Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

My natural bedtime seems to be 6 o’clock in the morning.

It therefore really messes with my schedule when I have to get up 90 minutes before that at 4:30am.

Today was one of those days. We were trekking out in search of snow!

Breakfast was pizza. Thank you flatmate Cathy, for still making the best pizzas in the world.

5:30am. “Steve?” whispered a silhouetted Sara across the darkened driveway as I locked my front door. Pretty soon we’d joined Katie and Richard to pack into Jean’s 4WD as we all left Auckland behind us in the night. Oh a fun day out in the snow might well traditionally be pictured with whiteness, blue skies and blinding sunlight, but first there had to be a five hour road-trip to get us out of the early-morning darkness.

And I love these journeys. I never truly feel as though I’m in New Zealand until I get out of Auckland. Elevenses at Maccas in Drury, the Waikato River, that funny ‘Hillside’ sign at Hillside... oh, right, it was still night when we passed through there.

Presently we passed the amusingly-named Ohura River, which as a Star Trek fan I’d like to assume also features a wharf for catching pike.

Finally, the green fields began to grow icier. The sides of the road developed long stretches where lines of local people had apparently been defrosting their fridges. And our long-awaited destination appeared on the horizon!

We parked at the bottom sometime between 11-12am, and immediately set about wondering how much of our gear to take up with us. I’d set out wearing about four layers, but since the sun had made her way high above us, I was now down to my trademark t-shirt. Just how much colder might it be up on the side of the majestic Mount Ruapehu? In the end I boarded the shuttlebus with everything.

A bus to Whakapapa ski field plus an early lunch later (a second burger!), and we were all busily donning our hired snow gear.

I’d been in two minds about this - skiing or snowboarding?

I can ski reasonably well, but haven’t actually done so for about 16 years. As I saw all the other visitors slicing around on their skis, the chance to join them once again looked highly tempting.

And yet, snowboarding was something that I had never tried before (unless you count with Herschel on his Playstation), and opportunities to try something new don’t come along all that often.

Hand on heart, I was about 55% in favour of going skiing.

In the end though the decision was taken for me. Everyone else was picking snowboarding. Well, put it like that, and skiing on my own sounded like no fun at all. Snowy activities are supposed to be about the social life.

Finally, with seasoned snowboarder Richard leading the way and coaching us, we rode the chairlift up to the learner slope and proceeded to achieve what all bold, fearless adventurers do at some point in their careers.

We made loads of literally painful mistakes in public. (By "at some point in their careers" I meant the start.)

Good job I was wearing all those cushioning clothes that I’d brought with me.

For me, learning to snowboard shares several similarities with learning to ski:

1. Sitting on my butt while Swiss-accented ski instructors lead lines of perfectly proficient 4-year-olds past.

2. The frustration of not being able to move-off in the direction I want, and having to unstrap the darn thing to walk there carrying it.

3. Picking up too much speed and worrying that the snowboard may suddenly stop while every part of my body above my shin continues relentlessly forwards.

4. Recognising that exact speed which lies midway between too fast and way too fast, so that I can deliberately fall over to moderate my bruising.

I think seasoned surfergirl Sara summed it up simplest: “When you fall off a surfboard, you only fall into water.”

Realising that I was now perspiring buckets inside the tent I was wearing, I decided to sit down for a while before continuing. It was a shrewd move - I was dissolving in there. Time to take the layers off again?

Also, as you can see, I'd been lugging my 35mm camera about in my backpack, because I was afraid of leaving it at the top of the run where it might get pinched. Now I was reasoning that by carrying it everywhere with me, it was in far greater danger of getting damaged.

By the end of the day though, as is the way with learning curves, skidding down a slope at speed was starting to become easier. Such a shame that I can’t say the same for turning, slowing or halting. But hey - when it came to acceleration, there was just no stopping me. Ever.

I’d also figured out that I was more of a goofy than a regular.

I’m always happy taking photos, so I even found the chairlift-ride back down to be gorgeous.

After changing, stopping off at the Gas & Gobble in Te Kuiti for supper (such a great day for eating!), Team Cession climbed back into Jean’s car for the rest of the long drive back home. Along the way FM radio stations swirled in and out of reception. Songs garnered singing, and occasional wishes for a ukulele. The falling temperature had me putting my layers back on all over again.

As we approached the darkness of Auckland once more, according to all the available evidence, here the sun had never actually risen today. The daylight which we had been so enjoying had, apparently, been purely a regional thing.

The day had been maybe 20 hours long, of which we had spent perhaps three hours actually on the slopes. But that’s not what it was about. Sports of any sort are usually much more about simply having fun with friends, and today had been just gorgeous, metaphorically and literally.

Admittedly though, tomorrow my body might disagree...

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