Skiing has become an increasingly popular part of the school curriculum, if the number of South Canterbury school pupils regularly heading to the mountains is any indicator. Greta Yeoman reports.
A “huge team” of Mackenzie College pupils is heading up the mountain for ski lessons every week, principal Jason Reid says.
About 60 pupils, or a third of the school roll, were taking part in the weekly ski school at Mt Dobson.
While most were skiing, more pupils were snowboarding as they got more comfortable on the slopes, he said.
Just down the road, Fairlie Primary School was also sending a contingent of about 45 pupils – or about half the school – to Mt Dobson on Fridays.
Further south, Twizel Area School had two groups heading to Ohau Snowfields as part of the school timetable.
Principal Bill Feasey said about 40 juniors, in years 1-6, went up the mountain on Thursdays, followed by about 25 pupils in years 7-13 on Fridays.
Schools contest on Sunday
Young skiers and snowboarders will face off on the mountain this weekend in the Aoraki secondary schools ski and snowboard championships.
The annual inter-school event will be held at Mt Dobson on Sunday.
Sport Canterbury South Canterbury-Aoraki sports co-ordinator Janine Roux said 100 skiers and 19 snowboarders from 11 schools in region had entered.
The junior ski giant slalom race, for those in years 7 and 8, included 10-15 gates on the course, while the senior ski slalom, for racers in year 9 and up, would consist of about 25 gates.
The snowboard races, which would follow the slalom course, would be held after the ski events. The prize-giving would be held at 2pm.
He said there had been a “little bit” of an increase in the number of juniors taking to the slopes.
Skiing was also proving popular in Geraldine and the high school was offering several trips for outdoor education pupils, alongside a district-wide ski academy.
Geraldine High School outdoor education head of department Hayden Titchener said he had two year 12 and one year 13 outdoor education classes, who took part in several ski sessions during Term 3.
The year 12 pupils had four sessions and the year 13 class had six ski trips.
Pupils from the school were also part of the Geraldine Ski Academy, which had been running for several years.
The academy hosted weekly ski trips to Mt Dobson on Sundays and was open to all young skiers throughout the Geraldine district.
The group had completed a three-day ski camp and headed up to Mt Dobson on Sundays when the weather was good, Mr Titchener said.
More than 90 young skiers and snowboarders were taking part in the academy this year, co-ordinator and Geraldine High School teacher Simon Coleman said.
The academy, which started in 2016, is run by Mr Coleman, with support from the Mt Dobson Ski Club.
The academy is open to all young skiers in the Geraldine district and hosts regular ski trips to Mt Dobson on Sundays.
Mr Coleman said the group had grown substantially in its three years, starting with 14 members in 2016 before it swelled to 48 young snow enthusiasts last season.
There were now 94 school-aged skiers and snowboarders, aged from 5 to 18 years old, taking part in weekly training sessions on the mountain.
He said this season had been going “pretty good” and during the school holidays the academy hosted a three-day ski camp for the group.
Mr Coleman based the academy on ski camps he used to run in Canada. The ski club hosted Olympic bronze medal-winning skier Nico Porteous last month, giving the young Geraldine skiers the chance to ski with him and pick up some tips from a successful skier who was still a teenager himself.
“He came and skied with the kids.”
Mr Coleman was thankful for the community support the academy had received, including discounts on gear hire from Snow Shack, donations from community members towards the scheme and support for a variety of fundraisers the club had hosted to fund the ski camp.
While the academy had begun with aim of making snowsports accessible to young Geraldine residents, there had been several unforeseen benefits out of the group’s formation, he said.
This included the young members beginning to feel “like a family” and enabling 6-year-old skiers to befriend those a decade older than them, he said.
It was also encouraging the snowsports enthusiasts to look at other winter sports opportunities with a view to either competing or taking up careers in the ski industry, Mr Coleman said.