An invitation to North American Birkebeiner skiers to come down south for the Merino Muster X-Country Ski Race.
Saturday, September 3, 2016
Saturday, September 2, 2017
Race Entries at www.merinomuster.com
Many N. Americans have New Zealand on their bucket list for all sorts of reasons. Some had relatives stationed here during the 2nd World War, others are fascinated by our Maori culture with its ancient connections to the Hawaian islands and others mystified by the fact we have a Worldloppet ski race when they thought we were all about grass skirts and ladies swinging their pois in the sunshine. A small number of you even know we play rugby and have a haka for almost any occasion that we feel warrants it.
We speak a unique brand of English with smatterings of Maori, play rugby as though our national reputation was threatened with extinction and many of our children insist on going to school barefoot even when their parents send them off wearing perfectly good footwear.
Working bees are how we operate much of our community activity but finish them early so we can socialise and have fun. We are sports mad whether it be rugby in all its forms, sailing, rowing, kayaking, skiing, skating or darts and pool at the pub.
We are very easy to talk to and if you meet us out on the ski field or in the street failing to say gooday to you is not how we roll. There are not huge numbers of us so saying gooday to someone is seen as a treat although not recommended if you are out on the town late at night in Auckland our largest city.
Our food, coffee, beer and wine are all excellent quality and our farm animals are all outside and willing to pose for photos. They may even delay traffic on the roads if they are being moved to new pastures. Just wave when they stare in your car windows.
In the area around the Snow Farm, (home of our ski race) you are going to see the sheep that make the wool for some of the best Italian suits and Icebreaker cold weather clothing. The merinos are the sheep that honour our ski race race with their name and once spent their summers chewing on our race course.
Last year the USA and Canada were the largest contingent of overseas skiers at the race. They only just beat the Australians our near neighbours (near is a 3.5 hour flight away across the Tasman sea).
Getting down to us has recently became easier as there are American, Hawaian, United, Air New Zealand and Quantas connecting us non-stop to LA, San Francisco, Honolulu, Houston and Vancouver. There is even a direct flight to Buenos Aires should you want to come the long way round and do the Argentinian Worldloppet race on the way. The American west coast flights take about 12 hours but the new Boeing 787’s make that more bearable.
Most flights come into Auckland which is one and three quarter hours from Queenstown. The local airport for the Snow Farm. Queenstown also has direct flights to Sydney and Melbourne in Australia if you are arriving from the Kangaroo Hoppet, the Australian race that has been part of Worldloppet for many years.
Driving to the Snow Farm takes an hour from the airport but hotel or other accommodation can be in Queenstown, Cardrona or Wanaka. Rental cars at Queenstown airport are all the flavours you are used to and some new ones like Go Rentals and Thrifty which will be new to you. Chains must be carried as we do not use snow tyres in NZ. Snow on our main roads is as rare as hen’s teeth. Low overnight temperatures can produce black ice which makes cornering more exciting than it should be. Your chance to practice your rally driving skills. Remember we drive on the left and wait until you have got over any jetlag before you try it.
Should you be tacking the skiing onto a business trip the Snow Farm Lodge and most accommodation has wifi and we can loan you a jacket and tie if you have to accept a Skype call from the boss. Bigger N. Amercans will find Polynesian sizes ideal. You do not need to bring skis and poles as we have plenty in ski hire but you should pop your boots in the luggage for extra comfort and they will not be seen by any other members of your organisation should they happen to be at your home airport going in or out.
The race course is at altitude. 1450 -1550 metres. You need to acclimatise!! There are no trees as the ground is covered with a long grass called tussock. See any on the course and we probably should not be racing.
Backdrop to the course are the Southern Alps with Mt. Aspiring the main peak which is spectacular with the sun setting behind it.
Temperatures are mild by North American standards and -10C is rare during the day. Night time temperatures can go lower if we are lucky.
The race is freestyle but classic enthusiasts are catered for assuming the skaters do not mash too much of your track.
Please come and help us lift our numbers. We are now the last race in the S. Hemisphere Worldloppet race series and once you have ticked that box stay on for a while and explore the Queenstown Lakes District and let us suggest some other parts of our islands worth exploring. The micro brewed beers, the pinot noir and the pies go beautifully with the scenery as do the oysters and the blue cod.
The Worldloppet AGM this year approved a S. Hemisphere medal for those skiers completing the three southern hemisphere races. The medal is in development but show us the three races stamped in your Worldloppet passport and you will be eligible to receive the medal. It is not necessary to complete them all in the same year as for those of you that have to work it (tough eh?) would be a big bite out of your annual holidays.
For the really serious racers there are FIS points on offer this year for the first time.
Having you visit would give us a chance to catch up on the excitement from your part of the world. Just remember nice cool temperatures if your struggling with heat and drought. Trump and Clinton will not be asking you to vote while you are with us and there is not a Zika virus in sight.