Today I went for the last ski up at Cardrona – all alone, with lots of time to look back on the season and reflect how it went. So many things are different over here in New Zealand – you have to drive all the way up to the base area of a mountain, everything at the ski field is owned by one company, there are canteen style fast food places instead of cosy chalets with good food, slopes are not marked as such, ski fields have a maximum of four lifts and lifties are actually friendly and good fun instead of grumpy old men. Yet, at the same time so many things are similar – you feel immediately welcomed in the ski instructor community, the town has a buzzing night life with happy hour drinking and in the end everybody is here for the love of snow.
But the one thing that really struck me as the most challenging difference was the living situation: I had no idea that there is no central heating in New Zealand, that the fire places that are supposed to heat the whole house are tiny (we call them Schwedenöfen) and that insulation is not considered as something necessary over here. One feeling that will stick in my mind is coming home from the mountain, looking forward to a cosy evening at home, then stepping inside and realizing that it’s just as cold inside as outside. Or waking up after a night under four layers, seeing your breath in the cold & damp room and trying to put on your thermals while still under the blanket.
My season in New Zealand was full of learnings: That a half-pipe is not so scary once you’re in it. That potato wedges are so much better with sour-cream and chili sauce than with tomato sauce. That adaptive skiers absolutely rock in their sit-skis. And how a whole nation stands behind their sailing team – even when they lose at the America’s Cup. But that one most important learning probably is to appreciate what we have back home in Austria: Our brilliant social welfare system – where you still get paid when you’re sick or off, our insulated and well heated houses that we can come home to after a cold day on the mountain, our delicious and at the same time nutritious food for rather little money and the mountains right in front of our door step – with vast amounts of snow and so much diversity with all those trees, lifts and terrain styles.
It is true that traveling opens your horizon but at the same time travel makes you appreciate what you have at home: the familiar faces and places, the feeling of waking up in your own bed, friends that are always there for you and the views on the mountains when you look outside the window. Now I can’t wait to be home again.