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Saturday, September 14, 2013


On Tuesday, July 2nd Mike from Cheeseman Ski Resort came to pick me up in one of the company vehicles and, after doing the first supply run across town, we headed to the mountain.

Cheeseman is a club field; this means that, like a credit union, all profits go into improving the product. As a result of this business model the staff and patrons reap some pretty awesome benefits. The staff in particular enjoy accommodation, food, ski pass and even gear, if needed, all for free. Overall, the mountain has a very familial feel and everyone enjoys good value and generally nonexistent lift queues. For me, the benefits continued as my position afforded me with, not only the time to enjoy it all, but also the most enviable accommodation on the mountain. Aside from having my own room with a king sized bed and private staff quarters all to myself, my accommodation in Forest Lodge had the added benefit of being somewhat removed. Just a few minutes down the mountain from the harsh weather and general goings on up at Snowline Lodge, Forest Lodge is a private, quiet and generally a more relaxed atmosphere. Forest Lodge also has a good number of diversions nearby such as walking tracks, world class climbing/bouldering and a skating rink.

On the way up Mike, a member of Cheeseman staff since birth, named off the sections of road as used by the mountain for describing one's location.

First we climbed Chisms Cunning and continued across Alcohol Avenue onto Texas Flat. As we climbed the mountain we went around Big Bend, passed by Forest Lodge, Fat Jimmy's, around Land Rover Corner, passed Middle Hut and then, finally, we arrived at Snowline. Of course, many of these places have a bit of a story to them; Fat Jimmy's, for example, was where James the grader driver went over the edge and survived only because he wasn't wearing his seat-belt and was flung from the vehicle before it rolled perilously down the mountain.

After we arrived at Snowline everyone went to work and, after four hours, managed to set things up for the start of the season. A large snow storm, which preceded our arrival, made for very optimistic conditions but still required some preparation. Over the following days we did Avalanche and Beacon Training and attempted some preseason skiing on "snow", now ice, which was yet to be groomed. We also enjoyed food prepared by a highly qualified chef while waiting for the cook who would be making our food for the remainder of the season.

On Saturday, the 6th of July, the mountain opened for the season and I received my first guests in Forest Lodge. At first I had one other staff member staying there, an instructor named Justin, who seemed alright but managed to get into an argument with management before long and was fired. I still had some friends to hang out with over the season, specifically Josh - an engineer who had managed his investments so that he would be able to ski year round and potentially never have to work again. Josh made an agreement with Cheeseman, the first in the history of the club, so that he could stay at Forest Lodge for the duration of the season. We had a few that came for as a long as a month and we would invite them to join us for TV marathons and general hanging out in the evenings.

On July 11th I returned from my weekly supply run to Christchurch and found we had some guests. The West Coast Curling Team was around for the first of several regular practice sessions which they borrowed the skating rink for. These old fellas were a funny bunch; they would show up in their full Scottish regalia, including kilts, patches and orange wigs, put on a massive BBQ and start playing what is probably the most unusual game you've ever seen. For those who don't know (most people I reckon) Curling is this game where you chuck a stone across the ice and someone else on your team sweeps the ice with a broom in order to decrease friction so that the stone will go far enough to stop in the middle of a group of concentric rings. Of course, sweeping only occurs when the stone isn't thrown hard enough to go the full distance. As strange as it is, Curling is actually a pretty fun and addictive game as well as a good way to get all your buddies out in the cold for a BBQ in the middle of Winter.

On July 14th, the mountain was closed by a storm. During this closure the ski patrol unit set off some explosives to create controlled avalanches in order to make the slopes safer for skiing. During this process one of the guys accidentally set off an avalanche while checking the stability of the snow. He slid several hundred metres and managed to land himself scraped and bruised with only a minor sprain.

In the last couple weeks of July I got sick and lost my voice, a large group came to party and a kid got sick in his room and a possum forced his way into the lodge while I was sleeping.

August 25th I took my first and only day off to go snowboarding at Broken River where the snow was a bit deeper and a few days later we got a big snow storm which improved conditions throughout Arthur's Pass.

In the first week of September I finally shaved my beard as well as my head.

A couple days later was the Undie 500, a race down the mountain with small challenges like bombing the steepest run and eating a dry weetbix. The next day the mountain closed and we all spent the last few days hanging out in the lodge and eating up the rest of the food. 

Before leaving we had a day climbing at Castle Hill and went over to Cave Stream - another must see in Arthur's Pass.

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