Friday, May 6, 2011

Where Adventure Begins

Haere hoki ki o maunga…kia mau ai te rongo pai he mea paihere na te rangimarie.
Return to your sacred peaks…spread the good news and cement all deeds with peace.

Change is inevitable, and if I have learned anything during my time in New Zealand it is that change happens quickly and things seem to fall into place. A little over two weeks ago, I had to say a lot of goodbyes to many special people including my amazing friends at Seeka, my awesome roommates at the Mount and my dear friends Laura and Mike. I always hate saying goodbye, but goodbyes tend to mean I am moving on to a new exciting chapter in my life!

A few weeks ago I was offered a position at Mt Ruapehu (pronounced "roo-a-pe ("e" as in egg) -hoo) for the winter season. I packed up my life at the Mount and hopped on the Intercity bus for the four hour ride to Ohakune, the Carrot Capital of New Zealand. When I arrived in Ohakune, Donelle (Mt Ruapehu HR Assistant) and her boyfriend Denim (Ski Patrol) picked me up at the bus station and brought me to my new home. My flatmate is Wal Wood and he is a mechanic at Mt Ruapehu. He has worked at the resort for 10 seasons and typically gets new flatmates every season. Wal welcomed me to the new flat by offering me a beer the minute I walked in the door…classic! That evening we hit the town for drinks with his friends and then hit up a spa party (hot tub party) hosted at a local lodge by some of the Mt Ruapehu staff members. I met so many cool people my first weekend here, so I am quite excited to work with them all. Ohakune may be a small town, but I have heard it comes alive in the winter. And if my first evening here is any indication of the fun to come, then I think I am in for a great 2011 season on the mountain.

Speaking of the mountain, I think I will give you a little history lesson on my new "home." In September 1887 the sacred mountain peaks of Ruapehu (2797m), Ngauruhoe (2290m) and Tongariro (1968m) were gifted to the people of New Zealand by the Paramount Chief of Ngati Tuwharetoa, Horonuku Te Heu Heu Tukino. The gift formed the nucleus of the Tongariro National Park (TNP), the first in New Zealand. TNP covers approximately 75,000 hectares and is home to some of the world's most violent volcanos, because of the line of weakness in the earth's crust that was formed when the Indo-Australian and Pacific plates collided. It sort of reminds me of home (Portland), because we too are part of the 'Pacific Ring of Fire.' This region plays a very important part in the Maori culture and is considered to be a very spiritual and magical place.

Mt Ruapehu is the highest point in the North Island and for you other LOTR geeks, is home of key scenes from the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The Whakapapa Ski Area is located on the north side and are traditional lands of the Ngati Tuwharetoa people. I currently work as a Season Pass Customer Service Rep prior to the season at Whakapapa. I enjoy working in the pre-season because I am getting to meet the locals and getting to know the full-time staff. I am also learning a lot about the ski areas, which will be helpful once the season starts.

Turoa Ski Area is located on the southern slopes and are traditional lands of the Ngati Rangi and Ngati Uenuku people. Once the season starts in the end of June, I will be working part time in Customer Service and part-time in retail at Turoa. I love it, because I will get the opportunity to work with several departments and alternate my job responsibilities on a daily basis. I have also met some great people through work, including T-Ha who is my new dinner and exploring buddy!

The landscape is stunning and it is mind-blowing(no pun intended) that I work on a live volcano. On my first day, the mountain road was closed to the public because of bad weather conditions. However, we forged ahead and made it to the top of the mountain to our office. It was so windy, that we ended up losing power and had to run off of generators. It delayed my training, but as soon as we were back up and running the managers had us start talking orders and dealing with customers. We just jumped right in, but I think that is the best way to learn! During my second day of work, we had an induction with HR (Donelle.) A large portion of the training was about avalanche and volcano hazards and safety procedures. Both are serious concerns for working on the manual and my training manual even says, "Yes, you have been chosen and have accepted to work on what is considered an active volcano." I just finished my second week of work and I love it. Our projected opening day at Turoa is June 25 and with the way time is flying, that is going to be here before I know it.

I am most excited about boarding in the backcountry. Mt Ruapehu has more chair access to backcountry than any other resort in the world. Ski Patrol offers courses in backcountry safety, so I can't wait to sign up and hit up the backcountry. I have also been told that the peak is very walkable, so I look forward to strapping on my board and riding the top level terrain. I have always wanted to do this, but now it is at my finger tips (and FREE!)

So things are off to a good start…it should be a great season at Mt Ruapehu!

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