right direction.
After nearly two hours of training with Justin, he deemed me good to go for the mountains of Oregon in the Pacific Northwest of the USA. In Oregon I would spend two days skiing Mt Hood which is the home of the longest ski season in all of North America. After Mt Hood it would be a drive south several hours to Mt Bachelor where I’d not only ski, but also experience the thrill of dog-sled riding.
Read Let’s Travel Magazine for all the details, including skiing and staying at the historic Timberline Lodge. Timberline is not just one of the most famous ski resorts in the States, it’s one of the most important 20th Century hotels in the country. Part of the rich history of Timberline includes being used as the exterior shots of the fictitious Overlook Hotel in Stanley Kubrick’s horror classic The Shining.
From Timberline Lodge it was to Mt Hood Meadows where I was given further lessons by a former champion US speed skier named Greg DeHaven. Greg was like an older version Snowplanet’s Justin and further fleshed out the strengths and flaws in my skiing without me losing confidence or freaking out. “What about the trees I could smash into or the cliff I might fall off!?”
|A young snowboarder who was showing me up at Snowplanet.|
Anytime I said something like that, Greg would remind me to focus on positive affirmations: “Forget the trees, think of all the snow in front of you.” He was great, and when I’d find myself naturally leaning back to slow my pace, I’d also recall my training with Justin and soon be on track again.
Speaking of trees, the temporary Christmas trees inserted into the snow at Snowplanet have proven so popular that they were still there many months later. To me, they only added to the look of Snowplanet and I hope they’re there to stay.
Beyond the trees, the snow and the sporting activities of Snowplanet, it’s also a great place for a drink or a bite to eat at 7 Summits Restaurant. With glass looking through to the dome and nifty tables presented as seats from a chair lift, you can sit and watch the action from a much more comfortable temperature.
|Inside the 7 Summits restaurant at Snowplanet.|
|The cover of the latest issue of Let’s Travel – see more at letstravelmag.com.|