Elisabeth Easther talks to the Guest Services Manager for NZSki Ltd.
My mum said I was born in a snowstorm and because my parents owned a pub in Ohakune, from the moment I was born, I was destined to like snow and wine.
For holidays, sometimes we'd go to Lake Taupō but when we'd go to a beach, sometimes I found it quite scary. I loved the sound of the waves, and I loved sitting on a beach, but what happens when you're under the waves? Growing up underneath mountains, I'm pretty wary of the sea, waves and tides.
Childhood in Ohakune was great fun, and it was cool growing up in a pub. We had the staff to play with, chefs to cook our meals, and lots of our friends lived with us. In the 70s, this guy walked into the hotel looking for accommodation. It's the dead of night, and he's wearing white platform boots and flared pants. He said, "I'm here to build a ski field". Dad said, "you'd better come in quick or you'll get beaten up dressed like that". It was Ohakune in the 1970s. His family ended up living with us at the pub and Turoa opened in 1978 when I was 5.
I went to boarding school in Whanganui and in winter I'd come home every weekend to ski. In my seventh form year, I decided to go to Ruapehu College so I could ski more. My mother threw her hands in the air, but what could she do? Then she'd have to write notes explaining why I wasn't at school when the weather was good: we'd turn up days later with big goggle tans.
After school I wanted to apply for teachers' college but at 17, I was too young, and I was offered a job on the ski fields in Japan. A hotel had been built for their 98 Winter Olympics, but they'd built it 10 years early. It was an Austrian-style hotel with a French restaurant and Japanese chefs but they wanted authentic European waitresses, so at 17 I moved to Japan.
I did back-to-back winters in Japan for about seven years. I worked the 98 Olympics and it was amazing. I saw a lot of New Zealand races, and I was there for the Paralympics and that year New Zealand really cleaned up. Skiing with the team most mornings, I also went to a couple of medal ceremonies; sitting with the Kiwis when the flag went up and the national anthem was being sung was a highlight.
I'll never forget the monkeys. They're gorgeous, but they would open the windows and come into the restaurant — and they were actually quite vicious. This one morning, I'm doing the breakfast shift and a monkey is sitting on a table, ripping open sugar sachets and I'm trying to shoo it out of the restaurant. Everyone is really scared of them. You wouldn't walk along the street eating a pie or drinking a coffee because the monkeys would just jump at you and steal your food.
In Japan, we lived down the bottom of a valley and didn't have cars. So we'd put toboggans in our backpacks, and climb up to the road and wave down a car and pretend we were lost. People would feel sorry for us and drive us where we wanted to go, and we'd go out drinking for the night then get on our little toboggans and sled all the way home.
Living in the South Island, I've discovered Southland's rugged beaches and quaint little seaside villages. Sometimes we'll go to Riverton and stay in old Kiwiana baches or to The Catlins when it's stormy and take the dogs.
I was with mum once, driving through Tekapo and she mentioned The Church of the Lost Shepherd. She said, "You know our family built that church?" Apparently one of Dad's cousins from 100 years ago was the first woman to get married there. I called my sister and asked if she knew that story and she did. And I was like, where the hell was I when that history lesson was being taught? It's the most photographed church in New Zealand.
I love living in Arrowtown, it's got such a strong sense of community. It's really touristy during the day then, when 5 o'clock comes, it's returned to the locals. The buses leave and things are quiet again. I'm Guest Services Manager for NZski. I'm based in Queenstown and I love my job. I've been really lucky how things have evolved. People get stuck in the mindset of thinking they need to be always looking for the next thing, but I'm really content with what I've got.