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June 5, 2018 | by  | in From the Archives |
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From the Archives

I don’t have the ski-bum clout to say some dumb shit like “frothing to get steezy up the maunga” (shaka), but the ski season is right around the corner and I am hyped. Snow sports is an industry worth millions of dollars in New Zealand, and it’s been streamlined to cater for the thousands of domestic and international skiers who hit New Zealand’s slopes each year. Sealed roads, chairlifts, on-mountain rentals, and a decent cup of coffee are some of the amenities today’s pampered skiers expect of a major resort.
Like so many outdoor industries in New Zealand, skiing had humble beginnings, which paved the way for the robust infrastructure the industry enjoys. The history of skiing at Vic exemplifies this Number 8 wire spirit. In July 1941, Salient reported on a group of battlers from Vic going to huge lengths to get on the snow. Of all places, their destination was Mount Holdsworth over the Rimutaka Hill which had received an unusually generous dusting of snow. The van could only hold so many would-be powder hounds, resulting in a treacherous journey for several devotees:

“Irene, with one useless leg, and Jacko cycled the sixty miles from Wellington. They were responsible for the dramatic unreality of the journey home. They hailed the lorry from the darkness on the Rimutaka Hill, and hung on behind for a tow. Passing cars forced Jacko to leave go, and with inhuman efforts he pursued the lorry – it was like an awful dream.”

That is a Herculean effort for what turned out to be a single hour of skiing on shitty Mount Holdsworth slush. We don’t know how lucky we are.
The ski club at Vic started as an offshoot of the Tramping Club, which originally organised ski trips. As Mount Ruapehu became a properly established ski field in the 1950s, more students with an interest in skiing but not tramping necessitated the establishment of a new club in 1948.

For a time the ski club was one of the most active on campus. They raised money to build a lodge at Ruapehu, a joint effort with the Auckland University ski club that was completed in 1957. For those unable to make it to Ruapehu, there were options right here on campus. In 1967, the club rented a dry-slope for six weeks and set it up in the gymnasium to provide beginner ski lessons:

“Forty feet long, 12 feet wide, and rising to a height of approximately 10 feet, the slope provides a surface of even consistency and can be compared with that of ‘slushy’ snow.”

I’m reliably informed that our Minister of Justice, the Honourable Andrew Little MP, learned to ski on a similar set up in the Vic gym in the 1980s.
Vic doesn’t have a lodge at Ruapehu anymore (Massey owns a hut on the Tūroa side, and Auckland has a flash lodge at Whakapapa) and you haven’t been able to shred the Rec Centre in a while. But the ski club, now the Victoria University Snow Sports Club, has had a major revival in the last few years. If you love going fast, being cold, and spending all your money on lift passes, come get amongst.
Declaration of interest: Someone at the Snow Sports Club asked me to write about the history of the club with the season about to begin. “Max,” I hear you asking, “can access to your incredibly lofty platform really be bought with nought but a suggestion? Is your journalistic integrity really worth absolutely nothing?”
I am happy to reassure Salient’s readers that this is false: it’s actually worth much less, because I paid twenty bucks to join the ski club.

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