Snowmass ski instructors follow snow to Southern Hemisphere
One winter a year just isn’t enough for some people.
Every spring, a handful of ski instructors from Aspen/Snowmass pack their bags and follow the snow to the Southern Hemisphere. They get a job at a ski resort, immerse themselves in a new culture and, best of all for some, they get to keep skiing and snowboarding.
Chris Bright is a Snowmass ski instructor preparing for his second season teaching at Coronet Peak resort in New Zealand. A lifelong Aspenite, he jokes that he’s been with Aspen Skiing Co. since before he was born. Doing back-to-back winters is “definitely my thing,” he said.
“It’s fun,” Bright said. “You get to meet people from all over the world, and you get to ski in different places where some people here don’t get to go.”
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Skiing there is quite a different experience compared with Aspen, too. Ski areas start above treeline, typically high above the closest town.
“Skiing in trees is like unheard of,” said Corianne Lambert, a Snowmass snowboard instructor who spent the past two summers at Mt Hutt, also in New Zealand. “The mountains are these massive open faces with cliff drops, that’s like their specialty.”
The ski areas don’t build moguls because of wind conditions, Bright said. And the snow is nothing like here.
“There was snow, manmade or rain,” Bright said. “When there was real snow, it would only last about a day because it would get blown away or get rained on.”
Both Bright and Lambert had lengthy shuttle rides to work every morning, which could make for long days. Lambert recalls having to stay on the mountain until 11 at night once because the winds were too strong for the shuttle to go back down.
“It was different,” Lambert said. “I wanted something opposite of Aspen. I wanted the people to be opposite of Aspen, different from the usual guests that we receive I guess. And that’s exactly what I got.”
Because the snow is so high, activities like mountain biking and rafting are still available year-round, Bright said. Both he and Lambert have also used their spare time to explore the region.
Experiencing a new culture might be the best part of the adventure, Lambert said. Instructing is the same anywhere, but the attitudes of her Kiwi clients were very different from the Americans she’s taught. And there were other cultural experiences outside of skiing, too.
“One of the pubs, each year they do a sheep shearing contest,” Lambert said. “They have the shearing thing, and they’re timed, and there’s finals and semi finals and these people come from all over New Zealand to come to the Blue Pub to shear a sheep. The bar is completely packed and crowded, and I’m like, ‘this is something you would not get in America.’”
Lambert decided not to return to New Zealand, deciding instead to keep teaching gymnastics at the Red Brick Art Center in Aspen and looking forward to spending her first summer here since starting as a snowboard pro four years ago.
“It’s cool, and I love it,” she said of her two seasons in New Zealand. “I think the experience is great. I think getting out of your comfort zone is great. … I think everyone should travel by themselves at least once.”
Bright, however, sees himself pursuing consecutive winters for a while.
“All of it down there is just fantastic, even the cold,” he said. “It’s such a fun experience.”
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