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Season highlight: Racing road trip to Ohau with the Swiss boys

Two years ago, when traveling around New Zealand, I had stopped at Lake Ohau for some hiking and soon discovered the Lake Ohau Lodge. Back then, I went in to have a look at the place and say Hi! The owners Mike & Louise were just tasting wines for their son’s wedding and within minutes I was offered a glass of wine and not long after that dinner with the family. I decided to stay for the night and Mike showed me a primo parking spot for my van where I could see Mt Cook from my bed. The family also runs the ski field up the local mountain and when I said I was a ski instructor and keen to see it, the field’s operations manager gave me a lift up the mountain to have a look at it – in summer. While I’m reminiscing about it all I found a couple of old pics on my computer:

Ever since I first visited the Ohau Lodge and its ski field I wanted to go back to ski this place – and finally did! My Swiss Race coach friends Nils & Chris went there for a race with their kids and offered me the remaining seat in their car. While the boys did their racing thing I was mostly free skiing for myself, hiking the summit, having a muffin at the Café and enjoying the views. Some solid solo time for me! When I finally got bored with myself I watched the boys do their coaching thing and was impressed – it was inspiring to see how they teach their kids, so lots of learning for me and an opportunity to take pics. And believe me, that place doesn’t get boring when it comes to pictures…. see for yourselves!

The prize-giving ceremony after the races took place at the Ohau Lodge – and so it happened that I met Mike again (who still remembered me). A perfect finish to a perfect day and I’m grateful for the experience and the people. Thanks to the boys for taking me along. Thanks to the kids for including me in their little team for a day. Thanks to the parents for lending me their kids during lunch break – I had a blast. Thanks to the kids for helping me hide Chris’ skis while he wasn’t looking. Thanks to Nils for driving safely for once. Thanks to all the fab Kiwis who chatted to me on the lift. Thanks to Mike & Louise for remembering me and their hospitality two years ago. And finally thanks to six-year-old Mathilda – who showed me that it’s okay to aim for great goals and how happy you are when you reach them. Good luck with becoming the future Kiwi version of Lindey Vonn – I’ll keep an eye on your international ski racing career – in twelve years or so?

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Time to grow up: Stitch’n’Bitch goes Wine & Wool

Last year I joined the Wanaka Stitch’n’Bitch group – a bunch of Ladies (plus one extremely good-looking guy – Hi, Rich!) who met up once a week at Barluga, ordered mulled wine and knitted, crocheted and gossiped for a couple of hours. I loved it! There was a fire going, I learned a lot about Crocheting and you got a weekly update on gossip in Wanaka. Such a good way to settle into town and meet new people.

I was a bit disappointed when I heard that Stich’n’Bitch got cancelled this season as Barluga didn’t really exist any more… but luckily the Swedish crew came up with something even better: Wine & Wool (you can always rely on the Swedes when it comes to that kind of stuff).

Every week we met at another living room, everybody brought a bottle of wine, their current craft project and Sanna usually something home-baked. Unfortunately, I never took proper pictures but I know someone who did (any pictures coming up on your blog, Lollo?).
Until then, here are some snapshots from my phone:

Work hard, play harder. When the Austrian crew goes partying

My last week in Wanaka is filled with fun, too much fun sometimes. So it happened that after a sweaty night of Dancing in the Dark on Wednesday and crazy dancing at the staff party on Thursday we celebrated our fellow Ski Instructor Markus’ birthday on Friday. Lederhosen, Party Hats and Beer pong where just some of the highlights while I was there…. unfortunately I missed what happened after midnight – but getting up early on Saturday morning for a skiing road trip to Ohau was a pretty good excuse to head home. Happy Birthday, Markus – thanks for the fun night!

We’re all in this together – aren’t we? Well, not at staff parties.

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As I think about it – staff parties are somehow very reflective of the company culture. I’ve seen them BMW style – where it’s all about the style and very classy, IKEA style – where it’s all about the fun and the people and now Cardrona style – where, to me it seems, it’s a lot about the alcohol and some seriously crazy partying. Or is that because of its employees?

Last year, I didn’t know what to expect: I bought my staff party tickets – consisting of entry, bus to the venue, food voucher and four drink vouchers, hopped on the bus to the Albert Town Tavern and stepped into the Pub without expectations – but was surprised anyway: The tables were pushed to the sides to create a wide and empty space – no tables, no sitting opportunity, just a huge empty room. Everybody who was already there huddled together like a herd of sheep in one corner of the room and chatted in little groups. Since there was nothing in the room, not even music, the acoustics were – let’s say – irritating and incredibly loud. I thought a drink might help and steered towards the bar asking for a glass of wine. Turned out, my drink voucher was only valid for can drinks – either a beer (which I don’t like) or a vodka-mix-drink (which I don’t like either but lacking other possibilities I gave it a try). It was probably the worst drink I ever had, half of it was vodka and the other half probably liquid sugar. I gave my remaining drink vouchers to one of the boys and settled for seven-dollar-per-tiny-plastic-cup-cider for the rest of the night.

With the learnings from last year I didn’t expect much and only bought bus and entry ticket this season. Secretly, I hoped though, that things would have changed. And they did – at least a tiny bit: The entrance was at the front of the pub so there was a space of the area which seemed like a proper bar and thus more cosy. Don’t get me wrong – both last year’s and this year’s staff party were great fun in the end. Beer for the boys, vodka for the girls and a good band are a killer recipe for any party – now throw in all that party-loving ski field staff and you’ll end up with a night to remember. Even for the ones still drinking seven-dollar-per-tiny-plastic-cup-cider. And the dancing we did, the laughs we had, the hugs we shared will be in my memory forever.

Nevertheless I was a bit disappointed that such little effort was spent on one of the company’s most valuable assets – its work force. And I’m not only talking about monetary effort here. It would be easy to make this party a tiny bit more special to all staff, to show that we’re important. It’s one of the only opportunities that the whole mountain can get together, that lifties mingle with food & beverage staff, that ski instructors meet the house keeping people, that patrol gets together with rentals and so on. As staff we took that chance for ourselves but I thought it was sad that so little managers did. I saw three managers during that party and I might have missed some but I didn’t get the feeling of “We’re all in this together” that is omnipresent all over the mountain. It might be a bit risky to jot down all this criticism where it can actually be read – but talking to a couple of people I know that it’s not only my impression alone. And I’m not talking about ski school parties here – which are a completely other cup of tea and where togetherness is celebrated in style – or in costumes. Anyway, sorry for the ranting…. it’s over now and to show that we had some serious fun have a look at a couple of pics I snapped that night:

Kasspotzn – Crafting Cheese dumplings Austrian Style

Rumour had it that there’s a “Spätzlesieb” in town! Apparently one of the Austrian (from Vorarlberg to be exact) instructors took his cooking equipment around the world and as soon as we heard about it we wanted it. (For the non German speakers – that’s a piece of metal used to make dumplings). It took 12 eggs, 1 kg of flour and “A Schluck Milch” (a bit of milk) to craft the dough which is then pressed through the “Spätzlesieb’s” holes into boiling water in a pot below and cooked like pasta. Once the tiny dumplings are cooked they can be used for delicious dishes, traditionally including lots of melted cheese and fried onions. When I read this again it sounds terribly confusing so if you can’t imagine it, here are some images:

First Spätzle dinner took place at my friend Kathi’s place and was delicious. Even the Austrian Spätzlesieb owner came and found them tasty. Goes without saying the Kiwi visitors loved them! Dessert was Apfelstrudel with vanilla sauce….. yum!

A must for Pay Day Dinners: Francesca’s Italian Kitchen

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Pay Days are (obviously) special days of the season but this one was incredibly tasty as we treated ourselves with delicious food from my favourite place in Wanaka. What started off with just a couple of us ski instructors deciding to go for dinner together soon turned into a major organizational nightmare – mostly for chief dinner organiser Sanna O. But she – as she always does with dinners – completely mastered the task and andfound a huge table for seventeen starving ski instructors, loaded with Italian goodness â la Polenta Fries, pizza and desserts to die for.

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