A Day at Cheeseman

Lea Terwort from Licence to Chill writes about her first time skiing at Mt Cheeseman, July 2017.

Starting early on a Saturday morning in Christchurch we watch the sun rise over the mountains while we drive along on the Great Alpine Highway. Having only arrived in New Zealand six months ago these views still leave me speechless. After a quick stop at the pie shop in Sheffield to strengthen us with some delicious goods, we turn into the access road to Mount Cheeseman. Being used to the big commercial fields in Europe, fitting the chains and driving up the snowy gravel road while the sun glistens through the trees gives me a nice sense of adventure.

We arrive at the ski field around 9.30 and are greeted by a beautiful clear blue sky and a friendly staff member who keeps the parking in order.  The first people are already on the slopes as we park our gear to get our passes. Everyone is chatting in and in front of the café and you can feel the excitement leading up to a good day in the snow.

I book in a private ski lesson as I only got a few ski days in so far. The skis I brought today are new and after getting them fitted to my boots I head up the T-bar for my first few runs. I ride up the mountain with a Russian guy who is surprised by the number of Germans  he meets in New Zealand, the next time with a Dad from Christchurch who has been coming up to Cheeseman since he was a wee boy and is now bringing up his own daughter, after that with a British lady who moved to the area only two years ago. As social as it feels around the café and on the T-bar, the slopes are still wide and uncrowded. 

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My ski instructor Sam picks me up at the meeting point and we head up the mountain together. After a few questions and halfway down the mountain he quickly picks up where my self taught skiing stopped to improve. I am surprised by how much more in control I feel after just one hour and  few runs together.

After an energizing (and delicious!) flat white and snack in the café I spend the rest of the day enjoying my new skiing skills on the well groomed pistes and some powder until the suns begins to disappear. Glad I only have a short way down to the Forest Lodge, where we will spend the night, I pack up my gear and we head down the mountain.

There’s already a warming fire burning in the oven when we arrive at the lodge. Comfy socks on my feet and a book in my hands I cuddle up on one of the couches and wait until the rest of my friends arrive. The lodge fills up quickly and people start cooking or playing games of Exploding Kittens. After we have a slide around on the ice skating rink, we watch the sun go down behind the beautiful mountain panorama. Some wines are had and one of the families hands out berry crumble with homemade ice cream for everyone. Happy and tired I fall into my bed, well I climb up into my bunk and jump into my sleeping bag. Looking up to the bunk above me I realize that the frames are made out of old skis. Here you spend all day and even the night on skis.

Everyone gets up early and after packing up my stuff, there’s even time for a quick tea. After all we have a head start in front of everyone who is coming from town towards the snow. We say our goodbyes and see-you-up-theres and head out into another beautiful bluebird day.

Read more about Mt Cheeseman and the other Ski Selwyn Six mountains here.

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