North America North America Travel Travel Tips

America and all its winter glory

Skiing has always been a passion of mine, so naturally, I chose to chase a winter. The average 14 year old does not go on a 3 month ski trip, but I prefer a goggle tan over a shorts tan any day.

When I was 10 or 11 I started competing in freestyle skiing. I then fell in love with it. I got offered the opportunity to travel to the USA in the 2016 New Zealand summer to do what I love: ski, compete, be independent. My parents raised me in a heuristic manner. Opportunity never knocks twice, so I packed my bags and left my family and my home town bubble of Wanaka for three months. It was even more as daunting and exhilarating as I had dreamed it would be.

Phase 1 – Its not goodbye, its see you soon.

My favourite thing about going to airports in the morning is watching people consume their McMuffins with a blank, vacant zombie stare. I stood beside my family clutching my incredibly over sized ski bag. I knew the moment was coming. This wasn’t like toddling off to school camp for a week, this was going to another country – for three whole months. I gritted my teeth as I hugged everybody, suddenly this journey seemed very real. This is the moment I had dreaded and yearned for all at once. The most important part about leaving people behind is to never say goodbye. Ever. Goodbye is like a big fat full stop. I made sure I said see you soon; it was more like a comma. They say that mums always know best, and as frustrating as it may be, it’s true. Mum booked me travel assistance. I told her I wouldn’t need it and boy was I wrong. I travelled from Queenstown to Auckland to San Francisco to Bozeman. All of the airports were lovely but if I didn’t have somebody guiding me they would have swallowed me whole. After 16 hours of travel I stepped out of our Cessna citation onto a rock-solid ice skating rink of American soil. It was like stepping into a dream. I then spent two weeks in the prestigious Yellowstone club where I was treated like a queen and had some of the best skiing of my life. This place was phenomenal, like no place I’d ever been. You can’t fault a 13,600 acre private residential community set amidst the grandeur of the Rocky Mountains, complete with more than 2,200 ski-able acres. It was here that I moved into 2016.

Bozeman airport                                                                              Yellowstone glory

Phase 2 – Responsibility slapped me in the face.

I had now arrived in Breckenridge Colorado. My flatmates were all kiwis who are as passionate about snow as I am.  Dakota was the oldest, she was 20 and I could not have asked for a better mother figure. I settled into my sleep-on-the-horrible-pull-out-couch-bed, eat, ski routine quickly. Our little flat was on the main street. It was number 420 which I found hilarious as marijuana was legal. A bus stop was right on our doorstep. We didn’t have a car and did not need it. The free ride bus system got us to three different resorts and the Wal-Mart. Everything else was walking distance. I was indeed living the dream, I was training hard and having the time of my life.

It wasn’t all a fairytale though. My family never did everything for me, but tasks such as doing my own washing and dishes were new and onerous. That took some real getting used to. I wore the same pair of ski socks for like, a week once. It was disgusting. On the 24th of January I turned 16. I decided to treat myself and went to Kava cafe where they make the best doughnuts you may ever come across. I told them it was my birthday and they gave me half a dozen extra donuts for free. This proves that not only does Kava cafe make the best fresh mini doughnuts ever, but they are really nice people. That’s two of my favourite things, nice people and doughnuts. I would 10 out of 10 recommend kava to anybody but eating a dozen and a half doughnuts all to myself was not such a smooth move. I would also recommend two more ‘must-visits’ in Breckenridge, one being the crepe cart and the other being the second-hand book store. It’s called Ole Man Berkins bookstore, it’s not one for the neat freaks though. It is very cosy and absolutely overflowing with books. Breckenridge offered me a feeling of complete tranquility. There is nothing like sitting on a chairlift watching plump snowflakes fall silently all around you.

Our humble abode of 420 south main

 Snowy peak 6 of Breckenridge

Phase 3 – Disaster With A View

I was lying on my sofa bed (which by now had busted springs jabbing me left, right and center) when I got the message about Aspen Open. Aspen was a three hour drive from Breckenridge and an older girl who also competed asked me if I would come and compete with her. Aspen Open is a big deal, it counts for Olympic qualifying points. It would be an absolute dream to compete alongside the best of the best. So I begged my parents to put a little bit more money into my already blown budget and set off. We stayed in a nice two story house, I slept on an air bed that was always deflated by morning. Aspen was everything I expected it to be: everyone wore fur (I couldn’t even afford the second hand store) and the ski resort we were competing at (Buttermilk) was perfection. Training was going well and I thought that it would finally be my time to prove myself. Then, in the second afternoon of training, disaster struck. I was skiing in the half pipe and went to do a trick (I can’t remember what trick) when my ski caught and I fell, smacking my head and splitting my helmet.

The first thing I remember was sitting on the chairlift, having no idea how I got there, having no idea where I was, and no idea where to go. I didn’t have a coach or any friends with me and I have never felt so afraid. I felt very small, after all of this excitement and all of this training I had blown it. I was taken to a small private hospital in Aspen and given a brain scan. A whooping $2,150 New Zealand Dollars later (thank goodness for travel and injury insurance) I was leaving the hospital feeling rattled. Was I chagrined and emotional? Yes. But I was still in winter wonderland watching my friends compete in glorious weather with supportive people around me. The apricity was healing me. I know that good coffee is hard to come across in America so if you want a true espresso coffee fix that tastes like home, I would recommend Victoria’s Espresso Wine Bar & Gourmet Grazing in Aspen. The drive back to Breckenridge was strenuous. The main road was closed, so we had to take the 6 hour detour. I was exhausted by the time we made it back at 2:30am. A spring of nostalgic thoughts grew inside of me. Thanks to my loss of brain cells at the time, after hauling my bags up the stairs, it took me another hour to remember the door lock code (with no success in waking my roommates for help) to get inside. Although Aspen left me with a sore head, it is somewhere that I made some pretty prodigious memories.

My time in America came to an end a week later. I packed my things and 13 hours later I was home, tucked in my own bed. I took away from this journey the importance never to take anything for granted, always find a silver lining, and to do what brings you happiness.

                                           Buttermilk half pipe                                         

Entering a cat scan

I never said goodbye to America, I said see you soon.

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